Sedra of the Week: devarim

Sedra of the Week: devarim

Rabbi Alex Chapper looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

After 40 years of leadership, Moses bids farewell to the Jewish people with a powerful valedictory speech. Within it is a veiled rebuke for the times they rebelled against God, including such transgressions as the sins of the Golden Calf and of the Spies.

He reminds them it even reached the point where he was forced to ask, “How can I alone bear your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels?” According to Chizkuni, Moses was referring to the internal quarrels between Jew and fellow Jew.

During the 40 years in the desert, their major concern should have been getting into the Promised Land, but instead they wasted their time and effort on petty concerns and Moses had been forced to appoint judges to exert authority over them.

By asking, eichah (“how”), the Midrash says a link is made to the opening verse of Eichah (Lamentations) in which prophet Jeremiah bemoans how the once great city of Jerusalem is now desolate following the destruction of the Temple.

Devarim is always read on the Shabbat before Tisha B’av – the saddest day in the Jewish calendar when both Temples were destroyed and when we read the Book of Lamentations.

Our constant fractiousness is tantamount to self-inflicted harm and means we continue to mourn the Temple and pray for it to be rebuilt. The Rambam says the purpose of fasting on Tisha B’Av is to contemplate and repent for our and our ancestors’ sins that were and continue to be the cause of tragedies.

If we hear Moses’ words and utilise the fast correctly, it should be the last and we’ll merit to see the rebuilding of the Temple.

υRabbi Alex Chapper serves Elstree & Borehamwood Shul and is the Children’s Rabbi,

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