July 21, 2018 - Av 9, 5778
Torah: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
Haftarah: Isaiah 1:1-27
Brit Chadashah (New Testament): Acts 9:1-21
Relearning Old Lessons
The portion this week finds Israel on the plains of Moab, facing the land of Canaan. The generation that made a commitment to G-d died after 40 years of wandering in the desert. This new generation needed to make their own fresh commitment with the L-rd. Moses spent the last days of his life teaching them the essence of the Torah. The name of this book comes from “Deutero,” meaning "second," “nomy,” from “nomos,” meaning "the law," (1:5). In other words, most of the book is a repetition of the Torah, given 40 years earlier, as we find it in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers.
Scholars who have studied treaties from that time, concluded that Deuteronomy is written in the form of a treaty between a king and his subjects (suzerainty treaty). It was standard practice for both parties to take time out to renew their vows. Part of that ceremony involved reminiscing about their relationship. The first three chapters of Deuteronomy do that. Moses reminds the people of Israel of the highs and lows of their relationship with G-d since they left Egypt. Moses tells the people of Israel—"Here is the owner's manual. If you live by the book, you won't blow it again, as you did at Kadesh Barnea (and elsewhere)."
We, too, need to take time out to reminisce about our relationship with the L-rd.All of us can remember times when the L-rd has brought us through tight spots into which we got ourselves. As we hold the plumb line of the Torah to those experiences, it will be a little easier to learn from our past mistakes. The L-rd is a patient teacher—just as He brought Israel back to Kadesh Barnea to relearn the lesson of faith (Numbers 13-14), He will give us additional chances to relearn needed lessons.