Parashat Devarim Erev Shabbat 5 August 2022
Week of 31 July – 6 August 2022
Torah portion: Deuteronomy 1: 1-3: 22   Haftarah: Isaiah 1: 1-27
Theme : Hearing the words of God

Today’s Torah portion reminds us of the value of receiving the words of God; and of the need to discern who and what to hear and to whom to listen.  Its name, Devarim (Words), is taken from the opening phrase in Deuteronomy, “These are the words that Moses spoke.” 

According to Ska (2006), this makes Deuteronomy unique and special for the other books explicitly present their content as “words of Adonai/the LORD” (Lev: 1:1-2, 26:46, 27:34: Num. 1:1, 36:13 and Exod. 20:1, 22; 2`:1; 24:3).  It makes it the first “commentary” on the Law by Moses himself who is considered the most “dependable and competent commentator”.

This Torah portion is part of the first of the three retrospective discourses; and poems that Moses addressed to Israel in Moab shortly before he died (Deut. 1:6-4:43; 4:44-28:69; 29:1-30:20; 32 and 33). Serving as the prologue to the last book of the Torah, it stresses how important it is for the people to be faithful to their covenant with God, if they are to find happiness and a good life in the Promised Land.

In his looking back upon Israel’s history and its experience with God,  Moses recalls the events on Horeb and their journey through the wilderness, pointing out the people’s murmurings, rebellion and refusal to enter the Promised Land; defeats and victories and the need to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness.   

He cited the story of the 12 spies sent to Canaan when the people did not listen to the words of Caleb and Joshua, but chose instead to believe the lies and misinformation of the ten other scouts.  Moses had to intercede for the people.  But although God listened to his words, the harm had been done.  Moses and the “evil generation” could not enter the good land and they had to wander through the desert for 40 years.

In Deut. 1:43, Moses lamented the failure of the people to listen to him saying: “Although I told you, you would not listen.”  He had told them of God’s message not to fight the Amorites, for God would be in the midst of them.  But they did not heed him and had the crashing defeat against the Amorites. 

In the Haftarah, Isaiah censures all members of society for inequity, and infidelity to God and false reliance on ritual sacrifices. He laments the coming of doom but ends his teachings with less finality and more hope, especially for those who would repent.

Today, in the first part of the Sunday mass, we listen to and hear the Word of God.  We say after the Gospel reading, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.”  And after the First and Second Readings, the reader says:  “The Word of the Lord,” and we respond, “Thanks be to God.”

We are thankful for what has been written about our faith and we pray for discernment that amidst the cacophony of today’s news and voices, we get to reject fake news and information especially on our faith; and recognize and hear the voice of today’s Moses and of bat kol.  As the motto of Bat Kol alumni goes: ‘We will hear and we will do.’

Bibliography: Carasik,ed.  The Commentators’ Bible Deuteronomy (Nebraska: 2015), ETZ Hayim: Torah and Commentary (New York: 2001); Guinan, The Pentateuch: Message of Biblical Spirituality (Minnesota: 1990); Ska, Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch (Indiana: 2006)

For Reflection and Discussion: 1.What are good sources of news and stories about our faith? Who do you consider to be a present-day Moses? 2. What can you do not to be a victim of disinformation?

This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, July 2014 Bat Kol Alumna


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