18 Av 5780 \ August 8, 2020
By Michael Feurdean
This Week’s Readings:
Torah: Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25
Haftarah: Isaiah 49:14 – 51:3
Brit Chadashah: Hebrews 11:8 – 13
The theme of this week’s readings that I would like us to dwell on is that remembrance strengthens faith. Faith is believing things unknown, and remembrance can be a tool to guide us through the unknown. We lose faith when we momentarily forget the thing promised because it is difficult to believe something will happen if you forget what is supposed to happen. Similarly, faith in the person who made a promise can be greatly strengthened when we remember other times in which the person delivered on a different promise. We see examples of this throughout this week’s readings.
First, the Torah portion is all about faith and remembrance. The setting takes place outside the land of Canaan before the people of Israel are about to enter their promised land. As these are the final words before entering the land, these passages serve as a summary of Israel’s past, along with promises for the future—complete with a challenge to wholeheartedly love our faithful G-d. This moment is about to be a fulfillment of promises G-d made to Abraham many generations prior—promises that required generational remembrance, promises that Abraham believed with all his heart. Then, in the Haftarah portion we see that though we may forget about G-d and His promises, G-d does not forget about His people and the promises He made to them. This portion contains the famous verse about G-d having Israel engraved on the palms of His hand. Finally, in the Brit Chadashah portion we read about the faith Abraham and Sarah had in the promise G-d made to them. We read and remember Abraham and Sarah’s faithfulness today to remind ourselves of G-d’s faithfulness to us!
To return to the Torah portion, Moses tells the people: “You are to remember all the ways that Adonai your G-d has led you these 40 years in the wilderness…” (Deut. 8:2a). We do this at Passover every year which reminds us of G-d following through on His promises. Only a few verses later, Moses says, “Take care that you do not forget Adonai your G-d by not keeping His mitzvot, ordinances and statutes that I am commanding you today” (Deut. 8:11). Interestingly, we see here that G-d’s instructions themselves serve as a way by which we remember Him (think of the V’ahavta we recite every week). Think of how we are to bind His instructions as a sign on our hands and as frontlets between our eyes, something we recite every week. He warns the people that it is easy to forget about G-d when they will prosper in the land, and as we know from history, they do forget—very quickly. Moses says, “Remember, never forget, how you provoked Adonai your G-d to wrath in the wilderness” (Deut. 9:7a). Then he recalls the disaster of the golden calf, the tablets of stone, and other incidents in their journey.
Again, we see numerous times throughout the Torah portion a call to remember. Part of the reason for this remembrance is to instill faith in G-d’s promises around the land they are about to enter. In fact, the parashah ends with a promise: “No one will be able to stand against you—Adonai your God will put the fear and dread of you upon all the land where you tread, just as He has promised you” (Deut. 11:25). The connection between remembering and faith is very evident throughout the Torah portion.
In the Haftarah portion we find a promise that G-d will never forget His people. He says through the prophet Isaiah that even if a mother could forget her child, He could not forget His people. Then He mentions them being engraved on His palms. These verses are extremely powerful images that ought to encourage our faith in Him. He has not forsaken us and when we experience things that make us feel like we’ve been forsaken, we have these verses to remind us that He has not! In an interesting tie-in to the Torah portion, Isaiah says “Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you. For when I called him, he was but one, then I blessed him and multiplied him” (Isaiah 51:3). Once again, we’re asked to remember what G-d has done in the past to give us the confidence and faith in our G-d. He knew we would need these reminders and has elected prophets like Isaiah to remind us constantly of His love for us and His promises toward us.
The Brit Chadashah portion addresses Abraham and Sarah’s faith. I believe the most fascinating part of the passage is the author pointing out that Abraham and Sarah died without receiving the thing promised to them. This is very much like the promise G-d has for us today. There is an afterlife which we cannot see. However, just like Abraham and Sarah knew that G-d would make good on His promise them and as we have seen it happen, so do we have assurance of this promise G-d made to us. Though logical, we nonetheless can forget this day-to-day and even begin to lose hope. That’s exactly when we ought to remember and be strengthened in our faith.
Though these few words do not do justice to the topic of remembrance strengthening faith, I hope you can begin to see that the passages we read today have much to say about remembrance and its connection to faith. Moreover, I hope you can see how remembering G-d’s promises and how He has fulfilled them in the past can help strengthen your faith in His future promises to you! G-d promised there is forgiveness of sin through Yeshua’s death and this, too, we can remember frequently to strengthen our faith in this truth!