of the Torah Reading
To be read on Shabbat Devarim - 6 Av 5777 /July 29
Torah: Deut. 1:1-3:22
Haftorah: Isaiah 1:1-27 (3rd of the Three Haftorahs
Pirkei Avot: Chapter
Devarim is the 1st Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy
and it contains 5972 letters, in 1548 words, in 105
Overview: All of the Book
of Devorim 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.
essay from Rabbi
Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
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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
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 Amor 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 world 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 Pras
River". The Pras 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
Rav 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 Shla writes in his Tractate Taanis (page t328) that
the weekly Torah readings are connected to the calendar events that
happen around them. The Shla 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
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
Shabbat Shalom, Shaul
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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this
week's Reading, see the archive.
THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org
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Kabbalists, and more,
click to Devarim
of Body and Soul
By Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz; adapted from Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Eliyahu
The reason we have
lost the Temple and have been sent into exile is that we were guilty
of violating those Torah laws designed to perfect our soul, body and
financial dealings. Our sages have said that during the period of the
First Temple, Israel sinned by worshipping idols, engaging in sexual
licentiousness and committing murder.
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