There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
It’s time to explore Torah Portion Devarim Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22, aliyah by aliyah.
Aliyah 1: Deuteronomy 1:1-10
Deuteronomy 1:1 These are the words Moshe spoke to all Isra’el on the far side of the Yarden River, in the desert, in the ‘Aravah, across from Suf, between Pa’ran and Tofel, Lavan, Hatzerot and Di-Zahav.
I wonder why the Torah is being so specific about where they were at this time.
Deuteronomy 1:2 It is eleven days’ journey from Horev to Kadesh-Barnea by way of Mount Se‘ir.
That is an interesting tidbit.
Deuteronomy 1:3 On the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year, Moshe spoke to the people of Isra’el, reviewing everything HaShem had ordered him to tell them.
This is a very specific time stamp. I wonder if the intention was for Israel to enter in the the Land at Passover, which is in the middle of the first month. Moshe would have to say all that HaShem had told him to say, then I would think the people would mourn him for 7 or 30 days an then after that cross the Jordan. Did HaShem set schedule this just so to align with Pesach and the other Festivals?
Deuteronomy 1:4 This was after he had defeated Sichon, king of the Emori, who lived in Heshbon, and ‘Og, king of Bashan, who lived in ‘Ashtarot, at Edre‘i.
Another time stamp. I wonder why.
Deuteronomy 1:5 There, beyond the Yarden, in the land of Mo’av, Moshe took it upon himself to expound this Torah and said:
Is this what Moses wants to say or is it what HaShem wants him to say? DEU 1:3 sounds at first like it is saying HaShem ordered Moshe to repeat the Torah, but here it says he “took it upon himself” to do it. Which is it? Does DEU 1:3 mean that the review was to be of all that HaShem had told Moshe to tell Israel or that HaShem told him to tell all of this here and now at this time and place?
Deuteronomy 1:6 HaShem spoke to us in Horev. He said, ‘You have lived long enough by this mountain.
This is a little funny because the People of Israel only travelled when HaShem moved the cloud, directing them to move. It was HIM who kept them there for all that time. Right?
Deuteronomy 1:7 Turn, get moving and go to the hill-country of the Emori and all the places near there in the ‘Aravah, the hill-country, the Sh’felah, the Negev and by the seashore — the land of the Kena‘ani, and the L’vanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates River.
I wonder if this generation of Israel saw the Promised Land as something almost mythical and unreal and I wonder if naming all these places was partly for the purpose of making the Promised Land into a real place in the hearts and minds of Israel.
Deuteronomy 1:8 I have set the land before you! Go in, and take possession of the land HaShem swore to give to your ancestors Avraham, Yitz’chak and Ya‘akov, and their descendants after them.’
HaShem has set the “land” before you and me, too. Whatever we encounter, we can trust that He is waiting for us to make the right move and honor, glorify and bless Him through our trials and testings.
Deuteronomy 1:9 At that time I told you, ‘You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone.
I love Moshe’s humility and vulnerability to admit this frailty in front of the entire community.
Deuteronomy 1:10 HaShem your G-d has multiplied your numbers, so that there are as many of you today as there are stars in the sky.
I imagine this has to be a poetic remez or allusion to the promise made to Avraham that his offspring would be as countless as the stars. That wasn’t literally true at the time. They had been through a census recently and were counted, but the call back to HaShem’s promise is clear.
Aliyah 2: Deuteronomy 1:11-21
Deuteronomy 1:17 You are not to show favoritism when judging, but give equal attention to the small and to the great. No matter how a person presents himself, don’t be afraid of him; because the decision is G-d’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me and I will hear it.
What does “the decision is G-d’s” mean in this context? Does it mean that G-d has the authority and seal of approval on the decisions made or does it mean that He actually makes the decisions by speaking through the judges?
Aliyah 3: Deuteronomy 1:22-38
Deuteronomy 1:38 Y’hoshua the son of Nun, your assistant — he will go in there. So encourage him, because he will enable Isra’el to take possession of it.
This seems odd to me. Isn’t Joshua just the mechanism, the tool if you will, in HaShem’s hand to bring about this purpose? Why does this verse actually make it sounds like Joshua is required to accomplish HaShem’s will.
Aliyah 4: Deuteronomy 1:39-2:1
Deuteronomy 1:46 This is why you had to stay in Kadesh as long as you did.
I find it interesting that Israel’s wandering in the Wilderness are seen by some as them being lost an unable to find there way, when in truth HaShem was leading them as He desired to the whole time.
Aliyah 5: Deuteronomy 2:2-30
Deuteronomy 2:5 and don’t get into disputes with them; for I am not going to give you any of their land, no, not even enough for one foot to stand on; inasmuch as I have given Mount Se‘ir to ‘Esav as his possession.
I find it interesting that Esau was given his own land by HaShem. Was he lead to it by a Moshe type figure or did Esau meet with him directly like Ya’akov his brother?
Aliyah 6: Deuteronomy 2:31-3:14
Deuteronomy 3:2 HaShem said to me, ‘Don’t be afraid of him; for I have handed him, all his people and his territory over to you; you will do to him as you did to Sichon king of the Emori, who lived at Heshbon.’
I have been struggling with how it was that the Two-and-one-hlaf Tribes were allowed to take the Trans Jordan area, but I looked back and EXO 3:8 says that the Emori are one of the Seven Nations that Israel was to destroy and expel from the Land to take possession of it, so it does make sense. I was just lacking in research before.
Aliyah 7: Deuteronomy 3:15-22
Deuteronomy 3:22 Don’t be afraid of them, because HaShem your G-d will fight on your behalf.
This is a wonderful encouragement to Y’hoshua. It is important to keep in mind that this assurance was given to him at that time and because he was aligned with the mission and promises of HaShem. Had he turned to away, he would have turned away from the blessing of victory and success as well. If we want this kind of blessing, we must align ourselves with HaShem and His will.
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
- Whose Words are These?
- Is Poetic License Deceptive?
- Why the Repetition?
That concludes my journey through Devarim for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.