Weekly Reading Insights: Devarim



Overview of the Weekly Reading

To be read on Shabbat Devarim - 9 Menachem Av 5778 /July 21
Shabbat Chazon

Torah: Deut. 1:1-3:22
Haftorah: Isaiah 1:1-27 (3rd of the Three Haftorahs of Affliction)
Pirkei Avot:  When the 9th of Av fall on Shabbat we do not read Pirkei Avot

Devarim is the 1st Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy and it contains 5972 letters, in 1548 words, in 105 verses

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.

An essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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This Shabbat we begin reading the first portion of the last of the five books of the Torah - Devarim. In the spiral of our history we have reached the end of our forty-year sojourn in the desert. The generation that left Egypt has passed on. All the obstacles that hindered our entry to the Land have been overcome. Moshe will now review all that has happened and all that he has taught and will give his final instructions to the Jews who will soon have to fight in order to take possession of the Promised Land.

Close to the beginning of the portion (1:5) the verses says, "Across the Jordan, in the land of Moav, Moshe begins to explain the Torah." Rashi comments that Moshe explained it to them in 70 languages. Why 70 languages? At that time certainly all the Jews knew Hebrew. We learn from Rashi's comment that Torah is for the whole world, not only the Jewish people. It should be available in all 70 primary languages. The nations of the world can't then claim that if they would have been able to understand Torah they would have studied it and converted. Sadly, today the majority of Jews are unable to understand Hebrew and access Torah teachings as they were written.

Beginning 1967 during the Six-Day War and continuing through the first half of the 70's, the Lubavitcher Rebbe initiated campaigns to educate and introduce Jews the world over about ten essential commandments - lighting Shabbos candles, Tefillin, Mezuza, Torah study, Tzedakah, a home filled with Jewish books, Kashrus, love of your fellow Jew, Jewish education and observing the laws of family purity. During the Yom Kippur war (1973), the Rebbe encouraged a special effort to publicize the commandments of Tefillin and Mezuza in Israel in the secular press.

At about the same time the Rebbe similarly encouraged radio broadcasts of Torah classes on many subjects. At that time, as today, rates of assimilation were on the rise. Within Orthodox communities, television, radio and secular newspapers and books were shunned in order to prevent exposure to ideas opposed to a Torah lifestyle. Some leaders of the observant community were aghast that the Rebbe was using these "defiled" mediums to spread our holy religion. In a talk from 1980, the Rebbe answered his critics.

"There is a straightforward answer in the last teaching in Pirkei Avot ("Ethics of our Fathers", a tractate of Mishna). Everything that G-d created in His world He created for the purpose of honoring Him. We are supposed to use everything to honor G-d, by using it to fulfill a commandment or to accomplish some other positive action. This is what we find in the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov - that everything a person sees or hears should be utilized for serving G-d."

The fight over the use of radio was particularly vehement. The Rebbe said, "Even all the worldly languages that were created, that are not holy, their true purpose is to spread Torah teachings. As we learn from the Rashi at the beginning of the Book of Devarim, that the Torah was explained in 70 languages! The Torah is filled with similar references. "In the beginning G-d created the Heaven and the Earth". Rashi explains that in fact, everything was created on the first day. But each of the different parts of creation were revealed on their own day. Everything without exception was created by G-d. Only G-d has the ability to create [something from nothing]. And if this is referring to the smallest details in the creation, then how much more so does it include a phenomenon like radio waves, a power that G-d put into nature, so that with the right instrument, you can hear a person's voice from one end of the world to the other, at the very instant he is speaking!
And since every aspect of the world is for 'the sake of the Torah and for the sake of the Jewish people' (another quote from Rashi at the beginning of the book of Bereishis) so obviously, even this amazing power, that we call radio, was only created for the sake of the Torah and the sake of the Jewish people. And why? To use it for holiness, to spread Judaism, all parts of Judaism, both the day to day aspects and even the most sublime."
Adapted from "Parshios im haRebbe", by Aharon Dov Halperin.

In the early 1990s, a Jewish executive who ran a South African advertising agency, accepted the African National Congress as a client, working to improve the ANC's public image.
One day, while visiting the ANC headquarters, he saw a large poster of Yassar Arafat on the wall. Shocked and dismayed to learn of the ANC's affiliation with terrorists, he took advice from his friends to ask the Rebbe for guidance.
"Although I have strong liberal and anti-apartheid leanings, I feel like I'm working for the wrong people…" he wrote. And then he asked the Rebbe "Should I continue to work for them or not?"
"Don't stop." the Rebbe replied "To the contrary, continue working with them, but make every effort to influence them for the good." ("Seeds of Wisdom" volume 2).

Shabbat Shalom , Shaul

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


Specifically, for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more,
click to Devarim

one sample:

Chasidic Masters

Shabbat of Vision

By Binyomin Adilman

When the Temple was standing, the special unity between G-d and the Jews was readily apparent and existed all week. Although the unification was greater on Shabbat, it wasn't an appreciable greater source of joy.

Now that the Temple is no longer standing and there is a lack of unity, when Shabbat comes and the Jews are able to renew their connection once again with G-d, He especially rejoices in this unity with His people

To continue, click here.

For the rest of "The Masters of Kabbala and Chumash" on this Weekly Reading; and on all the other Readings.

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For another taste of recommended Kabbalah articles on a variety of subjects,
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