Steady Course

“There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir to Kadesh-Barnea.” – Deuteronomy 1:2

The book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) was previously known as Mishneh Torah, Repetition of the Torah, because the book is mostly an account of the journeys of B’nei Yisrael and reiteration of certain laws. The reason being that Moshe sought to rebuke, instruct, and inspire the new generation that would be entering Eretz Yisrael.

The account mentions that there is an eleven day journey from Horeb, the general area where Mount Sinai is located, to Kadesh-Barnea, passing around Mount Seir to get there. Kadesh-Barnea is where B’nei Yisrael gathered, before being commanded to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 32:8). “Behold, the L-RD your G-d has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the L-RD G-d of your fathers has said to you; fear not, nor be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 1:21).

However, the next verse after the eleven day journey from Mount Sinai to the edge of Eretz Canaan, states, “And it came to pass in the fortieth year…that Moses spoke to the people of Israel” (Deuteronomy 3:3); and, thus begins Moshe’s thirty-six day discourse. By contrasting the eleven day journey to Kadesh-Barnea, with the fact that now it is the fortieth year after leaving Egypt, attention is drawn to the point that had it not been for the debacle of the spies, B’nei Yisrael would have entered the Land from Kadesh-Barnea, only eleven days after leaving Sinai.

Yet, thirty-nine years  transpired since that time; and, this is the new generation that is being prepared to enter the Promised Land after the many years of wandering in the desert. This teaches us that not all who wander are lost. For H’Shem remained faithful to the Children of Israel and brought them into the land despite the many delays, nisyanos (tests), and detours.

He will also bring us into the Promised Land, as long as we do not stray; rather, that we should always seek Him as our Guiding Light. Inasmuch that the pillar of fire provided light for B’nei Yisrael at night, the L-RD will provide us with light in the darkness of our lives; despite the challenges in our lives, G-d will lead us to the Promised Land.

Our Promised Inheritance


“Let us send men before us, that they may search the land for us, and bring us back word of the way by which we must go up, and the cities unto which we shall come.”

– Deuteronomy 1:22, JPS 1917 Tanach

Moshe reiterates the events of B’nei Yisrael over the past 39 years, in an effort to convey to the next generation, who will enter the Promised Land, what needs to be learned from their ancestor’s travails. Although various narratives recorded prior in Torah are mentioned, they are being retold in a way that will benefit this generation, boost their morale, and caution them against making similar mistakes that were made by the previous generation.

Apropos of entering the land, Moshe recalls the first time, when thirty-eight years prior, Bnei Yisrael were poised on the brink of entering the land. Although they had been encouraged at that time to go forward without fear or trepidation, they hesitated, and requested to send men ahead of them, in order to get a better idea of what they would face when attempting to conquer the land. This might be seen as prudent, and perhaps even wise, were it not for their motivation in making the request; they did not have enough emunah (faith) in H’Shem to foster the necessary resolve to enter the land, fully trusting in H’Shem’s strength to provide a victory.

The new generation is being called to task, to fully place their trust in H’Shem as they are about to enter the Promised Land. Having recently defeated the two Kings, Sihon and Og (Deuteronomy 1:4), who guarded the border of Eretz Canaan, Bnei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) are encouraged by Moshe, to know that they will also be able to defeat the inhabitants of Canaan (Deuteronomy 3:21-22).

The symbolic lesson for us has to do with trusting in H’Shem to bring us into our inheritance at the end of the age. No eye has seen nor ear heard what H’Shem has prepared for those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:3). “The L-RD will build up Zion; He will appear in His glory. This shall be written for the generation to come” (Psalm 102:17,19). In Hebrew, the phrase, l’dor acharon, means “the last generation,” before the restoration of the Kingdom, when Messiah will reign from Jerusalem.

We are encouraged to trust in H’Shem’s provision for us in Olam Haba (the World to Come). We can not peer across the veil; yet, according to the sages we may receive a glimpse of Olam Haba on Shabbos. And, this particular sabbath is Shabbat Chazon, the shabbos before Tish b’Av. On Shabbat Chazon tradition speaks of receiving a vision of the Third Temple on this day.

“Oh how abundant is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee;
which Thou hast wrought for them that take their refuge in Thee.”
– Psalm 31:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

Beyond Trust

“The land the L-RD, our G-d, is giving us is good.” – Deuteronomy 1:25

G-d had previously said, that the land was good, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Sifrei emphasizes that both Joshua and Caleb asserted that the land was good, even after seeing the land for themselves, despite the ill report of the ten other spies. Their perspective was positive, while the others had a negative perspective; yet, the words of the malcontent “descend into the inmost parts” (Proverbs 18:8), in this case, influencing the people in an adverse manner.

Even to the extent that they claimed that the L-RD hated them, saying that He brought them out of Egypt to die at the hands of their enemies (Deuteronomy 1:27). Fear, as well as their own hatred towards G-d (see Sifrei) compelled them to project their own hatred onto Him, as if they were the hated ones. As if G-d’s design from the beginning was to permit them to be exterminated?

A lack of judgment engulfed them because of the cloudiness of their minds. In Egypt, the Nile allowed for an irrigation system that would distribute the water for farming. Yet, in the land of Canaan, where the Israelites were being brought, only through natural means, by rainfall, allotted to the land by G-d Himself, would their survival depend (Numbers Rabbah 17). Yet, they trusted in the security provided for them in Egypt, and disparaged trusting in the L-RD to provide for them.

Isn’t this like modern man, with all of his comforts, as per the result of civilization, buttressed by the foundation of the industrial revolution, and its counterpart, the age of technology? To consider for ourselves, how much this may be the case, we may ask whether we would be willing to give up our material comforts for a two week camping trip.

Yet, the children of Israel went on “a camping trip” for forty years. During this time, the L-RD provided for them, beyond any means that Egypt could have provided. And if we were faced with the prospect of becoming “enslaved” by technology, would we be willing to leave everything behind us, for the sake of our freedom? Is our emunah (faith) in the L-RD strong enough, that our subsequent trust in His provision for us would foster resiliency in the face of adversity?

“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the L-RD, and whose trust the L-RD is.”

– Isaiah 17:7, JPS 1917 Tanach

parashas Devarim 5780

B”H

Shiur for parashas Devarim 5780

‘Let us send men before us, that they may search the land for us, and bring us back word of the way by which we must go up, and the cities unto which we shall come.’”

  • Deuteronomy 1:22, JPS 1917 Tanach

Moshe recounts the events that led up to the incident of the spies. His discourse reveals that it was the people’s request to send spies ahead into the land. Yet, in the account given in the Book of Numbers, Moshe uses the Hebrew word for scouts. The people were more interested in sending out a reconnaissance mission, than in trusting H’Shem to show them the best routes and strategies when conquering the land. Moshe concurred, after receiving permission from H’Shem; yet, Moshe was only permitted by H’Shem to send scouts, inasmuch that they were meant to take note of the abundance of the land, rather than making judgments.

Even so, his language when assigning this mission was misleading: “see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they are strong or weak, whether they are few or many; and what the land is that they dwell in, whether it is good or bad; and what cities they are that they dwell in, whether in camps, or in strongholds” (Numbers 13:18-19). He acquiesced to their demand; although, he tried to emphasize, “be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land” (Numbers 13:20).

The ill report of the spies, the ten whose perspective was skewed by their lack of emunah (faith), persuaded the people against entering the land at that time. Now, thirty nine years later, when speaking to the next generation, Moshe recounts the narrative, so that they will be on guard against the same erroneous perspective, a worldly concern, that discounted the G-d factor. In other words, they did not acknowledge that H’Shem’s wisdom would guide them, and His power would strengthen them. He would have made good on His promise to bring them into the land, despite their fears.