This week’s Messianic Lite is our second Torah portion in Deuteronomy. It covers 3:23 to 7:11.
According to Bible translator Robert Alter, the book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ “valedictory address.” He recapitulates the narrative of the Exodus, reinforces the points of the law, and repeats previous exhortations.
Moses understands the threat facing God’s people as they leave the protection and relative isolation of the desert, where they were totally dependent on God’s provisions, and settle the land. The further they get from the miracles they witnessed in the desert and the more distance they gain from each other, the bigger the chance that it will all fade away from their hearts. But Moses further exhorts, “Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
The most critical key to the long story of Jewish survival is education, especially educating the young. That is why it is no accident that the most important proclamation in all of Judaism comes in this same Torah portion as Moses contemplates the preservation of the Israelite faith and how best parents can impress the teachings upon their children. In chapter six, verses four, Moses says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength.”
This verse is known in Hebrew as the Shema. It is considered the most critical piece of liturgy in all of Judaism, the great declaration of God’s oneness and his Kingship.