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W1. Studying, Hearing, Internalizing, Speaking & Teaching God's Word [Make a Comment]
We are to study, listen to, internalize, speak and teach God's Word - especially to our children.
This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):
What great nation is there that has laws and rulings as just as this entire Torah which I am setting before you today? Only be careful, and watch yourselves diligently as long as you live, so that you won't forget what you saw with your own eyes, so that these things won't vanish from your hearts. Rather, make them known to your children and grandchildren - the day you stood before ADONAI your God at Horev, when ADONAI said to me, 'Gather the people to me, and I will make them hear my very words, so that they will learn to hold me in awe as long as they live on earth, and so that they will teach their children.'
(Maimonides RP10-11; Meir MP11; Chinuch C419-420)
Sh'ma, Yisra'el! ADONAI Eloheinu, ADONAI echad [Hear, Isra'el! ADONAI our God, ADONAI is one]; and you are to love ADONAI your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources. These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead, and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates.
(Maimonides RP10-11; Meir MP11; Chinuch C419-420)
So if you listen carefully to my mitzvot which I am giving you today, to love ADONAI your God and serve him with all your heart and all your being; then, [says ADONAI,] 'I will give your land its rain at the right seasons, including the early fall rains and the late spring rains; so that you can gather in your wheat, new wine and olive oil; and I will give your fields grass for your livestock; with the result that you will eat and be satisfied.' But be careful not to let yourselves be seduced, so that you turn aside, serving other gods and worshipping them. If you do, the anger of ADONAI will blaze up against you. He will shut up the sky, so that there will be no rain. The ground will not yield its produce, and you will quickly pass away from the good land ADONAI is giving you. Therefore, you are to store up these words of mine in your heart and in all your being; tie them on your hand as a sign; put them at the front of a headband around your forehead; teach them carefully to your children, talking about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up; and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates - so that you and your children will live long on the land ADONAI swore to your ancestors that he would give them for as long as there is sky above the earth.
(Maimonides RP11; Chinuch C419)
Assemble the people - the men, the women, the little ones and the foreigners you have in your towns - so that they can hear, learn, fear ADONAI your God and take care to obey all the words of this Torah.
'Here, the days are coming,' says ADONAI, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Isra'el and with the house of Y'hudah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers on the day I took them by their hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt; because they, for their part, violated my covenant, even though I, for my part, was a husband to them,' says ADONAI. 'For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra'el after those days,' says ADONAI: 'I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will any of them teach his fellow community member or his brother, 'Know ADONAI'; for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest; because I will forgive their wickednesses and remember their sins no more. (See also Hebrews 8:10-11)
How blessed are those who reject the advice of the wicked, don't stand on the way of sinners or sit where scoffers sit! Their delight is in ADONAI's Torah; on his Torah they meditate day and night.
How I love your Torah! I meditate on it all day. I am wiser than my foes, because your mitzvot are mine forever. I have more understanding than all my teachers, because I meditate on your instruction.
Train a child in the way he [should] go; and, even when old, he will not swerve from it.
But as soon as night fell, the brothers sent Sha'ul and Sila off to Berea. As soon as they arrived, they went to the synagogue. Now the people here were of nobler character than the ones in Thessalonica; they eagerly welcomed the message, checking the Tanakh every day to see if the things Sha'ul was saying were true.
For whenever Gentiles, who have no Torah, do naturally what the Torah requires, then these, even though they don't have Torah, for themselves are Torah! For their lives show that the conduct the Torah dictates is written in their hearts.
2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living.
This mitzvah that combines studying, internalizing, speaking, and teaching the Word of God, is a companion to two others that speak of remembering (# W2) and obeying (# O1). While the Scriptures cited here speak to all of the mitzvah's elements, the two that are primary are Deuteronomy 6:6-7, which is part of the Sh'ma (the Scripture-prayer that is recited by Orthodox Jews several times a day), and Jeremiah 31:30(31)-33(34) (re-affirmed in Hebrews 8:10-11), the prophecy that God would give Israel a New Covenant, the essence of which would be God's Word embedded in hearts and minds so that all could know Him intimately. That prophecy was fulfilled by Yeshua who, according to John 1:1-14, is God's Word made flesh, and we know from other Scriptures that, after coming to earth, He offered Himself up as a sacrifice for our sin, was resurrected from the dead, and later returned to the Father, sending back to us the Ruach Hakodesh to reside within all who are willing to receive Him. The prophecy of Jeremiah was thus fulfilled, and we who are living today and believe, are its beneficiaries.
The Scriptures cited do not use the word "study", but do say "on His Torah they meditate day and night", and "meditate on it all day". Also, the Bereans are said to have engaged in "checking the Tanakh every day", all of which are tantamount to studying God's Word, but even exceed mere study because they connote repetition.
According to Jeremiah 31:32(33) and Hebrews 8:10, God puts His words within us but, just as with other blessings of God, He doesn't force Himself on us; we have to invite Him. Therefore, we have a responsibility to receive and internalize God's Word or we will derive no benefit from it. Internalizing God's Word is the same as allowing the Ruach HaKodesh to live within us, to counsel, comfort, and yes, even convict us of sin should we stumble. Although Jeremiah spoke his prophecy to the Jewish people, God's words "for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest" did not mean just Jews, but Gentiles also (Romans 2:14-15a) who, by confessing Yeshua, are grafted into an olive tree among Jewish branches (Romans 11:17), thereby becoming members in the "national life of Isra'el"1 or "commonwealth of Israel",2 (Ephesians 2:12) and, consequently, in the wider body of believers.
Deuteronomy 6:7 commands us to talk about God's words (meaning His words in Scripture), and it mentions four occasions in particular, which I interpret to mean on all occasions. Speaking God's words has the benefit of learning them, remembering them, and teaching them even to those who hear them spoken in passing. Teaching God's Word to all who will listen is important, and expected of all of us when we have the opportunity to do so. The mitzvah as it applies to our children is especially important, however, because teaching children is the way our heritage of belief, obedience, and relationship with God is passed from generation to generation. As Proverbs 22:6 tells us: "even when old, he will not swerve from it".
Maimonides, Meir and HaChinuch write their respective mitzvot in fairly literal ways. Maimonides' #RP11 speaks of studying the Torah, while Meir's #MP14 and HaChinuch's #C419 emphasize learning and teaching. Maimonides' #RP10 specifies that we are to read the Sh'ma twice daily, morning and evening, and Meir's #MP11 says similarly that we are to recite it. HaChinuch's #C420 says something quite different; he says that we are only required to recite one verse of the Torah, namely Deuteronomy 6:4. I am of the opinion that the Orthodox interpretation of reading or reciting the Sh'ma morning and evening is not what the Scripture intends, but the practice is a good one and a valid implementation so long as the Scripture's higher and more far-reaching message is understood and pursued.
This is a generally applicable mitzvah for all people.
1. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) translation
2. New King James Version (NKJ) translation
JMm JFm KMm KFm GMm GFm
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