Torah Weekly

For the week ending 29 July 2017 / 6 Av 5777

Parshat Devarim

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

Overview

This Parsha begins the last of the Five Books of The Torah, Sefer Devarim. This Book is also called Mishneh Torah, "Repetition of the Torah" (hence the Greek/English title Deuteronomy). Sefer Devarim relates what Moshe told Bnei Yisrael during the last five weeks of his life, as they prepared to cross the Jordan into Eretz Yisrael. Moshe reviews the mitzvot, stressing the change of lifestyle they are about to undergo: from the supernatural existence of the desert under Moshes guidance to the apparently natural life they will experience under Yehoshuas leadership in the Land.

The central theme this week is the sin of the spies, the meraglim. The Parsha opens with Moshe alluding to the sins of the previous generation who died in the desert. He describes what would have happened if they hadnt sinned by sending spies into Eretz Yisrael. Hashem would have given them without a fight all the land from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates, including the lands of Ammon, Moav and Edom. He details the subtle sins that culminate in the sin of the spies, and reviews at length this incident and its results. The entire generation would die in the desert; Moshe would not enter Eretz Yisrael. He reminds them that their immediate reaction to Hashems decree was to want to "go up and fight" to redress the sin. He recounts how they wouldnt listen when he told them not to go, that they no longer merited vanquishing their enemies miraculously. They ignored him and suffered a massive defeat. They were not allowed to fight with the kingdoms of Esav, Moav or Ammon these lands were not to be part of the map of Eretz Yisrael in the meantime. When the conquest of Canaan will begin with Sichon and Og, it will be via natural warfare.

Insights

A Public Need

“These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel…” (1:1)

Why does the Torah stress here that Moshe spoke to “all” Israel. It could equally have written, “…to the Children of Israel” or “…to Israel.” These are alternatives that the Torah itself uses elsewhere.

The Talmud (Mo’ed Katan 21b) explains that Moshe communicated the words of Sefer Devarim, the Mishneh Torah (Repetition of the Torah), three days after the passing of his brother Aharon. The gemara there raises the question how was Moshe — a mourner in the week of shiva — able to learn Torah? The gemara’s answer is that if there is public need a mourner may learn and teach Torah.

This is why the Torah stresses that Moshe spoke to “all” of Israel — for without being needed by the entire Jewish People he would not have been allowed to learn or teach Torah.

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