16 July 2021


 7 Av 5781
Erev Shabbat Kodesh
Erev Erev Tisha b'Av
Parashat Devarim - Shabbat Chazon

(Excerpted from the Stone Edition Chumash Commentary)

The Uniqueness of Deuteronomy / Mishneh Torah 

...R' Hirsch explains that Deuteronomy was Israel's introduction to the new life it would have to forge in Eretz Yisrael.  Once they crossed the Jordan, the people would no longer see God's constant Presence and daily miracles, as they had in the Wilderness.  They would plow, plant, and harvest.  They would establish courts and a government.  They would forge social relationships and means to provide for and protect the needy and helpless.  They would need strong faith and self-discipline to avoid the snares and temptations of their pagan neighbors and false prophets.  To stress these laws and values and exhort Israel to be strong was the function of Deuteronomy, its laws and Moses' appeals.  Thus, Deuteronomy is not merely a review of the earlier four Books of the Torah, since "of the just over a hundred laws which are contained in this Book, more than seventy are completely new."  Rather, in his final weeks, Moses reviewed and taught all the laws of the Torah and the entire history of Israel - but in this Book, the Torah records the parts of his teachings that were most relevant for Israel's new life in its Land.

Haftaras Devarim

This Haftarah, the final one of the "three of affliction," is always read on the Sabbath that precedes Tisha b'Av.  As R' Mendel Hirsch points out, the prophet does not lament because the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed; rather, he laments over the underlying causes of that destruction.  And this annual lesson serves to focus the national mourning of Tisha b'Av not to the past but to the present.  It is not enough to bemoan the great loss suffered by our people with the Destruction of our Land, our Holy City, and our Holy Temple.  We must use our mourning as a way of initiating an examination of our present-day feelings, thoughts, and deeds.  What have we done to eliminate the attitudes and practices that thousands of years ago sent our ancestors into exile - not once, but twice?  How have we improved our approach to the Divine Service as a way of life, a life devoted to duty rather than a substitute for it?  Are our verbal offerings, like the animal-offerings described by the prophet, merely perfunctorily performed rituals, never internalized, never spoken from the heart, just from the lips and outward?  And, as R' Hirsch puts it, "Is our Jewish contemporary present already so deeply imbued with the Jewish spirit, so filled with the Jewish way of thinking, with knowledge of Judaism, with knowledge of the all-comprising and deep contents of the Torah that it could form a worthy environment for a Temple of God to be erected in our midst?  Does not the gulf between Israel and its God yawn perhaps wider that ever?"

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