Aliya-by-Aliya Parshat D’varim 5758

[Numbers] are the Chinuch’s mitzva count

KOHEN – First Aliya – 11 p’sukim (1:1-11)

The opening p’sukim of the D’varim clearly identify time and place. The entire book takes place in Arvot Moav (last place of encampment before entry into Eretz Yisrael) and begins on Rosh Chodesh Shvat in the final year of wandering. Several places that are mentioned in these verses 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 con fidence for the difficult period they will face upon entering the Land. The first of many references to the pur pose 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: “These are the things that Moshe spoke to all Israel…” (poauk 1). This can refer to the first three sedras of the book wherein we have a general review of the brief, but action-packed and significant history of the People to date. In addition, these sedras contain a restatement of the principles of Judaism in the form of the Aseret HaDibrot and the first two passages of the Shma. Also expressed in this opening section of D’varim is the integral link between the People and the Land of Israel. These sedras contain relatively few mitzvot, but they do contain the “basics of Judaism”, which are review with “all of Israel”.

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).

Here’s a little SDT about the previous long SDT: These three terms – spoke, spoke, explained – can be seen as a hint to the practice of reviewing the Torah “twice text and once Targum”.

LEVI – Second Aliya – 10 p’sukim (1:12-21)

Moshe tells the People that he had reached a point where he was too weary to lead the People alone, and that he (at G-d’s command) designated the leaders of the Tribes as judges of the People. Judges are to be selected for their Torah knowledge and other appropriate qualities. It is forbidden to appoint a judge for “the wrong reasons” (wealth, charisma, connections) [414]. Judges must be fair and impartial and must not be afraid to render proper judgments [415]. Moshe retained the role of final authority on difficult matters. Once again, Eretz Yisrael is shown as the main focus and the People are urged not to fear what lies ahead.

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.

SHLISHI – 3rd Aliya – 17 p’sukim (1:22-38)

Moshe next recounts for the new generation, the episode of the spies.

(a long SDT) It is hard to suggest that it was purposely arranged that D’varim would be read on the Shabbat before Tish’a b’Av, but it is impossible to ignore its appropriateness in that role. Often little Nitzavim and Vayelech separate and large Matot and Mas’ei combine to “guarantee” 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 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 Calev 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 the perfect environment 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. (Comparing Moshe’s account with the original text in Shlach will yield some interesting differences.) It is clear that the original purpose of sending the men into the Land was to determine the best way to enter it and which border cities would be best to attack. It is equally clear that the purpose was NOT to decide whether to go or not. This is the major component of the Sin of the Spies and the people’s reaction to their words. 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 Calev and Yehoshua) were unsuccessful in calming the people’s panic.

As a result, G-d decreed that none of the adult males (except for Calev 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.

R’VI’I – Fourth Aliya – 9 p’sukim (1:39-2:1)

As Moshe Rabeinu is telling the new generation what has happened, he is continually warning them against repeating the blunders of their predecessors. It is specifically this new generation that the previous one worried about. They cried that their children would be orphans. Those same children are now the one’s about to enter the Land. Moshe also tells them of the tragic results in the People’s attempt to go into the Land against G-d’s wishes. It won’t work without G-d’s help; it cannot fail with His help.

This is the lesson of more that 3000 years ago; this is the lesson for today.

In the description of the attack on the people who attempted to go into the Land against G-d’s wishes, Moshe compares Emori to bees. Rashi explains that just like a bee will attack and the sting will cause its own death, so too some of our enemies. Rashi records a tradition that the People of Israel spent 19 years – half of the wandering time – in one location, Kadesh. The actual wandering was much less than 40 years. On the other hand, there were places in which the people spent a day or so.

CHAMISHI – Fifth Aliya – 29 p’sukim (2:2-30)

The People next turned northward and were warned not to fight with the people of Eisav, for their land is theirs as an inheritance. Only purchasing food and water for their journey past Eisav’s territory would be permitted. 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.

Sichon was offered peace, but he rejected it, clearing the way for Israel to successfully conquer his land.

SDT – The references to inheritance to the descendants of Eisav and Lot in this portion are the sources in the Talmud for the concept that allows a non-Jew to inherit from his father.

A G’matriya from L’ORA SHEL TORAH by R. Yaakov Auerbach z”l In D’varim 2:25, we are told that as a result of our “early” victories over Emori, other nations will hear about them and fear the people of Israel. This idea is echoed in 28:10, right before the Tochacha in Ki Tavo, where G-d tells us that if we follow in His ways, then the nations will see that we are called by G-d’s Name and they will fear us. The phrase from D’varim and the pasuk from Ki Tavo both have the same G’matriya, 1879, which “happens to be” the number of years of foreign rule in Eretz Yisrael. From the year of the destruction of the second Beit HaMikdash until the final year of the British Mandate was 1879 years.

SHISHI – Sixth Aliya – 21 p’sukim (2:31-3:14)

Moshe continues his narrative with the details of the victories over Sichon and his land. Og, king of Bashan, also fell to Israel. Moshe describes the conquered lands that have been promised to the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half of Menashe.

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.

SH’VI’I – Seventh Aliya – 8 p’sukim (3:15-22)

The description of the “East Bank” land continues. Moshe repeats the instructions to the 2½ tribes for settling their territory. Only after the successful conquest and settlement of the Land of Israel, will these men be permitted to return to their families and cities. Moshe has commanded Yehoshua to note well the victories to date and not to fear what is to come on the other side of the river. The last 3 p’sukim are reread for the Maftir. The Rabbi of the shul or a prominent member of the congre gation is usually given this honor.

Haftara – 27 p’sukim – Yeshayahu 1:1-27

This is the third of the Haftaras of Tragedy. The prophet speaks of the accumulation of terrible sins and acts of unfaithfulness to G-d which lead to the destruction of Zion and Jerusalem. This haftara is “perfectly” suited to precede Tish’a b’Av.

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.