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  • Shalom. This Shabbat we begin the fifth book of the Five books of Moshe, the book of

  • Deuteronomy, called in Hebrew the book of Devarim, meaning 'words,' from the first

  • verse, 'these are the words that Moshe spoke…'

  • and this week's Torah portion is parashat Devarim, the

  • first Torah portion in sefer Devarim. This book is essentially different from the

  • previous four. It was spoken entirely by Moshe Rabbeinu, our teacher Moses, during the last

  • five weeks of his life, so it is entirely his voice.

  • The previous four books were informed by a different energy. At first, the direction

  • was from top to bottom, from heaven to earthHashem turned

  • towards His creations and spoke to them. Then, from the time that Israel's nationhood

  • was forged at Sinai, Hashem spoke through Moshe,

  • as exemplified by the many times we find the words, 'And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying…'

  • But now in the book of Devarim we encounter a new dynamic. 'These are the words that

  • Moshe spoke to all of Israel...' in this book

  • rather than Hashem speaking to man, the words flow forth

  • from below, from down here, from the innermost heart of Moshe RabbeinuThus the book of

  • Devarim signals a new concept in our understanding of the Torah. Until now the Creator was

  • speaking. Now, Moshe's words are adopted by Hashem, and are equated with eternal holiness

  • on the same level as the previous books of the

  • Torah! This is an example of man reaching a level of

  • partnership with G-d – the Torah including the words that flowed from man's soul. The

  • Torah which descended into the world in order to

  • uplift it and to reveal its Divine essence, effected

  • Moshe to the extent of purifying his entire being till everyone could see that his face

  • shoneit's not for naught that Moshe is etched into the

  • national consciousness as the person who reached the full potential of what a human being could

  • reachThe only human being who is described as

  • 'the man of G-d' (Ps. 90). Thus the book of Deuteronomy completes the Torah because

  • it represents human partnership with the Divine,

  • and is the living example of what dedication to

  • Torah can accomplish. So over the last five weeks of Moses' life,

  • beginning on the first day of the month of Shevat and

  • ending on the 6 th of Adar, the eve of his death, Moshe gave over this book. He explained

  • the entire Torah to each and every individual;

  • he said, 'I am close to my death, whoever heard a

  • verse, or a chapter, or a section, but forgot it, let him come to me now and I will go over

  • it again.' On the 6th of Adar he was informed

  • of his impending death and he commanded Yehoshua, and on the 7 th of Adar he blessed

  • Israel and passed into the Coming World. Our sages refer to this book as Mishneh Torah,

  • meaning a review of the Torah. But more specifically, it's an explanation of the

  • Torah. The word used in verse 5 for 'explain'is

  • 'be'er'…the very same word meaning a 'well' of water….Moshe opened the

  • well of knowledge and understanding for all future generationsHe

  • does indeed review some of the commandments, but the book is far from merely

  • being a review of the previous four. Devarim introduces many new commandments. And, Moshe

  • inspires and admonishes. He expresses dire warnings to his beloved Children of Israel

  • to be on their guard against idolatry and to stay

  • focused on Hashem's commandments, if they wish to stay in the Land. In general, the

  • book is completely focused on preparation for the

  • new life that the people of Israel will be living in their

  • land.

  • We need to open up our heart to the book of Devarim, from Moshe's heart to our own:

  • these are Moshe's last words to his people, all the

  • way to our generation, from the most selfless heart that

  • ever was, overflowing with the love of Hashem, His people, His Torah, and His Land.

  • This week's Torah portion is parashat Devarim, begins famously with words of rebukebut

  • this is not your average rebuke. Moshe has to chastise

  • his people, but he does it gently: his love for

  • the Children of Israel, even when they were wayward, knew no bounds. He doesn't want

  • to hurt them, so his words are veiled, encoded; it

  • could even be called a sweet rebuke. He has to remind

  • them now of their past sins, as part of their cleansing process, separating them from their

  • past mistakes, as a reality check, as part of the

  • preparation, the final stages for entering into the land.

  • He reminds his beloved people of real sins, yet he is so cautious not to embarrass them

  • or offend them.

  • The Torah portion begins, 'These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on the

  • other side of the Jordan in the desert, in the plain

  • opposite the Red Sea, between Paran and Tofel and Lavan

  • and Hazeroth and Di Zahav.' Our sages teach that in this verse and the next, Moshe deftly

  • alludes to all the places where the previous generation, the generation of the desertthe

  • parents of his present audiencehe alludes to

  • all the places where they angered G-d during their desert

  • sojourn. Out of sensitivity for them he doesn't actually mention the sins they committed by

  • name, but only the alludes to the places. Rashi informs us of so much that is going

  • on here between the lines.

  • We read 'These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on the other side of the

  • Jordan in the desert, in the plain opposite the Red

  • Sea, between Paran and Tofel and Lavan and Hazeroth

  • and Di Zahav. Our sages say that some of these names refer to places that don't even exist.

  • 'The words 'in the desert' – refer to what

  • they did in the desert, when they said, if only we died in this

  • desert; 'in arava' – he rebuked them for their having angered Him in the desert

  • by saying, “If only we had died by the hand of G-d' (Exod. 16:3).

  • In Arvot Moav; regarding the worship of

  • Baal Peor at Shittim in the plains of Moab, 'opposite suf' – He rebuked them regarding

  • their rebellion at the Red Sea; 'betweem paran

  • and tofel and lavan' – for speaking against the manna;

  • 'in chatzerot' concerning the insurrection of Korach, and for not taking the lesson of

  • Miriam to heart; and 'di zahav' – a reference

  • to the Golden Calf. But afterwards he blessed them. And he said

  • may Hashem the G-d of your fathers increase you a

  • thousand fold. In Ch. 2 and verse 7 we read, “For Hashem your G-d has blessed you in

  • all the work of your hand; He knows of your walking

  • through this great desert, these forty years that

  • Hashem your G-d has been with you, you have lacked nothing.”

  • We always read these words, about walking through the great desert, a frightening and

  • awful place, during this period before the ninth

  • of Av. This allusion to the great desert, also refers to

  • the great, frightening and awful desert of our lives in our own time, and reminds us

  • that even in the darkest times, such as right now, as we

  • reel from the destruction of the Temple, we are called

  • upon to rebuild it. The verse reminds us that you have lacked nothing. We can go through

  • a difficult period, like wandering through a

  • terrible desert for forty years, but G-d is with us and

  • we lack nothing.

  • But there is something about this rebuke of Moshe's that doesn't seem to make sense

  • this rebuke was for sins of the previous generation!

  • What does that have to do with these people, their children, who are preparing to enter

  • into the Landwe know that they were not held

  • responsible for the misdeeds of their fathersbut yet Moses rebuked the generation about to

  • enter the Land, assigning them however softly, some measure of responsibility for the past

  • as well, at the very least for them to learn

  • from and grow and to know the types of mistakes to

  • avoid in their new life in their land The major principle of Torah is always that

  • it's real and now; it's the story of our lives. How

  • fitting now to read of Moshe's rebuke of the next generation, reminding them of the

  • foibles of the previous generation, now that we are a

  • period of spiritual reevaluation, a time of realignment,

  • stock takingthe annual period of mourning for the Holy Temple, which really should not

  • be only about mourning but about asking ourselves,

  • why are we in this situationwhy is it continuing, and how we can turn it around.

  • And so too, just as Moshe rebuked the next generation, our sages state that every generation

  • in which the Holy Temple is not rebuilt, is reckoned

  • by Heaven as the generation in which it was destroyed. That includes ours. So in effect,

  • we too, are given responsibility for the past as well as

  • for our own generationit's all a cumulative process and effectAnd our generation has

  • equal responsibility as all others, to be the one

  • in which the Temple in rebuilt, and the fact is, if it

  • doesn't happen, it's as if we continue, aid, abet, cause the destruction….

  • The Shabbat preceding Tisha B'Av is known as Shabbat Chazon, the Sabbath of Vision,

  • from the first verse in the haftarah prophetic

  • reading, 'the vision of Isaiah'…But this Shabbat is not

  • only the Sabbath of Vision; this Shabbat of parashat Devarim actually falls on Tisha B'av

  • itself, the powerful, evocative, emotional, difficult

  • and complex day of the destruction of both Holy

  • Temples and so many other tragedies. But Shabbat is a time of joy and peace and the public

  • display of mourning is forbidden. Shabbat overrides the fast itself and the outer character

  • of the ninth of Av is all but completely muted for

  • all practice and purpose. The fast itself, a 24 period

  • beginning the night before, is deferred to the next day, Sunday.

  • This combination of Shabbat and Tisha B'Av is a very special experiencewe somehow

  • enter into a vortex, a time warp, we transcend time

  • and unite with the higher root, which indeed is the

  • highest light of Shabbat, and the light of Hashem's love that reaches us on Shabbat

  • supersedes the public mourning of Tisha B'Av, so we

  • will fast on Sunday. Our relationship with Hashem as

  • manifest on Shabbat is described in the holy books as the level of 'banim'– of children.

  • The revelation of the level of 'children'

  • is that no matter what, we are all Hashem's children. Deut 14

  • tells usyou are children of Hashem your G-d.”

  • So what's amazing? We read in the haftarah in Isaiah, 'Hear, O heavens, and give ear,

  • O earth, for Hashem has spoken; Children I have raised

  • and exalted, yet they have rebelled against Me.'

  • Open up your heart in the deepest way….honestly now….this is a terrible rebukebut He

  • still calls us Children.

  • So the holy Sabbath is the level of banimand on this Shabbat, Tisha B'Av that falls out

  • on Shabbat, the Opter Rav taught that this is

  • the greatest, most powerful Shabbat of the entire year,

  • that in the midst of the darkness of these 'between the straits' days, the truth

  • that Israel are always called his children is revealed, and

  • on Shabbat there is no mourning, Shabbat is only the

  • greatest revelation of love. So on this Shabbat Chazon, of parahat Devarim, even though the

  • calendar says that it's actually Tisha B'Av we are focusing on that love.

  • The subtle beauty of Moshe's rebuke in this week's Torah reading is a counterpart to

  • the subtle beauty of this combination Shabbat of vision,

  • Shabbat of Tisha B'Av in which the mourning has

  • been not removed, but peeled backit's still therethe loss, the pain, the destruction

  • is still therebut the inner root of life, light

  • and healing has been revealed. The amazing Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev

  • famously taught, that on this Shabbat everyone receives a vision of the rebuilt Holy Temple,

  • the Third Temple. It's so within reach, he taught,

  • that it's impossible not to experience this vision. Maybe its subliminal, perhaps subconscious

  • but we all merit it.

  • But what does it mean exactly that every Jew receives this vision. So I've always understood

  • this to mean, that every person sees it according

  • to their level, that perhaps the idea is that each

  • individual sees the rebuilt Holy Temple according to his or her expectation or conception of

  • what exactly that will be, and how it will come

  • about. Or maybe according to each one's hopesor

  • each one's limitations. And even more importantly, that the vision is commensurate to how much

  • a person wants the Temple. That's all fine but there is an entirely additional level

  • of meaning to this beautiful tradition. That it's not

  • just a romantic notion, but a message relating to the entire

  • nation having this experience together.

  • People automatically tend to associate this month of Av with churbanthat word means

  • destruction. The destruction of the Holy Temple. We've always emphasized that we should

  • remember that the full name of this month, Menachem Av, means 'the consoling Father;'

  • Av is father. Because everything ultimately will

  • be revealed as a manifestation of G-d's love for His

  • children and is part of the ultimate good. But let's go even further. Open up your

  • heart in the deepest way. Av also means foundation, the

  • basis, the root or prototype of something. So on one

  • level, this month of Av is truly the foundation of suffering and destruction.

  • But everything in this world has a root. The root, the foundation of building, is destructionSo

  • the month of Av, the month of tragedies and destructionis not only Av, as 'father,'

  • but 'av' as the root, basis of somethingthis month

  • of destruction contains the root of building. Every building in the world has its roots

  • in churban. Just as creation was preceded by the null

  • and void, just as a tree sprouts forth from a rotted seed, just as the resurrection follows

  • the disintegration of the body, just as Israel's

  • establishment as a nation was preceded by the

  • Egyptian exile, mashiach's soul was first revealed at Sodom, there are many more examples

  • of this concept in the Torah

  • So why is it that at the beginning of Devarim, which is the book of those who will inherit

  • the land, which is Moshe's last will and testament

  • to all future generations, he begins his speech with

  • a review of the sins, the backslidings and failures as well as the journeys, of the previous

  • generation, the generation of the desert, on their way to the land. But why speak about

  • the past? Why not just get right in to commanding these

  • concerning their future? All of these incidents that

  • are alluded to here in these opening verses, were the foibles of the previous generation.

  • Just last week at the conclusion of the book of Numbers,

  • all the journeys of the children of Israel were

  • enumerated. It's getting on time to go into the Land. Can't we be finished and get on?

  • But the answer is, the generation of Israel

  • that now enters the Land to live their lives, rises

  • directly out of all the crises and failings of the previous generation. And so it is with

  • every generationwhen it is our generation's

  • turn to live, we grow out of the experiences, disappointments and failures, and victories,

  • large and small, of the previous generations.

  • This is the lesson for our time. Destruction leads to building; destruction is for the

  • sake of building. So open up your heart in the deepest

  • way. Everybody loves to connect the rebuilding of