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PARASHAT DEVARIM  - "These are the words ..."

Saturday 25th July 2020 Shabbat Chazon 4th Av 5780


Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22; Isaiah 1:1-27; Acts 9:1-22-Matt 24:1-22

This Shabbat, we commence with the final book of Torah.

Devarim 1:1-3

These are the words - eileh hadevarim - which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of the Jordan in the wilderness,

As per usual, the parasha and the entire book derives it name from the opening verse. The Hebrew word for ‘words’ is ‘devarim’. And so, the parasha is called Parashat Devarim (words) and this final book of Torah is also called Devarim.

There are also other names for this book:

Mishneh Torah - repetition of the Torah - because it is Moses' review of the history of the Jewish people with moral instruction and last minute advice. <

Deuteronomy - this name compromises 2 Greek words: Deutero- second and Nomos - law. שבת חזון. It derives its name from the Haftarah that is read on the Shabbat immediately prior to Tisha B'Av, from the words of rebuke and doom coming from Isaiah in the Isaiah 1:1-27.

Isaiah 1:1

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah:

According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:6), five specific events occurred on the ninth of Av that warrant fasting: The evil report of the 10 spies. The midrash quotes God as saying about this event, "You cried before me pointlessly, I will fix for you [this day as a day of] crying for the generations"[5], alluding to the future misfortunes which occurred on the same date. The First Temple built destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BCE, and the population of the Kingdom of Judah was sent into the Babylonian exile. The destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE by the Romans, and the commencing the Jewish exile from the Holy Land that continues to this day. < >The Romans crushed Bar Kokhba's revolt and destroyed the city of Betar, killing over 500,000 Jewish civilians (approximately 580,000) on August 4, 135 CE.[9] < >Following the Bar Kokhba revolt, Roman commander Turnus Rufus ploughed the site of the Temple in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, in 135 CE.[10] The First Crusade officially commenced on August 15, 1096 (Av 24, AM 4856), killing 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland.[9][11] The Jews were expelled from England on July 18, 1290 (Av 9, AM 5050).[9] The Jews were expelled from France on July 22, 1306 (Av 10, AM 5066).[12] The Jews were expelled from Spain on July 31, 1492 (Av 7, AM 5252).[10] Germany entered World War I on August 1–2, 1914 (Av 9–10, AM 5674), which caused massive upheaval in European Jewry and whose aftermath led to the Holocaust.[9] On August 2, 1941 (Av 9, AM 5701), SS commander Heinrich Himmler formally received approval from the Nazi Party for "The Final Solution." As a result, the Holocaust began during which almost one third of the world's Jewish population perished.[13] On July 23, 1942 (Av 9, AM 5702), began the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka.[13] The AMIA bombing, of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killed 85 and injuring 300 on July 18, 1994 (10 Av, AM 5754).[14] The Israeli disengagement from Gaza began in the Gaza Strip, expelling 8000 Jews who lived in Gush Katif; August 15, 2005; 10 Av, 5765.[15] title="Holocaust"Holocaust spanned a number of years, most religious communities use Tisha B'Av to mourn its 6,000,000 Jewish victims, in addition to or instead of the secular Holocaust Memorial Days. The rabbis say that we remember and mourn all these terrible events in our history although not everyone occurred on Tisha B’Av. They say that if we were to mourn on the exact date of these atrocities, we might spend most of our year in fasting and mourning. And so, it is best to set one day apart for this purpose.


Devarim as Moshe’s last will and testament.

Devarim is different from the previous 4 books of Torah - Devarim differs from the other 4 legislative books in that the bulk of material is related by Moshe in the 1st person.

Devarim as covenant - there is a preamble or introduction to the covenant or treaty, a retrospective look at history, the covenant conditions or terms are stipulated, the covenant document itself is repeated including the blessings associated with obedience and the curses associated with disobedience to the covenant terms; there is a conclusion, and the duration or the period in which the treaty is in force, is stated. In the case of G-d’s covenants, they are forever!

Someone summarized Deuteronomy as “the indivisible unity of one G-d for one people in one land, observing one covenant”.

Why the dimensions of King Og’s bed?

Deut 3:11

11 (Only Og king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaites. His bed was made of iron and was more than thirteen feet long and six feet wide. It is still in Rabbah of the Ammonites.)

Amidst Moshe’s long review of the sin of the spies, the establishment of judicial courts, and Israel’s subsequent conquest of the land, we are informed of the ample proportions of one King Og of Bashan (Deut. 3:11) via a description of the dimensions of his bed. Why, in recounting Israel’s military incursions into the land of Canaan, would Moshe make special reference to the size of King Og’s bed?

Rav Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel, explained that the lesson we can learn from the great attention drawn to Og’s apparent large body and physical power, is that true power comes from internal spiritual greatness and is in the hands of God and those aligned with Divine strivings. God is, indeed, the God of both nature and history, and, as such, can change the laws of nature. He alone can cause the sun to stand still as recorded in Joshua 10.

G-d intervenes in Israel’s history to preserve His people for a destiny and calling that they are yet to fulfil in fullness. In order to direct the course of history according to God’s will. And so, we have a record of the giants and goliaths of the world falling before G-d’s eternal power.

The reference to the huge dimensions of Og’s bed would have reminded them how Young David conquered Goliath and therefore, they could have great confidence in

G-d’s ability to not only bring them into the Land but to overwhelm all the tribes that were currently in the Land so that Israel would emerge victorious.

We can now understand the biblical motivation for suddenly and uncharacteristically invoking the specific size of Og’s impressively oversized sleeping accommodations at the outset of the book of Devarim. By including the unusually detailed description of Og’s bed, the text helps us access the psychological mindset of how the Israelites (and even Moshe) may have felt upon facing the daunting task of engaging Og in battle.

Psalm 44:4-9

For it was not by their own sword that they took possession of the land, nor did their own arm save them. But it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your face — for You favored them. You are my King, O God — command victories for Jacob! Through You we push back our foes. Through Your Name we trample those rising up against us. For I do not trust in my bow, nor can my sword save me. For You saved us from our oppressors and put to shame those who hated us. In God we make our boast all day and Your Name we praise forever. Selah

And then, of course, we are reminded of Rav Sha’ul’s words of encouragement in Romans chapter 8:

Romans 8:35-39

Who shall separate us from the love of Messiah? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter." But in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.

In the uncertainty of these times, we can have great confidence in the completed work of the execution stake upon which Messiah was put to death. As He yielded up His Spirit, He said “it is done; it is finished’. And with hope and expectancy, we look for ward to that day when that voice will once again ring out in the heavenlies ‘it is done’ (Revelations 16:17)!

Rev 19:1-8

After these things, I heard something like the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, shouting: "Halleluyah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. For His judgments are true and just. For He has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her whoring, and has avenged the blood of His servants caused by her hand." And a second time they shouted, "Halleluyah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever!" Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you His servants and all who fear Him, both the small and the great!" Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude—like the roar of rushing waters or like the rumbling of powerful thunder—saying, "Halleluyah! For Adonai Elohei-Tzva'ot reigns! Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready, She was given fine linen to wear, bright and clean! For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the kedoshim."


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