Parashat Devarim – Erev Shabbat 16 July 2021
Week of 11-17 July 2021
Torah portion: Deuteronomy 1 :1-3 :22 Haftarah: Isaiah 1 :1-27
Theme: Soul and Spirit
Devarim is the Hebrew word, which is the last part of the second word (haDevarim) of the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Torah. Our Parasha for this week is Devarim (words) from the opening sentence of our portion for this week (words of Moses). “These are the words of Moses spoken to the children of Israel, at the other side of the River Jordan…. Moses told the children of Israel all that Adonai had commanded him regarding them… Moses began to explain this law. They were in the land of Moab, on the other side of the Jordan (1: 1-5).
I am familiar and perhaps we are familiar with great women and men in Biblical time and on the world scene coming to the end of their journey, wanting to have a farewell speech, summing up their perception of their call. Perhaps this is true for Moses coming to the end of his life: these five verses give the time and place of the delivery of Moses’ farewell address. “The aged Moses, personally and indeed in the first person, speaks for the last time to the assembled Israelites, before their triumphant entry into the land of Canaan” (Fox: 841). Even though it may seem to be a triumphant entry, perhaps at the same time, Moses foresees there might be a tragic fate awaiting the children of Israel.
Perhaps the time is catching up with Moses to say and do what he perceives of what God is asking of him. He knows the end of his life is on the horizon. He was called to lead the children of Israel from Egypt to the land of Canaan. These first five verses play an important role as the prologue of what is to follow in our Parashat Devarim and the whole Book of Deuteronomy. A good prologue foreshadows events to come; provides background information and sometimes even the history behind the conflict. These five verses “(prepare) the stage for the instructions, laws, warnings, blessings, and curses that Moses delivers to the children of Israel. It is set in the time immediately preceding his death; the place where he delivers them is the plateau of Moab, east of Jericho, across the Jordan River” (Plaut:1310).
Parashat Devarim is like watching a very moving, passionate movie. You can’t help but be emotionally involved with the main character or the different characters in the movie. Moses, their leader for forty years through thick and thin, stands on the other side of the Jordan. Right in front of his eyes is heaven before him, his destiny, the dream of his mission but he won’t make it there. We can feel the sadness of Moses: it is impossible for us to separate ourselves from our identification with Moses’ pain and suffering. We must learn, as perhaps Moses did, this is the way of Adonai Elohenu, not our way, Amen.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. If I am at the horizon of my life’s journey, what could be the essence of my farewell speech? 2. Again, if I am at the end of my life’s journey, how do I measure up with what I was asked to do? How do I feel? 3. Soul is the Word of God, the Law and the Spirit are how to live the Word of God, the Law???
Bibliography: Fox, E. The Five Books of Moses (New York: 1983) Plaut, W.G. The Torah (New York: 1981).
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
‘Aliki ‘A Langi, Tonga, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2005, 2018