Weekly Reading Insights:
Devarim 5777

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Overview of the Weekly Reading An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
From the Chasidic Rebbes A Mystical Chasidic Discourse from the "Chabad Master" series
Moshiach this Week Kabbalah Teachings from the Sages of Tsfat and Galilee
Shabbat Law of the Week This week's story from Ascent's storyteller, Yerachmiel Tilles

Overview of the Torah Reading

To be read on Shabbat Devarim - 6 Av 5777 /July 29
Shabbat Chazon

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

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

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here)


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 Deut.1:7, "…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 Rebbe, 1958)

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 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

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


FROM THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org

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:

Mystical Classics
Destruction of Body and Soul

By Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz; adapted from Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Eliyahu Munk

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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