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Daily manna from the Torah by Dr Ketriel Blad

Ki Tavoh 50-6

When you come

Deuteronomy 28:7 29:1 (28:69 Heb.)

All these curses will come upon you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the LORD your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you. They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.

Deut. 28:45-48 NIV

What is the sign that the Jewish people have kept the commandments?

In the middle of a long chapter that speaks of the different curses that come upon the Jewish people in case they disobey the commandments, we see some sparks of light and hope. If we take a close look at these verses, we see that they are a promise that a part of the Jewish people will never stop keeping the commandments.

If every single one had gone astray and disobeyed the commandments, all would have been destroyed, as it's written: "you will be destroyed". The Hebrew text uses here the same word that it uses when talking about the destruction of ancient peoples who don't exist anymore (Deut 2:12, 21-23) and promises that the Jewish people will be destroyed in case of not listening to the Eternal's voice, and not keeping His commandments and statutes.

Then it continues saying that these curses will be a sign and wonder to Israel's descendants forever. How is it possible that the Torah may speak of destruction of the people and at the same time of descendance for ever? Isn't this contradictory? If the people are destroyed there wouldn't be any descendants, nor would they exist forever.

The large majority of the twelve tribes have been disobedient, and that's the reason they don't exist as tribes anymore; they have been exterminated and mixed among all the nations of the earth.

Before the destruction of the temple there were about the same amount of Jews and Chinese in the world. Nowadays, there are less than 15 million Jews and more than 1300 million Chinese in the world. This is clear evidence that many curses have befallen the Jews due to their disobedience.

However, at the same time, there have been enough Jews faithful to the commandments so the Jewish people haven't been completely destroyed. The fact that the Jewish people haven't been fully destroyed shows that there is a remnant faithful to the Eternal and His Torah. The curse of destruction has not been totally fulfilled, and it will never be because there are enough great promises that say that the Jewish people will go on forever. This is because of that faithful remnant. Hadn't it been for that remnant the people would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah.

This text also teaches us that if we don't serve the Eternal with joy and a glad heart, we will have lack in everything and a yoke of iron will be placed on us.

This leads us to question whether we are really showing gratefulness when we have abundance of everything. Or do we complain about what we do not have? If we complain about the food, clothes, and other things that the Eternal gives us, we will lose what we have. When we are lacking things, could it be because we have not learned this lesson? Do we pray the birkat hamazon (blessing for the food) with joy and a glad heart, or do we leave the table without giving thanks?

The yoke of iron means dark thoughts and worries. The yoke can also mean spiritual oppression and psychological depression. One way of winning victory over this oppression is by praising the Eternal with joy. If you are tempted to be depressed, you ought to dance before the Eternal and sing with a loud voice so that the oppression doesn't come over you. If you are already depressed you can use the same method to come out of it in victory.

Serve the Eternal with joy.


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