Devarim – Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22 – The Torah portion (parashat ha shavuah) for Shabbat, Saturday, Aug. 2

This week we begin Deuteronomy, the final book of the Torah. It is a summation of the experience of the Israelites since they left Egypt. It marks their transition from a slave people to a free people ready to take possession of their ancestral homeland. Deuteronomy is also Moses’ last opportunity to exhort the Israelites to follow God’s law;  based on past experience Moses has reason to be pessimistic. But Deuteronomy also is directed to us. It contains the Shema, the Veahavta, and the command to read the Torah in public, all essential parts of our worship service to this day.  Central to Deuteronomy is the idea that the Torah must be the guiding principle of the Jewish people, the central core of our lives, and the Tree of Life that gives meaning to our lives.