D’varim: The Book of Deuteronomy

20 Items

Devarim

Words From the Heart

“Words that emanate from the heart – enter the heart” (based on Berachot 6b). This simple but powerful saying resonates especially forcefully when applied to the book of Deuteronomy, whose Hebrew name, Devarim, derives from its opening verse: “These are the words (devarim) that Moses spoke to all of Israel.” Moses began reciting the book […]

Va'etchanan

Moses in Every Generation

After Moses tells the people that he pleaded with God to let him enter the Promised Land, he rebukes the people saying, “But God became angry with me because of you and He did not listen to me” (Deuteronomy 3:26). The Arizal derived a remarkable concept from this verse. The words “became angry with me” […]

Cleaving to God

“And you who cleave to God, your God, you are all alive today” (Numbers 4:4). The Sages ask how the mitzvah of cleaving to God can be accomplished when He is described in this very portion as a “consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24)! They answer that by cleaving to Torah scholars, we are, as it were, […]

The Potency of Prayer

At the beginning of Va’etchanan, Moses recounts how he pleaded with God to let him enter the Land of Israel: And I implored (va’etchanan) God at that time saying, “My God, you have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand, for what power is there in the heaven or on earth […]

The Heart of Heaven

In Va’etchanan, Moses once again recounts the awesome Giving of the Torah at Sinai. A key phrase that describes the event is “and the mountain was burning in fire till the heart of heaven” (Numbers 4:11). “Till the heart of heaven” was one of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s favorite expressions, one he often used when trying […]

Eikev

Photosynthesis as a Parable for Life

The Torah often describes the Land of Israel as a land flowing with milk and honey. Rashi explains that the honey referred to in the verse is not made by bees but is made from dates, one of the unique seven fruits designated by God as native to the Land of Israel: For God your […]

Secrets of Rain

The portion of Eikev remarks on the importance of rain twice. In the first, the Torah compares the lands of Egypt and Israel: For the land that you are coming there to inherit it is not like the land of Egypt that you left there, where you would plant your seed and irrigate it with […]

Re’eh

Living With the Times

The portion of Re’eh customarily falls near Rosh Chodesh Elul, about one month before Rosh Hashanah. This entire period is dedicated to spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. In accordance with Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi’s dictum that we should “live with the times” (i.e., connect with, learn from, and apply the weekly Torah […]

Shoftim

Protecting the Environment – a Torah Imperative

There are many mitzvot in the Torah that seem to apply to specific circumstances or a particular situation, but from which the Sages draw far-reaching implications. One of these, the prohibition against cutting down fruit trees when besieging an enemy city, appears in Shoftim in the context of laws pertaining to warfare. The Rabbis deduce […]

Ki Teitzei

Redeeming Sparks of Holiness

A theme repeated often in the Arizal’s mystical teachings and magnified even more by the Ba’al Shem Tov is the notion that humanity is charged with the mission of elevating the sparks of holiness that fell in the cataclysmic breaking of the vessels. This primordial event manifests itself on many different levels of reality, as […]

Amalek Then and Now

All the “stories” in the Torah are archetypal in nature, reflecting or representing various physical and spiritual energies ever present in all aspects of reality and within each and every person. The essential energy and fundamental lessons contained in these stories reappear in countless different guises and under many different circumstances, related to the individual, […]

Ki Tavo

The Importance of Joy

Ki Tavo begins with the commandment to bring the first fruits of one’s produce to the Holy Temple: “It will be when you enter the land that God, your God, gives you as an inheritance … that you shall take of the first of every fruit … and you shall put it in a basket […]

Dedicating Our First Fruits

In Chassidut the first fruits represent much more than just an annual agricultural offering. The first fruits symbolize the “first”: the initial thought, intention, or inspiration that comes to mind in a host of situations, not to mention, one’s initial gut-feeling or instinctive response to various circumstances. The more we have clarified and refined our […]

The Little That Contains Much

In Ki Tavo, the children of Israel are commanded to perform an inauguration ritual after they enter the Promised Land. In this ritual, the nation publicly commits itself to fulfilling the Torah’s commandments by reciting a list of curses and blessings on Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. This ritual, mentioned in Re’eh, is more fully […]

Nitzavim

And You Are Standing Today All of You Before God

Every year on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, we read the portion of Nitzavim, which begins with the following words: “And you are standing today all of you before God” (Deuteronomy 29:9). There are several reasons this portion is always read before Rosh Hashanah, but the simplest one is that the Jewish people were frightened […]

Vayelech

And Moses Went

Vayeilech begins with the following words: “And Moses went and spoke these words to all of Israel” (Deuteronomy 31:1). Although the Torah describes Moses as having “went,” it is not at all clear exactly where Moses went to and why the Torah even mentions that he went when it could have simply stated that Moses […]

Walking the Way of Life

The portions of Nitzavim and Vayeilech are usually read together on Shabbat. The late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, points out an interesting dichotomy between the names of the two portions. Nitzavim means “entrenched,” “permanent,” or “standing,” while Vayeilech denotes “movement,” “progress,” or “going out.” He elaborates on this insight by noting that there is […]

Ha'azinu

The Existential State of Being Alone

“God alone leads them, and there is no foreign god with Him” (Deuteronomy 32:12). The literal sense, the peshat, of the first part of this verse teaches that Israel’s fate is not determined by the stars (astrological predictions) but by God alone, as the Talmud reiterates: “There are no predetermined heavenly influences upon Israel” (Shabbat […]

Vezot HaBracha

Before the Eyes of All Israel

The Torah’s final verse read as follows: “And by all the strong hand and awesome power that Moses performed before the eyes of all Israel” (Deuteronomy 34:12). As we have demonstrated throughout this book, Rashi and the other commentators often seek deeper meanings in the juxtaposition between two portions as well as in the juxtaposition […]

The Dance of White Fire

After the yearly Torah reading cycle is completed on the morning of Simchat Torah, we immediately begin the cycle again by reading the beginning of Bereishit, recounting the creation of the world. This practice connects the end of the Torah with its beginning, as discussed in the previous section. This ceremonial completion and immediate new […]