Devarim Torah Portion: Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22
Parshat Devarim inaugurates the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Torah. When you start to read the Book of Deuteronomy, you immediately notice that this is a unique book, written in a style that is quite different from what we've encountered up until now in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, or Numbers. Essentially the entire book, all 30+ chapters, is in the form of a speech given by Moses to the Israelites as they stand in the land on the eastern bank of the Jordan, about to cross into the Promised Land.
Moses recounts to them various stories from their history and reviews certain laws. But his review isn't comprehensive (i.e. Moses doesn't talk about every story or every law), and what's more, there are noticeable differences between the way that many stories/laws were first recounted and the way that Moses now describes them. (We're hardly the first readers of the Torah to notice these discrepancies – they have been the object of curious study by commentators for millennia – but we do get into the act.) For example, Rabbi Fohrman's video on "What Did Moses Do Wrong?" starts off by noticing that the reason given in Parshat Devarim for why Moses can't enter the land of Israel is, seemingly, different from the reason given in Parshat Chukat, back in the Book of Numbers. In one case, the reason is
In the course of answering that question, Rabbi Fohrman delves into the poignancy and complexity behind God's decree against Moses, tackling a question that so many people, for so many generations, have found as vexing as it is upsetting: How could it be that the greatest leader that the Jewish people have ever known, this prophet who spoke face-to-face, so to speak, with God, is barred from entering the Promised Land? In the
Anyway, the decree against Moses is merely one detail from this
Now... you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's not obvious why each of these stories is important enough to make the cut, and why other – seemingly more important stories — are left out of Moses' recap (we're thinking about the revelation at Sinai, the Golden Calf, and Korach's rebellion, for starters). Imu and David notice and address that question in their video, "Finding Inspiration From Our Past."
With Moses spending a great many verses in this
We're talking about the generation that received Manna from heaven, experienced the revelation at Mount Sinai, saw the 10 plagues, and saw the sea split. Does Moses really mean to say that they didn't believe in God? That they somehow doubted God's existence? If so, who sent them the Manna? Who made the sea split? It's hard to make sense of that, and it's enough to make you wonder: maybe "faith in God" isn't what we think it is. Maybe, when Moses talks about having "faith in God," it's not about whether you believe in God – that is to say, whether you believe that God exists. Maybe... it's about something else. What is that something else? What was at the heart of Moses' accusation? What does it mean to have faith in God? That is the subject of Rabbi Fohrman's video, "What Is Emunah? The Israelites' Struggle With Faith."
And for more on what was so egregious, so bad, about the sin of the spies, that God decided to bar that generation from entering the land, see "The Promised Land: Good or Bad?"