After the joy of
Singing last week “Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazek,”
we have now entered the Book of Devarim.
It is immediately distinct from the other books of the Torah.
Though it is repeating many of the same incidents,
and laws of previous books,
the tone and presentation are clearly different.
The name, Deuteronomy, comes from the Greek,
and is a translation of the phrase, Mishneh Torah,
which can mean
“A copy of this Teaching,”
a “second Torah.”
The book contains a series of farewell speeches by Moses.
He knows that he will die before reaching the Land of Israel,
and still he seems to feel a sense of urgency in ensuring that the people of Israel understand all of G-d’s commands.
The most common way of dividing the book
distinguishes five parts:
1. prologue which reviews the past and a first sermon which stresses Israel’s relationship to G-d (verses 1:1-4:33)
A second, long discourse which presents laws of ritual and civil character and a long catalogue of consequences (4:44-11:25)
A third discourse (11:26-28:69)
A final appeal and farewell by Moses (chapters 29-33)
A brief epilogue describing the leader’s death (chapter 34).
At the end of Deuteronomy in parashat Nitzavim,
Moses tells us that,
The Torah will serve as our guide throughout the ages,
and in one of the most beautiful passages in the Torah,
"ki karov elecha adavar meod beficha oulvivavecha laasoto"
the text reminds us that:
Torah is accessible and understandable to all (see 30:14 )
• The commandments are not enigmatic,
• They do not reside in a distant realm,
• They do not require any intermediary,
• They are already made known
• They are within a human's ability to do it!
Moses is also at the forefront of the text throughout this book.
As the primary speaker,
we are finally hearing from Moses himself,
rather than hearing G-d’s words.
this presents its own set of issues,
as a number of incidents are told differently from their first mention earlier in the Torah.
Even the Ten Commandments are different in Deuteronomy than they are in the first iteration in Exodus.
• Why these inconsistencies?
• A different author?
• An unreliable narrator?
• The speaker’s specific agenda?
• What might the goal of the text be?
The text feels even more personal than other books.
“We” feel included more than before.
In all 4 precedent books The Torah speaks through the voice of Moses!
Devarim is our book, our own book, why ?
• We already learned that the people who stood at mount Sinai perished in the desert.
• Those who escaped from Egypt, who stood at Mt. Sinai, who traveled to Kadesh-barnea,
who complained day and night, and
who finally decided to go back to Egypt,
that generation died out in the desert (1:34-36).
To whom is Moses speaking?
Presumably, he is speaking to the next generation:
• This generation did not stand at Sinai,
• they were not at Kadesh-barnea.
• We did stand at Horeb. Yes!
• We were at Kadesh-barnea!
• Yes, yes, yes!
• This story is absolutely ours.
I look forward to search more into the world of Deuteronomy with you all this Shabbat.