Can there be a more impressive scene? Moses, the humblest of men, the stammerer, devoid of ambition, who has surrounded himself with no pomp or ceremony, servant of God, leader and servant of the people, knowing he is near death, that he will not enter the promised land, but without bitterness or resentment, delivers the greatest of addresses. He reminds the people of their long journey to where they now stand, both physically and morally. He recounts the most important laws and puts before the community the choice they have between good and evil, life and death. He warns against idolatry, complacency, and forgetfulness. He warns against idolatrous prophets, who are not real prophets. And what is this at the beginning of R’eih?
The curse will come if you do not obey the commandments of God your
Lord, and you go astray from the path that I am prescribing for you today,
following other gods to have a novel spiritual experience.
One of the most significant developments in the last fifty years in the west, particularly in the UK, has been the decline in the number of people regularly attending places of worship or identifying themselves with a traditional religion. At least this is true of the main religion of the country, i.e. Christianity. In some cases, people have simply lapsed into secularism and become agnostic or atheist. In other cases, they have still had spiritual yearnings but have looked for meaning elsewhere, in alternative or new religions. The conceptualisation of faith in these cases is often vague, sort of eastern, sort of pagan. It is precisely to avoid a similar fate for Judaism that Moses reminds the people that the stories and the laws and the words of God should be placed in their heart and soul and, oh so importantly, taught to their children both at home and away from home. The Torah is for then, for now and for the future. And to keep it ever relevant, it has, is and will be questioned and interpreted by sages and men and women of faith through the ages.
So how can you possibly resist hearing the insights of Harvey Kurtzfield, who will be leading the service this Saturday, starting 10:30 a.m.?