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Devarim Summaries

Devarim 5777-2017

“The Transformation of Moses is Completed”

The book of Deuteronomy confirms that the transformation of Moses is now complete. The man who said, ”I am not a man of words,” the man who asked, “Did I conceive this entire people, did I give birth to it?,” eventually became the great orator and the thoroughly devoted nursemaid of his people.

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Devarim 5776-2016

“Moses the Stammerer, Becomes a World-Class Orator”

At the Burning Bush, Moses describes himself as “a stammerer and stutterer.” The book of Deuteronomy testifies, however, that the tongue-tied Moses was apparently transformed into a bold and talented orator, whose words resound throughout the world to this very day.

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Devarim 5775-2015

“Looking Through the Pain, Toward a Bright Future”

Despite having endured more than forty years of hardship and struggle, and having every reason to be angry and bitter, Moses, nevertheless, conveys an inspiring message of hope to the new and future generations of Israel.

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Devarim 5774-2014

“Moses: The Lonely Leader”

According to the Gaon of Vilna, the connection between the challenge of leadership for Moses and the period of mourning for the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem is not only how these hardships came to be, but also the loneliness that both Moses and the city of Jerusalem experienced.

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Devarim 5773-2013

“The Price of Disunity”

Disunity among the people most often leads to a complete breakdown of society, an absence of moral awareness and concern, and, ultimately, to utter destruction.

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Devarim 5772-2012

“The Al-mighty’s Relationship with the Nations of the World”

As the People of Israel conclude their 40 year trek through the wilderness, they emerge as a triumphant nation, having defeated the most powerful nations in the world. Nevertheless, Moses tells them in G-d’s name that they must zealously respect the rights and privileges of the other nations as well.

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Devarim 5771-2011

“The Responsibility not to be Misled”

When recounting the story of the Scouts in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses omits many details of the original story, while other seemingly less pertinent facts are emphasized. There is a profound lesson that is taught by these unexpected changes about the individual’s responsibility not to be misled.

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Devarim 5770-2010

“On That Day the Lord Shall Be One and His Name One”

Two little seemingly “throw-away” verses in Deuteronomy, 2:5 and 2:19, powerfully proclaim a singular all-embracing G-d of the world, Who cares for Israel as well as all the nations of the world.

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Devarim 5769-2009

“Og Stands Tall on the Stage of History”

In Moses’ recapitulation of the battles that the Israelites fought during their 40 years in the wilderness, he recalls the defeat of Sihon, the Amorite King, and Og the king of Bashan. Although the biblical text reveals little about Og, the Midrash creates an elaborate biography of the Amorite king.

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Devarim 5768-2008

“Establishing the Rightful Owners of the Land”

In parashat Devarim, the Torah goes into excruciating and puzzling detail concerning the nations who dwelt in the Land of Canaan. All this is done in order to emphasize the constant change of kingdoms and nations, underscoring that there never was one permanent owner to the land. It is undisputedly “G-d’s land” to apportion according to His will–to the People of Israel.

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Devarim-Tisha B’Av 5767-2007

“Zion Shall be Redeemed through Justice”

The prophet Isaiah states that Zion will be redeemed through justice. It is no accident therefore that the Torah portion read before Tisha Ba’Av, the fast of the 9th of Av, opens with an exhortation about honesty in judgment. The establishment of the Sanhedrin, the High Court of Jewish law, is meant to serve as a paradigm of justice, leading to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, soon in our days.

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Devarim-Tisha B’Av 5766-2006

“Isaiah’s Message to Contemporary Jews”

The powerful message found in the first chapter of Isaiah is entirely appropriate for the Tisha B’Av period. The prophet exhorts the Jewish people to take the performance of their ritual mitzvot more seriously, to invest deeper meaning in their religious observance, and to enrich these spiritual practices with greater sincerity and passion.

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Devarim 5765-2005

“The Book of Deuteronomy-Mishneh Torah and the Purpose of Repetition”

The book of Deuteronomy, known as Mishneh Torah, the repetition of the Torah, serves several important purposes as a complement to the first four books of the Torah: 1. It explains mitzvot that had already been mentioned 2. It provides additional details about previously mentioned narratives 3. It frequently serves as a forum for ethical teachings and lessons regarding reward and punishment 4. It introduces a host of new mitzvot.

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Devarim-Tisha B’Av 5764-2004

“Building a ‘New’ Sanctuary”

This has been a difficult and challenging year for the Jewish people. Terror attacks, anti-Semitism, assimilation and intermarriage are on the rise. It has also been a particularly hard year for observant Jews, who have been challenged with the appearance of crustaceans in their waters and wigs that might have been used for idolatry. Perhaps what we need during this period of mourning for the Temple is to spiritually chill-out, to calm down and find a sanctuary in our belief system.

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Devarim 5763-2003

“The Gentle Reproof”

The book of Devarim records the words that were spoken by Moses in the last five weeks of his life, given as a last will and testament to his beloved people. In this parasha, Moses provides an example of how reproof should be given by alluding to the people indirectly, rather than announcing the exact sins that were committed. We may indeed learn from Moses how to give effective reproof with great gentleness.

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Devarim-Tisha B’Av 5762-2002

“Judging our People Favorably”

The powerful words of Isaiah in this week’s Haftorah resound today with surprising relevance, as if they were pronounced only yesterday. Despite Isaiah’s harsh assessment of the people, we, like the prophet of old, need to look upon the people of Israel and judge them favorably. After all, contemporary Jews face similar challenges to those of the ancients and need to be judged favorably as well.

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Devarim-Tisha B’Av 5761-2001

Eichah, The Annual Search for Meaning and Introspection”

In order for the Fast of the 9th of Av to be meaningful, it is necessary for us to focus on the proper message. Eichah and Ah’yeka are two of the prominent themes of Tisha Ba’Av. G-d asks the Jews: Where are you? What have you done with your lives? How can this tragedy have possibly happened? How can we improve ourselves?

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Devarim 5760-2000

“Judaism’s Unique Views on Justice and the Justice System”

In parashat Devarim, Moses gives his valedictory admonition to the Jewish people. Knowing that the entire nation’s security rests on the efficacy of its legal system, Moses reminds the people again and again to be truthful in judgment. In this parasha, Moses lays out the foundation of Jewish jurisprudence, a legal system that was unparalleled in the ancient world. The prophet Isaiah sums it all up by saying that “Zion shall be redeemed in justice and those who return to her shall be redeemed through righteousness.”

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