In the very first line of Parashat D’varim we read, “These are the words (d’varim) that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan…” (Deuteronomy 1:1). This portion consists mostly of Moses' historical review of events from the end of the Revelation at Sinai through most of the Israelites' journey in the desert.
The Book of Deuteronomy is radical in every way. Initially, it seems that it’s “just” a review of key events, lots of criticism of the Israelites, and repetition of the core values encountered in previous books through the lens of Moses. But in fact it is wildly radical--different from all the other books of the Torah in both form and function.... Much of the book, especially its first Torah portion, D'varim, highlights the major events that have formed the Jewish people, from Moses' view point.
In Parashat D’varim, Moses recalls that a military encounter with the Amorites was a response to a divine command. But in the Book of Numbers, a passage about the same encounter does not mention God. What accounts for this difference?
This week's Torah portion, D'varim, occurs this year as it often does, on Erev Tishah B'Av — the ninth day of the month of Av. While not observed in many Reform communities, it is a day on which Jews throughout the world commemorate collectively all the tragedies experienced by our people. It was on this day, according to tradition, that both of our ancient, sacred Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed, the first by the Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE, the second by the Roman Empire in 70 CE. Many more horrific acts committed against Jews have been associated with this date as well.