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The Most Radical Book of Torah and the Necessity of Interpretation

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.

D'var Torah By: 
Determining Who Is Qualified to Interpret the Torah
Davar Acher By: 
Audrey Merwin

It’s no accident that Deuteronomy, meaning “second law” in Greek, is a name given to the Book of D’varim. For centuries, commentators have regarded the Deuteronomy as different from the other books of Torah in that it is Moses’ repetition of the law. No other book of Torah begins by clearly asserting, “These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan” (Deuteronomy 1:1). And, as Rabbi Sabath teaches above, Deuteronomy differs from the other books in another significant way: as he retells the story, Moses becomes the first commentator.

Does God Command Going to War?

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?

D'var Torah By: 
Telling and Retelling Our Stories
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Julie Wolkoff

In Parashat D'varim, Moses begins retelling the story of the Israelites' sojourn in the wilderness. Our stories, like our lives, are ever changing. Like Moses, retelling the experiences of the Israelites in the desert, we emphasize different facets, see patterns we didn’t see before, and create a narrative out of the disjointed jumble of everyday life.

Victim and Perpetrator - Reflecting on Our Role

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.

D'var Torah By: 
What Is Hateful to You Do Not Do to Others
Davar Acher By: 
Charles A. Kroloff

As Rabbi Firestone notes, we Jews have a strong tradition of feeling victimized and with good reason. We've had a rough history, culminating with the Shoah, which decimated and devastated our people. Tishah B'Av captures that sense of victimhood and enshrines it in our Jewish psyches.

Now if we combine that with our D'varim text which — as Rabbi Firestone suggests — offers us divine permission "to commit genocide against our enemies," we do indeed appear to have license to behave as both victims and perpetrators.

Moses and the Twice-Told Tale

For a guy who described himself to God at the Burning Bush as "slow of speech and slow of tongue" (Exodus 4:10), it seems that Moses now has an awful lot to say. Honestly, can you blame him?

D'var Torah By: 
Torah as Trial and Transformation
Davar Acher By: 
Geoffrey Dennis

Unlike Rabbi Korotkin, I am not surprised that Moses is more loquacious at the end of his term than at the beginning; after all, it is written, "the Tree of Life [Torah] heals the tongue" (Proverbs

Deuteronomy: Becoming the Master Storytellers

The Passover Haggadah famously distinguishes between the wise and wicked children by the singular choice of the wise child to ide

D'var Torah By: 
Writing Out, Drawing In
Davar Acher By: 
Steven Moskowitz

There is great power in language, in our words. It draws us in. Every time we recite the words, Adonai Eloheinu, "the Eternal our God," we write ourselves into the Jewish story.

The Emergence of a Mosaic Voice

Among the Book of Deuteronomy's many distinctions, the emergence of a Mosaic voice conveying a personal, synoptic narration of events, struggles, successes, and failures renders this last Book of T

D'var Torah By: 
A Higher View of Humanity
Davar Acher By: 
Lawrence P. Karol

In January of 1996, I joined over fifty other rabbis on a tour of Egypt, Jordan and Israel, organized by the Association of Reform Zionists of America.

Frighted with False Fire

At the end of the second act of The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Hamlet designs a clever trap, a custom-written play-within-a-play, in the hope that its actors will lead Denmark's

D'var Torah By: 
Words and Visions
Davar Acher By: 
Lisa Edwards

From the d'var Torah: "Reading Deuteronomy is a very different experience from reading the rest of Torah.

Criticism: A Gift of Love and Hope

As I prepare this commentary, it is early January, and we are reading through the first few parashiyot from the Book of Exodus.

D'var Torah By: 
Hope Is the First Step
Davar Acher By: 
Jeremy Schneider

Rabbi Aron masterfully points out that Parashat D'varim highlights the hope that underlies Moses's words. Indeed, hope is the key to the Jewish people's narrative and continued existence.


"And I commanded you, at that time, about the various the things you should do" (Deuteronomy 1:18).

D'var Torah By: 
Letting Go of a Legacy
Davar Acher By: 
William L. Berkowitz

The "I" described in Deuteronomy 1:18 and throughout this parashah is Moses, who sounds like a nervous parent about to leave the kids with a new babysitter.

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