In two week’s time, it will be the first of Elul. How appropriate, then, that we are beginning the last book of the Torah, Devarim, as so many of the themes of the High Holy Days are included in the final Discourses of Moses as the children of Israel find themselves after 40 years, in the Transjordan, about to enter the Promised Land. Moses at 120, has his last chance to address the people of Israel before he ascends Mount Nebo to die. The connections he makes through his Discourses cement for the Jewish people all that has gone on before with the present time. We Jews, then, seem to live in Devarim and now, both inside man-made time and space and eternal time, Olam veh Olam.
The man-made time of which Moses speaks discusses specifically what has gone on before, the successes and the failures, the devotions and the defections and how that relates to the present situation as all Israel looks across the Jordan to contemplate the land God promised them through Abraham, so many years before, and also to envision the future that they will enjoy. It is a momentous moment. But, in order to do so, the people Israel must also contemplate Olam veh Olam, eternal time, by adhering to the Torah, to merit the keeping of the Promised Land.
This fifth book then, represents evolutionary growth; it complements and enriches the four books which have come before it. This is why Devarim, or the Greek term, Deuteronomy, is sometimes called Mishneh ha-Torah, the second law, second teaching. Its core is from God, a book divinely inspired but also with the insight of complex living in an age many hundred of years later after the death of Moses when it was compiled. This ability of Torah to transcend man-made time, to be part of and apart from man-made time, is what gives Torah its timelessness, its relevance today as it did for those living thousands of years before.
And so this week in Va-etchanan, we find ourselves with Moses, tragically denied access to the Promised Land, as he begs God to allow him to enter. Rather than give up, he, like the true leader and man of overwhelming integrity and perspective, chooses instead to teach us again The Shema and the Commandments. For more specific information about how he does this, come to this week’s service to hear Pat explain the Parsha.
5th August – Pat Lipert