Very Near

Very Near

In Deuteronomy chapter 30 verses 11 thru 14 Moses reassures the Jewish people that the commandment which he has presented to them is not hidden nor is too far. Quite the opposite, it is very near to our mouths and our hearts to do it.

How is the commandment close to us? How close is it for us to fulfill every directive of God to perfection? King Solomon exclaims: Who can say that I have purified my heart I am cleansed from my sin? (Proverbs 20:9). In the book of Job we read of the imperfection of angels; certainly no human can be perfect (Job 4:18). How then can Moses tell us that the law that he is presenting to us is “close”? What is “close” about it?

Perhaps we can understand this by focusing on the words of verse 14. Moses says that it is “hadavar” – “the thing” that is close to us. “Hadavar” is the one single thing; it is this one thing that is close.

Following the law consists of many different steps. We must study the law and we must pray to the Giver of the Law, we must walk in the ways of God and be holy as God is holy, we must practice kindness and justice, and so much more. But as people that live within the boundary of time there is always only one thing in front of us here and now. Perhaps it is our time for learning and there is one line of Torah that demands our attention, our power of concentration, our hearts and our minds. Perhaps we are talking to someone and the responsibility of the moment is to exercise humility and sensitivity in our relationship with another person. Perhaps we are about to speak words of prayer before God and the call of the moment is to pour our hearts into the words we are going to say. We might be in a place of solitude and our loyalty to God demands that we bring to mind God’s blessings and turn our thoughts away from that which God has not granted to us.

Whatever path we take in life there is always only one commandment that is in front of us right now.

It is a mistake to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the work we see ahead of us down the road. At this point in time we don’t need the power to do the work of tomorrow so there is no reason for God to give it to us now. But we can be sure that God will give us the strength to take the very next step.

And there is always only one step in front of you here and now.

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Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal


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17 Responses to Very Near

  1. Annelise says:

    Shalom Rabbi Yisroel,

    The thoughts you wrote here have been such a blessing to me in the time since you wrote them. This is beautifully practical advice. It takes some time to grow into, but it clarifies things so much.

    About the promise that the Torah is not up in heaven, but instead it is in the heart and mouth of Israel, to do it. How can that be? There are so many aspects of life in which the interpretations and practices of Torah by many groups who seek to be observant are really far off in the eyes of other groups, and in time that comes to be clearer and hopefully the mistakes will be rectified by the nation as a whole. So how can we say, at the time when the thing in their heart and mouth and action is actually a violation of Torah principles, that the law was with them instead of being in an objective place?

    For example, if a particular ruling is made by many otherwise observant rabbis about something so lenient, or so much a loophole, that it simply should not be done when measured against what God commanded-and-commands Israel… then where is the living Torah for those groups, at that time? Is it in the midst of them? Or is it yet to be found by them? What if the nation as a whole, for a while, is erring and essentially breaking a commandment, until it is realised and atonement is sought, and it is rectified? Then where is the Torah during the time of the mistake: in heaven, in their midst, in the written scroll?

    • Annelise says:

      (I know that this wasn’t exactly the theme of your post.)

    • Annelise
      I think that Psalm 78;5-7 answers your question. The Torah was placed in Israel. It is in the testimony of the sinful fathers that the new generation will find the path back to God. We always fall short in our understanding of the Torah – but our duty remains to search and delve in the Torah that we received because this is where God established His testimony.

      • Annelise says:

        I see what you mean.

        How do you think they can delve into a flawed testimony to find true from false, if the methods passed down to them for finding right methods aren’t perfect? Wouldn’t there have to be an external law, an external measuring stick, that they’re trying to get closer to when sifting the good from the bad in the testimony of their people?

  2. Larry B says:

    “In Deuteronomy chapter 30 verses 11 thru 14 Moses reassures the Jewish people that the commandment which he has presented to them is not hidden nor is too far. Quite the opposite, it is very near to our mouths and our hearts to do it.”
    This is because Moses wrote down the Torah and gave it to Israel. They could read it for themselves, study it. Basically he commanded them to study it, and to Live it, every moment. “It is in your mouth” or should be.
    Question: in 29:6 it says that he will circumcise their hearts so they may love the lord. Does this only happen if a person follows the law or tries at least or is this to be a gift at some time of his choosing.

  3. Larry
    Yes – but only after they repent themselves – also I wouldn’t use the word “saved” in this context

  4. LarryB says:

    Sorry, I threw that word in for the Christians here. Since repentense is necessary and then g-d circumcised your heart, what is the point of Jesus?

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