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Parashat D’varim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)

“You saw how Adonai your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you travelled until you came to this place.” (Deuteronomy 1:31)

Parashat D’varim opens the fifth and final book of the Torah (known in English as Deuteronomy), which comprises Moses’ five last speeches to the Israelites.  The central theme of the book is the brit, or covenant between God and Israel.

D’varim uses the Hebrew root a-v-r as a noun twice in the opening verses to describe Moses’ location (b’ever hayarden, the other side of the Jordan; Deut 1:1, 1:5).  Later, the parasha (portion) uses the same root as a verb three different times to describe going to Canaan (Deut.  2:4, 2:27, 3:21).  Rabbi Analia Bortz (1967-; medical doctor and rabbi from South America) uses the frequent appearance of a-v-r to create a surprising image of Moses as a pregnant woman.

Bortz begins by looking closely at the Torah’s words.  When Moses asks God to let him cross into Canaan, God answers, “Rav lach,” it is too much for you (Deut. 3:26), using the feminine form.  Bortz continues, explaining the root a-v-r also can mean pregnant.  Read this way, we can imagine Moses as having carried the Israelites through the desert and now, standing on the edge of the Jordan, about to deliver them into the Promised Land.   The Jewish people are born of Moses and in turn, will carry him within themselves from generation to generation.

Moses, the Jewish people’s greatest prophet and teacher, becomes the Jewish people’s mother.  Like all mothers, he wants to see his children grow up; he doesn’t want to be left behind.  But like all mothers (and fathers), he knows this is impossible.  So Moses offers his final speeches as his farewell gift to his children.

Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,


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