Choose Life

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The Torah reading for this Shabbat is from the portion called Re’eh (“look here”) — Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17. From the prophets the reading is from Isaiah 54:11-55:5, and from the New Testament the reading is from 1 John 4:1-6.

What we have in this Torah portion from the very beginning is one of the most important paradigms of the book of Deuteronomy. In the book of Deuteronomy, more than in other books of the Bible, there is the giving of choice to the people of Israel.

Our Torah Portion starts with there following words:

“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse:” — Deuteronomy 11:26

This unique privilege that God gives us, His children, to make choices and choose, is best described in the following verse in the book of Deuteronomy:

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you, life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both you and your descendants may live…” — Deuteronomy 30:19

The event that is described in our Torah portion is one that I would have loved to participate in. I can imagine standing on Mount Abel or Mount Gerizim, and the priests are in the valley between the two mountains, and there is silence. And suddenly the tribes that are on Mount Gerizim proclaim the blessings, and the tribes that are on Mount Abel proclaim the curses. And all the people, including women and children, affirm God’s word with a loud voice.

These mountains are high, and they have a distance between them. There were no microphones or amplifiers to use in order for all the people and the Levites and priests in the valley below to hear. There must have been a great number of people there on these two mountains to scream together the blessings and affirm them, and the cruses and affirm them.

What an event the Book of Deuteronomy is describing here. In the book of Joshua, we have the following description how it actually happened:

“Now Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses: ‘an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.’ And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings. And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as he who was born among them. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.” — Joshua 8:30-35

The amazing thing is that today on top of Mount Abal the remains of the altar that Joshua built there are still visible. They were much more visible until a few years ago, but the Arab terrorists attempted to destroy and remove that altar. They were not able to do it because the Israeli military has a base not far from that altar.

THE ALTAR ATOP MOUNT ABAL TODAY.

This text from the book of Deuteronomy and from Joshua, the archaeological finds, and the great big altar that can still be seen through its ruins are tangible and monumental witnesses of God’s faithfulness and the historicity of the biblical narrative. This is nothing less than a miracle and a living witness that for me personally only builds my faith and helps me make the choice and choose life!

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.