Parshat Devarim: Weekly Torah Portion Summary, Questions, Resources

07/26/2012 08:29 pm ET | Updated Sep 25, 2012
  • Josh Fleet Former Associate Editor, HuffPost Religion

Editor's note: The HuffTorah is an overview of the Torah reading of the week, which is found in the Book of Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22, and includes links to additional resources for study and discussion. Read the full text of Parshat Devarim in interlinear Hebrew/English.

On the plans of Moab on the first day of the 11th month of the 40th year of wandering, Moses rebukes the Children of Israel for their sins. But only subtly. He lists all the places of their transgression. He doesn't mention what they did wrong.

Moses says all of this on his own accord. Death approaches, and God does not command this of him. In 70 languages, Moses explains the Torah to the Children. For every soul, its own interpretation. He unveils the Torah in 600,000 paths of illumination.

The teacher and leader and prophet recalls and reviews:

The land was ripe for the taking. The way was clear, before you. God redirected you to this path.

I realized I alone could not be a good judge over your myriad cases. God told me to appoint other judges over you. I told the judges to be wise and fair and fearless -- to come to me when a case seemed impossible. I gave instructions about monetary cases and capital cases.

We journeyed through the monstrous desert. We encountered giant snakes and mammoth scorpions. We went the way God told us to go. And lo! The land was before us! All we had to do was take it.

I selected 12 leaders to enter and scope the land. They came back with fruit and words. They said the land was good. But you were afraid. You did not want to enter the land. You slandered God among yourselves. I told you God would see us to victory. You had no faith, and God became angry. And he decreed that no one of that generation would live to see the land. No one but Caleb and Joshua, for they brought good reports. No one but the children, for they are pure. But you, the rest of you, I said, you must wander backward now. And you admitted to your sins. You vowed to take up arms and do as God said. But what God said was, "Do not take up arms and fight, for I am not with you, for you will fall." I told you this, but you would not listen. Our enemies struck you down, and you came weeping to God. But God did not listen, and you stayed for a long time there.

So we turned around and we journeyed back the way we came. We went around and around and around. Until God told us where to turn, and warned us of the land of Seir, where our cousins lived. God told us the people there were afraid of us. Even so, God told us, we were not to provoke them. We were allowed to purchase water from them.

We left the Children of Esau and headed toward Moab. God told us not to attack. Moab was not for us. God intended to give it to the Children of Lot.

We wandered for 38 more years after this, until everyone from the old generation died.

Then, God spoke to me and said that we should not attack the Ammonites in Moab.

Then, God commanded us to attack the Amorites, who were trembling before us.

Then, we brought a message of peace to the king of Heshbon, asking for safe passage. But the king's spirit was hardened against us. He would not let us pass. So God told us that the area's angels were on our side, that we should attack. So we conquered. We left no survivors.

And all the cities after that crumbled before us.

We were victorious in our war against Og, the king of Bashan, too. And I gave some of the lands to the tribes of Reuben and Gad. And I gave the rest of the lands to half of the tribe of Menasseh.

I commanded the mighty Gad and Reuben to march before their brothers into the land of Canaan. I told them that they were not allowed to settle in their lands until their brothers were settled in their land. An exception was made for the women and children and cattle, of course.

I encouraged Joshua, who will lead everyone into the land to fight, and reminded him of all that God had done for us in the dessert.

I encouraged Reuben and Gad. "Do not fear," I said, "God, your God, is fighting for you."

Questions: Why does Moses say that the 12 spies came back with a good report when really 10 of them had negative things to say? Why does Moses rebuke the Children of Israel for the sins of their mothers and fathers? Why did God harden the spirit of Sihon if the Jewish people were then commanded to attack and destroy them? Why is it necessary for Moses to repeat everything that's happened in the past 40 years?

Resources for further commentary, discussion and reflection: