Parashah Devarim 5779

By August 8, 2019 No Comments

This week we begin the fifth and final book of the five books of Moses with the sefer “Devarim,” meaning “words.” The entire Torah consists of words, but the nature of these words take a special significance in this last book. The book of “Devarim / Deuteronomy” is a 37-day-long farewell address form Moses to the Jewish people. The difference between this book and the other four books of Moses is that in this final book, Moses himself is the author and the message is conveyed in a human form from G-d through Moses to the Israelites. Thus the book of Devarim is also known as “Mishneh Torah / repetition of the Torah,” as it can be seen written mostly in first person, in contrast with the other four books of the Torah that are written in third person as in : “G-d spoke to Moses, saying…,” while in Devarim we hear Moses voice in first person as in: “At that time G-d said to me….”


The interesting thing to note is that Devarim belongs also to what we know as the written Torah, meaning that not only the content but also the words and letters are considered to be of Divine origin. Our Sages teach us that because Moses had been able to completely nullified himself  “the Divine presence spoke from his throat.” Moses own words are also called G-d’s words.  This explains that the Book of Deuteronomy acts as a bridge between the “Written Torah” and the “Oral Torah.” The “Oral Torah” was transmitted orally in an unbroken chain from G-d to Moses, from Moses to the Elders, from the Elders to the fathers, from the fathers to the sons, and so on from generation to generation until it was finally intended to writing following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and the Jewish people went into exile. This event put the Jewish civilization into an existential threat.  The belief that the Oral Torah was transmitted directly from G-d to Moses at Mt. Sinai is a fundamental tenet of faith recognized as one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith by Maimonides.


In other words, we have two dimensions of Torah: a dimension in which both the content and the packaging are bestowed from above, and a dimension in which the Divine wisdom and will is packaged in our own words. Then comes the book of Devarim and these two dimensions converge: a human being known as Moses attains a level of union with the Divine wisdom and will in which his words are one and the same with the words of G-d. It is precisely from the book of Devarim that the entire “Oral Torah” flows. Moses complete abnegation of his ego not only allowed him to identify with the Divine wisdom but also it empowered our own less lofty souls to possess a spark of Moses soul. This allows us to create of “our own words” vessels for G-d’s Divine wisdom, although in a lesser level than Moses.


The ancient philosophers referred to the human being as “the speaker,” this is what keeps us apart from the rest of creation. Lets be honest, we love to talk. Researches have come to the conclusion that a person will talk approximately 860 million words in a lifetime for a person who lives up to 80 years. Why do we have an insatiable need to put everything into words?

Because, say the Chassidic masters, there is nothing that the human being wants more than to play G-d.


G-d created the world through speech, He said: “ let there be light!” And there was light. He said: “Let the waters gather and the land be revealed!” And oceans, rivers, lakes, and continents were formed. But men looks at G-d’s creation and feels there is something lacking, so we speak and speak and speak. We categorize, we judge, we complain about G-d’s world in an effort to give it meaning and purpose.


But H”S is infinite and omnipotent and we are finite and error prone. H”S brings the world into being at every instant and we with our big mouths can destroy a world in a second. H”S gave us speech so we can be his partners in creation, but He also give us free will to choose to use this tool properly. G-d desired a free, independent partner, whose choices are fully his own, therefore these choices are fully his responsibility and fully his achievements.


But G-d gave us one more gift, not only did he give us the ability to speak, He also gave us His Torah which contain His will and His wisdom so we could verbalize it and live by it. So G-d gave us simple humans a mind and a mouth, a mandate to shape His world, and most importantly, He gave us the ability to participate in the formulation of the Torah- the blueprint of creation.


The first person to ever receive this mandate was Moses, who fulfilled it to perfection. His contribution to the world became the book of Devarim, in which he was able to put in human form the Divine wisdom and will of H”S, thus enabling us to be able to do the same through our words of Torah which we spread to the world.



Some excerpts taken from “Words” based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Courtesy of MeaningfulLife.com

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