The prophecy of exile continues with a promise of redemption. “And you will return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you this day you and your children, then, the Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you (Deuteronomy 30:2-3).” It’s challenging to read this prophecy of the ingathering of the exiles, an iconic Jewish concept. When I look at today, this process has already begun, with the catalyst being the modern State of Israel. Now, I know that there are those who see that as divine, but in my eyes, it’s a miracle created by human beings with the blessing of God. Visionary leaders and tragically young men and women thought, dreamed, and died, for its inception, and for Jews around the world to have a place to return to. Was that because of a voice from God, or because of a dream of Zionism? Maybe modern Israel isn’t what’s being talked about here, as the full ingathering, but it’s a step in the direction, or a manmade vision of this reality that we have created because no divine redemption seemed forthcoming.
The text talks about the blessings the people will get once the redemption occurs, all of which will happen once the people return to God, heart and soul. “For this commandment, which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell to us, so that we can fulfill it (Deuteronomy 30:11-12)?'” I love this. It’s the ultimate hubris to say I know how God feels, but in this moment, I feel like I kind of do. He’s literally laying out for the people the idiot’s guide to the future, telling them exactly what they have to do, and what will happen if they do/don’t. There’s no mystery and no ambiguity in this speech (a rarity) and there’s nothing for them to search for. All of it is directly there for them to take. I’ve been there, telling my fiance, for example, exactly what to do, and then him thinking there’s some kind of hidden message. Sometimes, there’s not. Don’t go looking for the next layer, just do what you’re told and it’ll all be fine.
“This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live; To love the Lord your God, to listen to His voice, and to cleave to Him. For that is your life and the length of your days, to dwell on the land which the Lord swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob to give to them (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).” I love this chapter. The words are so poetic, and so beautiful. Choose life is one of my favorite Jewish concepts. It not only highlights our free will and ability to determine our own fates, but it also emphasizes the importance of life as active. We choose it, every day. A person can be alive and not live, and even God is literally telling us to choose the path of life, throughout our lives.