In Parshas Devarim, Moshe Rabbeinu provides for the nation an historical account and context in order to connect the people before him to the events that led to the nation's delayed entry to Eretz Yisroel. Because so many of those who were present for Moshe's monologue in Devarim did not experience these events personally, Moshe details them so as to relate the past directly to the present. Of course, Moshe elaborates primarily on the Chet Ha-Meraglim (Sin of the Spies), for whose punishment it was decreed that the people had to wait until the end of 40 years to enter the Land, once the first generation was to die out; the Chet Ha-Meraglim was the direct factor which precipitated the 40-year period of wandering and which caused the younger generation to be the one to enter the Land, and it is thus understood why the Chet Ha-Meraglim plays such a central role in the parsha. It is also clear why other major events, such as Yetzias Mitzrayim (the Exodus from Egypt) and Mattan Torah (Giving of the Torah) do not appear in Parshas Devarim, as the parsha is devoted to explaining to the new generation why it stands where it does at the time and what led to the situation at hand. However, very recent national occurrences, such as the conquest of Sichon and Og and the ensuing Jewish settlement in their lands, are featured in the parsha, as these events took place in the lives of those being addressed.
In this light, one's attention should be drawn to two seemingly out-of-place narratives earlier in the parsha. In his introductory remarks, Moshe relates how the nation was charged to depart from Har (Mount) Sinai and proceed toward Eretz Yisroel. This section of text begins with the phrase 'Rav lachem sheves ba-har ha-zeh' - 'Much (or 'enough') time have you dwelt at this mountain'. (1:6) Rashi quotes the Sifri for a homiletic interpretation: 'Much (rav') greatness and reward did your dwelling at this mount provide, for there did you construct the Mishkan, the Menorah and holy vessels; there did you receive the Torah and appoint a Sanhedrin...' Of what relevance is the import of Har Sinai to the thrust of our parsha? Seeing that the parsha omits major events in Jewish history due to their lack of a direct relationship with the parsha's exact theme, it would seem that a discussion about Har Sinai should have been omitted as well.
Similarly, shortly thereafter do we read a long discussion about Moshe's appointment of judges and their qualifications (ibid. v. 12-18), pursuant to Moshe's feeling overwhelmed by the burdens of being the nation's sole judge and arbiter (as detailed in Parshas Yisro). Rashi invokes numerous midrashic statements to demonstrate how unreasonable the people were with their demands on Moshe; it is evident that these unreasonable demands caused Moshe to feel anguished and overwhelmed to the point that relief of many of his judicial duties was imperative. Again, although it contains much important information, why is this lengthy narrative here? It seems out-of-place.
The answer to both questions appears to be that Moshe - in his address to the nation about to embark on entry to Eretz Yisroel - seeks to provide the true roots of the problems which transpired, so as to prevent recurrence and to set the nation on a proper course. Har Sinai was the locus where the Jews connected with Hashem in a most direct fashion; the nation's encampment at the mount was the epitome of living in the shadow of God, as it were, as attested to by the spiritual nourishment that was derived there. Similar to this was Moshe Rabbeinu's service as the people's sole judge and arbiter; a judge who had direct contact and guidance from Hashem at any and all times - what could be better or more perfect? Nonetheless, rabbinic sources criticize B'nei Yisroel for having been eager to depart Har Sinai (see K'li Yakar on v. 6), and people were unreasonable with Moshe in his role as judge. What emerges is a sense of not fully appreciating the unique experiences of being before the Shechina, both at Har Sinai as well as in the presence of Moshe as judge, in which he served as a direct conduit between God and Man.
This is an ever-so-appropriate introduction to the Chet Ha-Meraglim, in which the opportunity to live in the Holy Land - a land under Hashem's direct guidance and watch - was squandered and unappreciated. Moshe utilized the examples of leaving Har Sinai and the delegation of his judicial functions to others as a warning of what can and did ensue when an opportunity for Kedusha experiences is wasted and not valued. By invoking wasted past Kedusha opportunities and the potentially tragic consequences, Moshe put forth the underlying factor that led to the predicament at hand and posed a challenge to his audience to learn from such mistakes and chart a new course for the future.
May we take heed and try to fully value and pursue opportunities for Kedusha in our daily lives. May we take advantage and maximize our Torah learning, especially when we can learn Torah from those with a unique grasp of it. May we seek out the best environment for tefillah (prayer), appreciating and pursuing venues which instill high levels of kavanah (concentration) and where one is motivated to feel the meaning of communication with God. May we try our best to be in situations which inspire and enable us to draw close to Hashem, and may we avoid the many distractions and impediments to this life-goal of every Jew.