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

“The Lord your God has multiplied you until you are today as numerous as the stars in the sky.”

(Deuteronomy 1:10)

Parashat D’varim opens the fifth and final book of the Torah, which is also named D’varim (Hebrew for words, and known in English as Deuteronomy).  The book of D’varim comprises five speeches by Moses and can be divided roughly into three sections:  a recounting of the desert experience, the presentation of laws necessary for life in the land of Canaan, and Moses’ farewell.  The central theme of the book, though, is the brit, or covenant between God and Israel.

Parashat D’varim begins by describing when and where Moses speaks to the Israelites (on the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year, in the Aravah near Suph).  The second verse in the parasha describes the route they took to get there:  “It is eleven days from Horeb to Kadesh-Barnea by the Mount Seir route” (Deut.  1:2). This short verse packs a wallop of meaning.

Horeb is Deuteronomy’s name for Mt. Sinai.  Kadesh-Barnea is an oasis just west of the modern Egyptian-Israeli border. D’varim is telling us that had the Israelites trusted God, the journey from “A” to “B” would have been completed in just eleven days.  Instead, the Israelites wander in the desert for 38 years.

It is possible this is the first time the Israelites truly understand this awful truth. Yet, the Torah presents this information matter-of-factly, as if to ask what lessons have been learned.  Three thousand years later, the question still stands.

Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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