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D'varim/Deuteronomy 32:19 And the L-rd saw and despised, from vexation, His sons and daughters
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On most occasions that the children of Israel are mentioned, they are precisely that: the children of Israel; both the sons and daughters are included in the Hebrew words , the group of mixed gender using the masculine word. This is done universally across ancient and modern languages so that for the feminine plural form to be used, the group must be exclusively feminine. So why does the Torah here choose to explicitly mention both sons and daughters? Nachmanides, theRamban, suggests that this is a prophetic allusion, "for, in the generation of the destruction [of the First (Solomon's) Temple], the wickedness of the women and their sin would be very great because they provoked G-d. They were especially attached to the idols and it was they who enticed the men to worship them." He points to Jeremiah 44: "your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem" (Jeremiah 44:9, NASB); for "all the men were aware that their wives were burning sacrifices to other gods" (v.15, NASB). The men were determined to "burn sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pour out libations to her" (v.17 NASB), while the women said, "when we were burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven ... was it without our husbands?" (v.19, NASB).
So just as both men and women are mentioned to show that both were involved in the sin of idolatry - the women cannot hide behind the men and that they were simply being led - so Jeffrey Tigay points out in the JPS Torah Commentary that they are also both mentioned to demonstrate G-d's forgiveness and inclusion in redemption: "I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made" (Isaiah 43:5-7, NASB).
Looking into the following verse,Hirsch suggests that the vexation is caused by G-d's people no longer considering themselves bound to him: "They think that they can do without Me and My support." So G-d is going to give them some rope and see what happens: "let them experience where they will get without Me." G-d isn't, of course, going to let go of the rope, but He is going to play out some slack and let the people feel the consequences of their attitude. In conversation with the prophet Jeremiah, G-d says: "Have you not observed what this people have spoken, saying, 'The two families which the L-rd chose, He has rejected them'? Thus they despise My people, no longer are they as a nation in their sight" (Jeremiah 33:23(24), NASB). The same verb - , to reject, despise - in our text is used again here to show the attitude of that generation to their peoplehood and covenant relationship with G-d. But G-d's response is completely unambiguous: "Thus says the L-rd, 'If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed pattern of heaven and earth I have not established, then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant'" (vv.24-25(25-26), NASB). It would require the very breaking of the physical laws of the universe - such as day and night, the ordering of the planets themselves - before G-d could reject His covenant commitment to His people, our people. "No," HaShem concludes to Jeremiah, "But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them" (v.25(26), NASB).
At this time of year - the portion Ha'azinu is always read on Shabbat Shuva, the shabbat that falls in the Days of Awe between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur - it is essential that we retain the correct perspective on where we stand before G-d. All around us, the Jewish world is repenting: praying, attending services, giving tzedaka (money to charity), putting in extra hours of study, so that G-d may find us worthy to be written into the Book of Life, sealed for a good year. These are all good things to do, but should be done all year round. We insult G-d if we think of Him being so fickle that a few days of good behaviour could possibly cause Him to change His covenant commitment towards us. Hear instead the words of Yeshua: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgement; but has already passed out of death into life" (John 5:24, NASB). Is this some strange new teaching, something un-Jewish that draws us away from HaShem, the G-d of our fathers, the G-d of Avraham, Yitz'chak and Ya'akov? On the contrary, it points us back to the Almighty that we might believe Him and His promises and know that who He was for David, He is for us today: "The L-rd is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The L-rd is the refuge of my life; whom shall I dread?" (Psalm 27:1, NASB).
Further Study: Isaiah 54:9-10; Romans 10:11-13
Application: Are we men or are we mice? We have a unique opportunity in these days to share Messiah Yeshua with our Jewish people; to explain the hope and certainty that we have in knowing Him as the Messiah of Israel and L-rd of our lives. What are you waiting for? Go to it today!
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
Comment - 09Sep07 16:38 Scott: It is interesting and helpful that you brought out this distinction regarding the "sons and daughters." God certainly does not allow the men to avoid responsibility for what the women do (vis-a-vis Genesis 3), but He also holds the women responsible for their own wickedness as well.
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