Someone once said: “Life is not always easy to live, but the opportunity to do so is a blessing beyond comprehension.” The mere fact that we are alive, that we can breathe, and laugh, and cry, and think, and hope, and be creative, and work with our hands, and enjoy beauty, and relate to people … is a blessing beyond comprehension. To stop being amazed about the beauty and the variety, but also the simplicity of life, is to choose boredom and spiritual poverty and is basically the same as saying “No thanks” to the most valuable blessing or gift a person can receive. It is uncertain where the English word “blessing” originated from. Some dictionaries are saying that it is derived from the Old English word “blēdsian” and that originally it had a connection with “blood” and meant something like “to consecrate with blood”. Others are saying that it may have been derived from a Proto-Indo-European word “bleh”, meaning “to bloom” or “to blossom”. While the origin of the English word is uncertain, there is no guessing when it comes to the origin and the effects of “blessing” in the Biblical sense of the word. It is indeed something that makes a person “to bloom” or “to blossom” – both when you are on the receiving end or on the giving end of the process of blessing. Nothing means more in life than knowing and experiencing the blessings of Yahweh the Almighty. To ignore these blessings, and the clear-cut conditions attached to these blessings, and the far-reaching and life-changing effects of these blessings, is to ignore the Giver Himself.
The suggested Torah portion for this week starts with these words: “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse …” (Deut 11:26). These are the very words of the Almighty. If Yahweh Himself were to appear in our midst today, announcing that on this day, 11 August 2018, He is setting up a blessing and a curse before us, what will we do? Which one will we choose: the blessing or the curse? The answer is easy, almost too easy. But to live by this choice, may not be that easy – even though later in this Book of Deuteronomy we read these words: “For this command which I am commanding you today, it is not too hard for you, nor is it far off” (Deut 30:11) and in 1 John 5:3 it is stated: “For this is the love for Elohim, that we guard His commands and His commands are not heavy”. The commandments of Yahweh may not be heavy, but somehow we lend our ears to the world around us and become burdened with the reasoning and the practices of our day and before we know it, we choose the blessing but keep on doing things that, according to Scriptures, will introduce a curse. Let us take a look at 12 times in this Torah portion (Deut 11:26 – 16:17) where the word “bless” or “blessing” is used. These 12 utterances of blessing may renew our perspective on what Yahweh can do for us and help us to return to that place of fulfilment “beyond comprehension” that Yahweh had intended from the very beginning for those who live life according to his design, and not according to the schemes and twisted ideas of this world.
1 The blessing of obedience. Deut 11:27 (I set before you a) blessing, when you obey the command of Yahweh your Elohim which I command you today. (“shama”: to hear intelligently; to listen with attention; to give ear).
2 The blessing of Gerizim and the curse of Ebal. Deut 11:29 And it shall be, when Yahweh your Elohim has brought you into the land which you go to possess, that you shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. (“gerizim”: that which is rocky, uneven; “ebal” to be flat or even, OR to flow, as in a stream).
3 The blessing of rejoicing in simple things. Deut 12:7 And there you shall eat before Yahweh your Elohim, and shall rejoice in all that you put your hand to, you and your households, in which Yahweh your Elohim has blessed you.
4 The blessing and the place that Yahweh chooses. Deut 14:24-25 But when the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to bring the tithe, or when the place where Yahweh your Elohim chooses to put His Name is too far from you, when Yahweh your Elohim is blessing you, then you shall give it in silver, and shall take the silver in your hand and go to the place which Yahweh your Elohim chooses.
5 The blessing of blessing others. Deut 14:29 And the Lewite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the sojourner and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, shall come and eat and be satisfied, so that Yahweh your Elohim does bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
6 The blessing of holding onto the promises of Yahweh. Deut 15:6 For Yahweh your Elohim shall bless you as He promised you. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And you shall rule over many nations, but they do not rule over you.
7 The blessing and a pure heart. Deut 15:10 You shall certainly give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this reason Yahweh your Elohim does bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.
8 The blessing and Yahweh’s abundance. Deut 15:14 You shall richly supply him from your flock, and from your threshing-floor, and from your winepress. With that which Yahweh has blessed you with, give to him.
9 The blessing of letting go. Deut 15:18 Let it not be hard in your eyes when you send him away free from you, for he has been worth a double hired servant in serving you six years. And Yahweh your Elohim shall bless you in all that you do.
10 The blessing of voluntary offerings. Deut 16:10 And you shall perform the Festival of Shavuot to Yahweh your Elohim, according to the voluntary offering from your hand, which you give as Yahweh your Elohim blesses you.
11 The blessing of keeping Yahweh’s feasts with rejoicing. Deut 16:15 For seven days you shall celebrate to Yahweh your Elohim in the place which Yahweh chooses, because Yahweh your Elohim does bless you in all your increase and in all the work of your hands, and you shall be only rejoicing!
12 The blessing of not appearing empty-handed. Deut 16:16-17 And none should appear before Yahweh empty-handed, but each one with the gift of his hand, according to the blessing of Yahweh your Elohim which He has given you.
WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THIS BLESSING FOR US, WHO HAVE COME FROM THE “OUTSIDE” AND JOINED YAHWEH BECAUSE WE IDENTIFY WITH HIS PEOPLE?
Isa 66:10-14; 22-23 “Rejoice with Yerushalayim, and be glad with her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn for her; so that you feed, and shall be satisfied with the breast of her comforts, so that you drink deeply, and shall delight yourselves in her overflowing esteem … See, I am extending peace to her like a river, and the esteem of the nations like a flowing stream. And you shall feed; you shall be carried on the side, and be fondled on her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I comfort you. And in Yerushalayim you are comforted. And you shall see, and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones flourish as tender grass. And the hand of Yahweh shall be known to His servants, and His displeasure to His enemies … For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make stand before Me,” declares Yahweh, so your seed and your name shall stand. And it shall be that from New moon to New moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,” declares Yahweh.”