Weekly Reading Insights: Devarim 5765


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Devarim

To be read on 8 Av 5765 (Aug. 13)

Torah: Deut. 1:1-3:22
Haftorah: Isaiah 1:1-27 (3rd of the Three Haftorahs of Affliction)

Pirkei Avot Chapter 3

Shabbat Chazon

Devarim is the 1st Reading out of 11 in Deut. and 44th overall, and 26th out of 54 in overall length.

All of the Book of Devarim takes place in the last forty days of Moshe's life. He begins by  reviewing many of the Jews’ desert travels, wars and conquests, the appointing of judges, the spies’ sin and the nation’s subsequent punishment. G-d promises to help Yehoshua conquer in the Land of Israel as He helped Moshe conquer the lands of the Emorites and Bashan (the present day Golan) which were given to the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and part of Menashe.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:44-65/Devarim)

Even though they didn't really know the glory of G-d, they nevertheless continued the customs of their forefathers. It was only afterwards that they saw so many miracles and mighty deeds and the Holy One, Blessed Be He, took them to be His servants. It was in Egypt that they all saw so many miracles and wonders with their own eyes and all those famous signs and mighty deeds. That is the reason it is written "I am the Lord your G-d from the land of Egypt"; that was the land where He revealed His Glory!

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:44-65/Devarim)

Now, in order that the "day" shine out of the night - i.e. that the [sparks of holiness inherent in evil be liberated through the] process of separation accomplished [by our proper use of physicality] - the Destruction had to take place.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the "Ohr HaChaim". (S:43-65/Massey)

The Torah itself describes the superior nature of these journeys by stressing that they occurred as an aftermath of the Exodus from Egypt, i.e. after the Israelites had been refined in the Exodus from Egypt - after the Israelites had been refined in the iron crucible called Egypt. This enabled them to isolate sparks of sanctity wherever they would encounter them.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"These are the words which Moses spoke to all of Israel." (1:1)
The Book of Deuteronomy begins with Moses chastising the Children of Israel for their transgressions in the wilderness. When harsh words were necessary, Moses didn't refrain from using them. However, this was only when addressing "all of Israel"; when speaking with G-d, Moses consistently defended the Jewish people and acted as their advocate. This contains a lesson for all Jews, and in particular, Jewish leaders.
(Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev) (from L'Chaim #529)

Comments Rashi: "Since these are words of reproof...he mentions them [only] in allusion out of respect for Israel." However, we find that the very same sins Moses only hints at here are explicitly detailed later on in the Torah. This apparent conflict is resolved by the Midrash: As soon as the Jews heard Moses' words of rebuke they sincerely repented; when a person repents out of love, "his deliberate sins are transformed into mitzvot." Thus after the Jews repented Moses was free to enumerate their sins, as by doing so he was adding to their merits.
(Imrei Elimelech) (from L'Chaim )


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

MOSHIACH THIS WEEK (M:44-65/Devarim)

"And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren." (Deuteronomy 1:16)
It is only during the present era, "at that time," that it is necessary to listen to both sides of a dispute to reach a just decision. When Moshiach comes and ushers in the Messianic era, judgment will be rendered through the sense of smell, as it states, "He will smell the fear of G-d, and he will not judge after the sight of his eyes and decide after the hearing of his ears."
(Kedushat Levi)

9th of Av

Why is Megillat Eicha (Lamentations) - the scroll which is read on Tisha B'Av to commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple - not written on a separate piece of parchment just like Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther) -- the scroll which is read on Purim?
When Moshiach comes, Tisha B'Av will be transformed from a day of sorrow into a day of rejoicing. As every single day we await Moshiach's arrival, making Lamentations more "permanent" by committing it to parchment is not really necessary and would imply that we had already despaired, G-d forbid. Purim, however, will also be celebrated in the Era of Redemption, and thus the parchment scrolls will also be used then.
(The Levush)

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:44-65/Devarim)

"The Lord your G-d spoke to us in Horeb saying, "You have sojourned too long! Turn and travel and arrive at the Amorite mountain and all of its neighbors…."
(Deut. 1:6)
The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Torah and is different than the first four. In Deuteronomy, Moses gives advice for spiritual survival, not only for the first generation that entered the Holy Land but also for every generation afterwards, including (and especially) us. In this week's portion, Moses quotes G-d telling the Jewish people, "You have sojourned too long!" (Deut. 1:6-7). Our soul's natural inclination is to grow; "sojourning" alludes to staying at one level without trying to move on to the next stage, i.e. "going around in circles".

The verse continues "…at this mountain", referring to Mount Sinai. Even remaining at Sinai, sponging up Torah, is not the optimum. We also have to make an impact on others, influencing them for the better, especially those different or distant from ourselves. Exclusively focusing on personal self-development, one's own individual activities and embellishments only will eventually prevent a person from advancing, and even to spiritually regress.

The passage continues, "…Turn and travel and arrive at the Amorite mountain and all of its neighbors". In Kabbala, the nation of Emor represents our negative side, that which opposes holiness. By referring to the "Amorite mountain" we are encouraged to perceive that negativity (bad character traits, keeping G-d at a distance, valuing the worldly over spirituality) like a mountain - difficult to climb, out of our reach and not at all attractive. This is why the verse emphasizes the word "arrive". Judaism is a specific journey; the mitzvahs are taking us to a specific place. We are not meant to meander around true spirituality, just to pass though. We are supposed to arrive at the perception that the negative is an absolute barrier in front of us. The classic source Tanna D'bai Eliyahu understands "arriving" to mean taking it in, inheriting and integrating. In this sense, the concept of inheritance reminds us that we are supposed to be retaking the sparks that were lost, that only we have the potential to liberate.

After all this is navigated successfully, we come to the end of verse, "…until you come to the great river, the Prat River". (Deut.1:7) The Prat River was far away from Israel, designating the expansion of Israel's borders. Through the service of the above - distancing ourselves from negative forces and positively influencing our environment - we will merit expanding Israel's borders into the land of the Kini, Knizi, and Kadmoni. (From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 1958)

Rabbi Chaim Vital, the Ari's main student, explains the verse "The Lord your G-d spoke to us in Horeb, saying that the fact that G-d spoke to the Jews in Horeb, where He gave them the Torah, is what made them great. Through this, the Jews were then able to go into Israel and defeat their enemies. So, the time had come that G-d could say to the Jews, "Turn and travel onwards".

The Shelah writes in his commentary on Tractate Taanit (page 328) that the weekly Torah readings are connected to the calendar events that happen around them. The Shelah asks how can it be that the same three portions, Matot, Masai and Devarim, are always read during the Three Weeks? These portions speak about the victories of the Jewish people over the nations, the dividing of the Land and the final preparations for entering Israel. This appears paradoxical to the period of the Three Weeks! The answer is that the fast days and all of these days of mourning will be transformed into holidays and days of happiness. Specifically through our efforts now in these days of exile and our heartfelt desire to see the Jewish people reunited in Israel with the 3rd Temple, we will bring the final redemption and our everlasting dwelling in the Holy Land.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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