The final Torah Portion of the yearly Jewish cycle of reading through the Torah is called “וזאת הברכה” – “ve’zot ha’bracha” – “And this is the blessing…” (Deut. 33:1). Since it is the final reading of the Torah, it is not read according to the regular Sabbath reading cycle, but rather, it is read on a special day called “שמיני עצרת” – “Shmini Atzeret” – “The assembly of the eighth (day).” This year the “Eighth Day” falls Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. To read more about this all important date on the Jewish calendar, please click this link: The Eighth Day
In today’s Torah Portion, Moses pronounced his final blessing on the tribes of Israel before God called him up to Mount Nebo to depart from this world (Deut. 33 & Deut. 34). There is much that could be said regarding this blessing of Moses on the tribes of Israel, however, I will only focus on one tribal blessing in this commentary.
The Blessing on the Twelve Tribes of Israel
This blessing of Moses on the tribes of Israel is very similar to the blessing of Jacob on his sons (the twelve sons for whom the twelve tribes are named) in Genesis 49. There is however one huge difference in these two blessings, and that is in regard to the blessing of the tribe of Levi.
The words that Jacob spoke to Levi were more of a curse than a blessing, as we read from this account in the book of Genesis:
Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Their swords are implements of violence.
Let my soul not enter into their council;
Let not my glory be united with their assembly;
Because in their anger they slew men,
And in their self-will they lamed oxen.
Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
And their wrath, for it is cruel.
I will disperse them in Jacob,
And scatter them in Israel. – Gen. 49:5-7
Jacob blessed Simeon together with Levi and cursed their anger, with which they slew all of the men of the city of Shechem (Gen. 34:25-31). Levi, together with Simeon, were put lower in the site of Jacob and they were together belittled in the site of their brothers.
On the other hand, in the blessing of Moses at the end of Deuteronomy, it is interesting to note that Moses did not speak of the tribe of Simeon at all. The tribe of Levi, however, is elevated above the other tribes in a manner that is almost saintly in nature. They are given the “Tumim and Orim,” which are symbols of authority for discerning the will of God, because Levi is described as a deserving, righteous person, “חסיד” – “chasid” in Hebrew (Deut. 33:8).
What brought about this major change from being cursed to being blessed?
How and why did Levi obtain this blessing from Moses?
The Blessing of Levi
In the blessing of the tribe of Levi in Deuteronomy, Moses stated that the Levites put God first in their lives:
Let Your Thummim and Your Urim belong to Your godly man,
Whom You proved at Massah,
With whom You contended at the waters of Meribah;
Who said of his father and his mother,
‘I did not consider them’;
And he did not acknowledge his brothers,
Nor did he regard his own sons,
For they observed Your word,
And kept Your covenant. – Deut. 33:8-9
In this blessing of Levi, Moses states that they did not consider mother, father, brother, or sons as more important than the Word and covenant of God. They had put the LORD first in their lives and Moses made it clear that they were being honored before God. How and when did the tribe of Levi go from a tribe that was cursed to a tribe that was significantly blessed?
The Root of the Blessing of Levi
After the great sin of the golden calf in the wilderness, Moses called for those who are for the LORD to come and execute judgment on the people. The tribe of Levi came to Moses and obeyed the word of the LORD (Ex. 32:25-29).
They acted in faith and God honored them for their act of faith, as they alone were elevated to be priests of God. It is important to note that God desired the priesthood for all of His people (Ex. 19.6) but the people of Israel rejected this offer (Ex. 20:18-21). The Levites alone were honored above their brothers for their act of faith and obedience.
For their steadfast character they were given the responsibility to teach the Law to the rest of the people. They were also to be intermediaries between the people of Israel and God as they performed the sacrifices and offerings (Deut. 33:10).
The tribe of Levi obtained God’s favor and blessing by an act of faith that proved to the other tribes that God was more important to them than anyone or anything on this earth, including their own people and their own family. God longs for a people who have a zeal for His Name and His Word.
Zeal for God
It is this same zeal and consuming passion that we read about in the words of Yeshua. He called His followers to love Him above everyone else, including one’s very own family:
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 10:34-39
Understanding Yeshua’s words in the light of this Torah portion, it is clear that God is not against the family but family relationships must be viewed in their proper perspective with a passion for God and His Word being at the forefront.
I believe that Yeshua applied the blessing of the Levites to those who will follow Him. Those who will follow God in complete surrender and with a passion for His Name will obtain the highest blessing.
Shabbat Shalom & Chag Sameach!
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Torah Portion: Deut. 33 – Deut. 34
Hafatara: Joshua 1:1-18; 6:27
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