Devarim, Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22 – Parashat ha Shavuah for Saturday, July 17, 2021

This Shabbat we begin the Book of Deuteronomy (Sefer Devarim) and on Saturday night we begin Tisha b’Av where we remember the destruction of the First and Second Temples. 

Deuteronomy is different from the other books of the Torah. It is Moses retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt, the revelation at Sinai and the nature of the covenant between God and Israel for a new generation that has grown up in the desert in freedom and did not directly experience the horrors of slavery or the miracle of liberation and revelation. 

Moses’ challenge, which he addresses in Deuteronomy, is how to inculcate this new generation and future ones, with the values of God and Torah. Thus, Deuteronomy is one long lesson in Jewish history and Jewish values. 

Tisha b’Av is an example of how we pass our historical experience down from one generation to the next. The destruction of the Temples happened 2,000 years ago for the Second Temple and more than 2,500 for the First Temple, and yet each year we remember them. 

We are living Moses’ desire in Deuteronomy. None of us experienced the trauma of the Temples’ destruction, yet we retell the story to each new generation and in this way pass on Jewish history and values. It is an ancient chain for transmission that keeps Jewish values and the Jewish tradition alive and vital. We must keep telling the story and teaching our values, if we are to fulfill our sacred mission of redeeming the world. 

~Rabbi Dean Kertesz