A SHORT OVERVIEW OF DVARIM:
The fifth and last book of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy (Aleh HaD'varim) opens with the reading D'VARIM, Deut. 1:1- 3:21. Moshe reviews Israel's 40 year desert trek from Sinai to the plains of Moav, where he's about to die. Rashi says he had to first conquer Transjorden for the Jews, before they'd listen to his Moral Message (cf. religious parties).
The book's divided into 3 parts: 1) 1:1-3:29 is historic reflection and words of reproof; 2) 4:1- 26:15 reviews, and adds to, the law; 3) 26:16ff is Moshe's swan song- poetic blessings and curses accompany visions of a world redeemed by a model messianic Israel.
The rabbis call this book Mishneh Torah- this may simply mean a repetition of the Torah (17:18). Moshe, our Teacher, will again expound the majority of the commandments of the Torah... to the new generation entering the land. He will not mention any instructions for Cohanim... He has already explained it to them and the priests are zealous, not needing warning after warning. Regarding the other Jews, however, he will repeat the commandments- sometimes to add clarity and sometimes to remind them again and again... and to scare them with the consequences of violation (Ramban) Several commandments are first taught in Dvarim. All were taught Moshe at Sinai or in the tent of meeting in the first year. Moshe now teaches them to the new generation, about to inherit the land.
WHO DID IT? Abarbanel asks "Who wrote Dvarim- God or Moshe?" Moshe writes only this 5th book in the 1st person, NOT QUOTING GOD (AND THESE ARE THE WORDS WHICH MOSHE SPOKE...- 1:1). Dissatisfied by the responses of great scholars, past & present, he sought his own answers (his life long style). He concludes that Moshe indeed reviewed all the laws with Israel upon his imminent departure; there were NO new laws, but some, only revealed thru a hint, are now expounded. God THEN told Moshe to write his own excellent explanation into the Torah itself; God ADDED a number of items (cf. Bilaam's poetry).
MISHNA AND TORA: In Dvarim, Moshe initiates the oral law process, Mishna, exposition of the Torah- God values it as much as His own words. After Israel's desert failures, Moshe reviews God's laws and Jewish history, seeking greater depth of insight and understanding. Mishneh Torah, Deuteronomy, combines Mishna and Torah. The Talmud discusses the authorship and order of the Bible (B.B. 15); the last 8 verses of Deut. may have been written by Yehoshua, the rest of the Torah by Moshe. God dictated, the whole Torah, but may have ordered Moshe to deliver blessings and curses in his own language. After Dvarim, the Mishna continues Moshe's work, Joshua resumes the moral history of God's Chosen Folk, and God's Word returns to Genesis, which Israel is to re-create.
Dvarim is our model for retrospection and introspection; it accompanies us from the sad national historic overview of the Tisha B'Av period thru the agonizing individual life review of Elul and the High Holidays- yet it also buoys our spirits by portraying the Messianic end of our long path. Blessings and curse are linked to moral success.
THE SAD HAFTORAH is Is. 1:1-27. 700 years later, Isaiah condemns insincere sacrifices, Sabbaths, holidays, and prayer (modernists distort this into a condemnation of sacrifices). Why?- "YOUR HANDS ARE FULL OF BLOODGUILT". Religion should engender: "LEARN TO DO GOOD, SEEK WHAT JUSTICE REQUIRES, REIN YOUR PASSIONS, JUDGE THE ORPHAN, FIGHT FOR THE WIDOW (1:17). When "holy" activity masks an unholy Jewish soul, God must temporarily destroy THEIR Temple (not his) and clean them up in exile. Isaiah explains punishment as purification, as removing dross by intense fire or a caustic substance. Eventually the Jews shall leave their Diaspora- physical and psychological captivity; then Zion and Jerusalem will become true models of righteousness and justice, redeeming all mankind. THE 9TH OF AV SHALL BE A DAY OF MESSIANIC JOY!
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