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Summary of Parshat Devarim

by the editors    
of Torah from Dixie    

This week we begin the fifth and final book of the Torah, Sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy), which is known in rabbinic literature as Mishneh Torah, the review of the Torah. Its contents were spoken by Moses to the Jewish people during the final five weeks of his life as the people prepared to enter the land of Israel. In it, Moses explains and elaborates upon many of the mitzvot which had been previously given, some of which were already mentioned explicitly in the Torah and others which appear here for the first time. He also continuously warns them to remain diligent and faithful to Hashem's laws and teachings.

Parshat Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:11) begins with Moses' veiled rebuke in which he makes reference to the many sins and rebellions of the past forty years. He then continues by recounting several of the significant incidents which occurred to the Jewish people in the desert, shedding light on the Torah's earlier accounts. Moses spends a significant amount of time discussing the failed mission of the spies: Ten of the twelve men sent to scout out the land of Israel had returned with a bad report, and because of the people's lack of faith, Hashem condemned the entire nation to forty years of wandering in the desert during which time the generation of the exodus died out. Moses then skips forward to discuss the Children of Israel's conquest on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, and the Torah portion concludes with words of encouragement for his successor, Joshua.

Tomorrow is the fast of Tishah B'Av which commemorates the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem and the onset of our current exile, amongst many other tragedies. While mourning these calamities, we focus on introspection and teshuvah (repentance) as we seek to improve our ways, looking forward to the speedy arrival of the Mashiach (Messiah).

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