of the Weekly Reading
To be read on Shabbat Devarim - 9 Menachem Av 5778
Torah: Deut. 1:1-3:22
Haftorah: Isaiah 1:1-27 (3rd of the Three
Haftorahs of Affliction)
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
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
(for a free weekly email subscription, click
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
(for a free weekly email subscription, click
For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this
week's Reading, see the archive.
THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org
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
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
For the rest
of "The Masters of Kabbala and Chumash" on this
Weekly Reading; and on all
the other Readings.
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