Kohen - First Aliya - 11 p'sukim - 1:1-11
Several places that are mentioned in these p'sukim are considered by the commentaries to be allusions to events that occurred during the previous 40 years rather than being actual locations. The events include the Golden Calf, the rebellion of Korach, and the complaint about the Manna. These, plus the explicit discussion of the "Sin of the Spies", are part of Moshe's reproach and warning to the People. Moshe also tells the People of the victories over Emori and Cheshbon. This, to give them confidence for the difficult period they will face upon entering the Land. The first of many references to the purpose of the existence of the Jewish Nation is made - to live according to G-d's laws in the Land that G-d had promised to our ancestors.
On Shabbat, the first Aliya is ended one pasuk early, that pasuk being the first of the next Aliya, to avoid beginning that second portion with the word "Eicha".
[SDT] Within the opening 5 p'sukim of D'varim, there is a repetition of sorts in telling us that Moshe Rabeinu spoke to the People. The Vilna Gaon and others point out that the Book of D'varim can be divided into 3 parts, based on the wording of the opening p'sukim:
The following three sedras contain 170 mitzvot, the greatest concentration of mitzvot anywhere in the Torah. "...Moshe spoke to Bnei Yisrael of all that G-d commanded upon them" (pasuk 3). After laying the foundation of Judaism, Moshe presents the essence of day-to-day life as a Jew - mitzvot of all kinds, between the Jew and G-d, interpersonal mitzvot, mitzvot linked to the Land, general mitzvot.
The final section of D'varim, the last 5 sedras, again contains relatively few mitzvot. But it does contain the basis of understanding what being a Jew means. In these sedras we have the admonition against forsaking the Torah, the concepts of Free Will, repentance, the Chain of Tradition. "...Moshe began to explain this Torah saying:" (pasuk 5)
On the phrase from 1:16 - Hear it among your brothers and judge fairly - the Gemara teaches us that judges may not hear one party to a case without the other present.
In the same pasuk, the reference to the convert in the context of judging teaches us that conversion to Judaism must be done by a Beit Din. The Gemara states that if a non-Jew decides on his own that he is Jewish, this does not constitute conversion. A Beit Din is required.
In years like this one, when there is a Shabbat between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, an extra weekly Torah reading is needed. This is accomplished by splitting a double sedra. The two doubles available to split are little Nitzavim-Vayelech (70 p'sukim combined) and huge Matot-Mas'ei (244 p'sukim). Logic would support separating Matot and Mas'ei, but that is not what's done. Nitzavim and Vayeilech pick up the slack by allowing Haazinu to be on the Shabbat between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Vayeilech takes over the honors of Shabbat Shuva and Nitzavim handles the pre-Rosh HaShana slot by itself. All this "guarantees" that D'varim precedes Tish'a b'Av. It cannot (and must not) escape our attention, that we read of the Sin of the Spies in Parshat D'varim. The mishna states that one of the tragedies marked by Tish'a b'Av - the first one, the one that gave Tish'a b'Av its dark character - was the decree against the (adult males of the) "Generation of the Wilderness". The sedra serves as a reproach for our poor attitudes and lack of commitment to the Land. It is as if G-d is saying to us: "Do not continue in the ways of that generation. Reverse the effect of that terrible punishment by heeding the call of Kalev and Yehoshua." When we, the Jewish People of today, succeed in "repairing" the negative attitudes and actions of the generation of the spies, the generation whose sins caused the destruction of the first Temple, the generation whose gratuitous hatred and Lashon HaRa caused the destruction of the second Temple, then we will be privileged to rejoice in the building of the third Temple, the restoration of Jews all over the world to this Land, and the spreading of Torah values and commitment to mitzvot. D'varim and its message of the significance of Eretz Yisrael and the reminder of G-d's terrible anger against those who denigrate the Land of Israel is the "perfect" introduction to Tish'a b'Av. Amazing, is it not, how relevant this message is today. "Behold, I have set the Land before you; go in and possess the Land..." May we be deserving (and even if not) to live in peace in all the Land of Israel, with all the People of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel.
D'varim says over and over again that the Meraglim were wrong. They believed that the miraculous environment of the Wilderness was perfect for a Torah way of life. Not so. Moshe repeatedly tells us that Eretz Yisrael is the "real" place for the People of Israel.
Note also that other events of the first 40 years are merely alluded to with a phrase - DI ZAHAV, mentioned in the first pasuk of D'varim is a reproach to us for the sin of the Golden Calf. This is what Rashi says. Moshe hinted at it, but he didn't elaborate. The sin of the Spies is different. A full presentation.
Moshe shares the blame with the spies and announces that he had approved of the suggestion to send the spies. He explains what had happened as a result of the spies' report. Moshe's arguments (and those of Kalev and Yehoshua) were unsuccessful in calming the people's panic. As a result, G-d decreed that none of the adult males (except for Kalev and Yehoshua) would enter the Land. Moshe tells them that he too was banned from entering the Land. It is to be Yehoshua who will lead the People henceforth.
Moshe seems to say that he too is being punished by not going into the Land because of the Sin of the Spies. But we know that it was the "hitting of the rock instead of talking to it" for which he was punished. One commentary suggests the following: Because of the senseless crying of the Wilderness Generation, the Temple was destined to be destroyed. Had Moshe Rabeinu entered the Land, the Temple would never be destroyed. Hence, he was kept out of the Land so that G-d's full punishment for the Sin of the Spies could be carried out.
We can also see the special qualities of a true leader of the Jewish People. Moshe Rabeinu did not leave the blame for the Sin of the Spies with the people. He shouldered the responsibility.
Moav's territory was also placed off-limits because it was an inheritance for the descendants of Lot. Various peoples are named for the different lands in the area. The wandering took 38 years until G-d told the People to cross into the territory of Amon and Moav, but without fighting there. Both Edom and Amon/Moav had fought for their land as Israel will be doing soon.
The victories on the East Bank of the Jordan helped build Israel's confidence for the difficult times to come upon crossing the Jordan into Eretz Yisrael. This new generation, the children of slaves, needed the multi- faceted preparation that the years of wandering provided, in order to be able to succeed in their conquest and settling of the Land.
Most of this haftara is read in the tune of Eicha, rather than the regular haftara tune. The final p'sukim switch to the regular haftara melody because they contain the promise of an end to exile and the rebuilding of Zion and Jerusalem in a mode of justice and righteousness. This bright note is appropriate for Shabbat, in contrast to the main part of the prophecy which Shabbat has no choice but to tolerate, so to speak, since it is right before Tish'a b'Av.
Yeshayahu contrasts the people of Israel, who had become unfaithful to G-d with animals, who instinctively acknowledge their owners. "An ox knows its owner and a donkey recognizes its owner's pen."
In an allusion to this pasuk, the Yerushalmi tells the story of Rabbi Yochanan ben Torata who sold his ox to a non-Jew. The ox refused to work on Shabbat, until Rabbi Yochanan whispered in its ear that it was now owned by a non-Jew and must work on Shabbat. Which it then did. There is also the story of the donkey of Rabbi Pinchas b. Yair. These stories give us insight into the harsh criticism of the People of Israel who repeatedly "do not know" their Creator. Loyalty to a master is one of the many lessons we must learn from animals.