Rachael’s Thoughts on Parshat Devarim

This week, we begin reading the last book of the Torah, the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy in English).  Devarim recants things we’ve already read, but now it’s told from Moses’ point of view.  We’ve been waiting since the book of Exodus to hear what Moses thinks about his life, and we finally get a glimpse.  He is not a happy man. 

He starts his memory from the time they left Sinai, when he noticed God had fulfilled a covenantal promise by making Israel into a great nation.  ‘So great,’ says Moses, ‘that I told you then I wouldn’t be able to carry all of you with all your problems.’  From that point onward, we hear Moses own responsibility for some things, and blame Israel for others.  It’s a very sobering version.   

We hear the honesty of Moses’ voice as he struggles with what he knows are his final days.  When he finishes his address to Israel, he knows he will die, and so there is nothing to be gained or lost, there is only the opportunity to be heard.   

But that is everything. 

When Moses first meets God, at the burning bush, Moses says he is not a man of words, he will not be listened to or believed.  This self-perception of inadequacy haunts him throughout his leadership.  Aaron is there to support him, as is Miriam, because he always feels he is not good enough to be heard or believed. 

While we are feeling the heaviness of Moses’ fate, the pain of not entering the land of Israel, we should not lose sight of this tremendous gift he is granted in these last days.  Moses is speaking from his heart, and he is listened to, and he is believed.  In fact, several millennia later, we are still reading his book, listening to him, and believing every word. 

We could not imagine our Torah without this last book, the words of Moses, deemed as holy as every other book of Torah. Every year, we read it, we hear him, we understand his human moments, and we give our greatest leader what he deserves –our appreciation and ongoing respect.  The book of Devarim may not give us new information, but it gives us the unfiltered voice of Moses, and his deserved last word on the matter. 

I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate. 


Shabbat shalom,