Parshat Devarim Highlights

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First Portion

  • Rebuke is as popular as a bad stomach ache: no one likes rebuke. Apparently, 37 days before Moshe died, he began rebuking the nation; what a way to go. I tip my hat to Moshe, our leader and Rabbi, how he was able to keep the audience interested and then to come back for more abuse the very next day. There are those who like getting pounded on the head; they would rather receive the stick than the carrot. The Israelites, remarkably, listened for thirty-seven days! How, in the world did he manage that? There are ways of saying things and there are ways of saying things. One popular answer is that he never mentioned the crime, just the crime scene. He mentioned the place where the transgression happened; however, not the transgression. Also in the middle of the rebuke, Moshe starts to bless the people. The sensitivity Moshe showed of smacking one minute and being nicey-nice the next was a stroke of genius.
  • The book of Devarim is known to be a review of the previous four, with the exception of a few new commandments like Yibum, which we were introduced in the incident with Yehuda and Tamar in the book of Bereshit, and the laws of slandering a virgin bride, divorcing a woman, conspiring witness, etc. Therefore, many call this book Mishnah Torah – review of the Torah. The commentary, Abarbanel, says the book of Devarim is meant to explain those matters about which doubt had arisen in the minds of the Jews and thus need a special explanation.

Second Portion

In this section, Moshe emphasizes the importance of a fair and righteous judicial system. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz z”l once pointed out the importance in which both parties should be present when the case is being presented before the judge. The individual not present is at a tremendous disadvantage and the judge, on a subconscious level, would favor the one present in the room.

Third Portion

Moshe brings up an uneasy memory of the spy incident. The Israelites wanted to be assured that the promised land they were getting was indeed special. So they requested spies to probe the land for reassurance. The spies came back with a tainted, biased, self-centered report in which they instilled fear, paranoia, and doubt in the Jewish nation.

Fourth Portion

After realizing their mistake with the spy incident, the Israelites insisted to fight an ill-advised war with the Amorites, the neighboring country to the new promised land. Strangely, as Moshe recollects, he compares the incident to getting stung by a bee. Just like bees die after they sting, so too the Amorites after they stung the Jews, they died. Apparently, the Israelites won the war. However, it was a war of nuisance and menacing pain similarly to getting stung and feeling very uneasy. Although it was considered a punishment for the Israelites, getting stung and bruised, nevertheless, they were victorious. G-d wanted them to realize they had sinned. However, he wanted them to feel superior to the enemies and prove the spies wrong.

Fifth Portion

G-d instructs Moshe not to conquer the land of Amon, Moav, and Seir. This is a reward for Lot, whose descendants are Amon and Moav, for keeping silent and not telling Pharaoh that Sarah is Abraham’s wife. Seir, one of the descendants of Eisav, permitted the Jews to buy provisions from his people. Moreover, G-d rewarded Eisav’s descendants because of the tremendous respect Eisav gave his father, “You should live by the sword”. Furthermore, G-d warned the Israelites not to antagonize and respond to Eisav’s descendants militarily because of the bracha Yitzchak gave to his son Eisav. The Jews should conceal themselves until his wrath subsides.

Sixth Portion

When G-d says to hold back and don’t provoke, one listens and when G-d instructs us to be the aggressor and fight, by George, we fight. The Israelites went to war with Sichon, King of the Amorites and Og, King of Bashan. However, Moshe was hesitant to fight Og because of his past merits.

Seventh Portion

Moshe concluded, “I divided the lands on the Eastern side of the Jordan, which we captured from Sichon and Og among Reuben, Gad, and half of Menashe. I warned them, “Even though you have received your portions, you may not remain here. It’s preferable you march in the forefront of the Israelite army to cross the Jordan and conquer the land. I encourage my successor Yehoshua. You have seen what G-d has done to Sichon and Og. Have trust that he will likewise deliver the thirty-one kings of the land of Canaan into your hands”.

Credit to: Rabbi Ave Matmon