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Parashat Devarim



Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22


Hebrew Vocabulary




Hebrew Parsha

Forty Years in Review

These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel on the east bank of the Jordan, in the desert and in the Aravah, near Suf, in the vicinity of Paran, Tofel, Lavan, Chatzeroth and Di Zahav.

This is in the area which is an eleven day journey from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by way of the Seir highlands. On the first of the eleventh month in the fortieth year, Moses spoke to the Israelites regarding all that HaShem had commanded him for them. This was after he had defeated Sichon king of the Amorites who lived in Cheshbon, and Og, king of the Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth, who was defeated in Edre’i.

Moses began to explain this law on the east bank of the Jordan, in the land of Moab, saying: HaShem spoke to us at Horeb, saying, “You have remained near this mountain too long. Turn around and head toward the Amorite highlands and all its neighboring territories in the Aravah, the hill country, the lowlands, the Negev, the seashore, the Canaanite territory, and Lebanon, as far as the Euphrates River. See! I have placed the land before you. Come, occupy the land that HaShem swore He would give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to their descendants after them.”

The Judges

I then said to you, “I cannot lead you all by myself. HaShem has increased your numbers until you are now as many as the stars of the sky. May HaShem, Lord of your fathers, increase your numbers a thousand fold, and bless you as was promised. But how can I bear the burden, responsibility and conflict that you present if I am all by myself?

Designate for yourselves men who are wise, understanding, and known to your tribes, and I will appoint them as your leaders.” You answered me, “Yours is a good suggestion.” I selected wise and well known men from among your tribal leaders, and appointed them as your leaders – captains of thousands, captains of hundreds, captains of fifties, captains of tens, and police for your tribes.

I then gave your judges instructions, saying, “Listen to every dispute among your people, and judge honestly between each man and his brother, even where a proselyte is concerned. Do not give anyone special consideration when rendering judgment. Listen to the great and small alike, and do not be impressed by any man, since judgment belongs to HaShem. If any case is too difficult, bring it to me, and I will hear it.”

At that time, I gave you instructions regarding everything that you must do.

The Spies

We then moved on from Horeb and traveled all through that great, terrifying desert that you have seen, [going] by way of the Amorite highlands, as HaShem our Lord commanded us. We finally came to Kadesh Barnea. I said to you, “You have come to the Amorite highlands, which HaShem our Lord is giving us. See! HaShem has placed the land before you. Head north and occupy it, as HaShem, Lord of your fathers, has told you. Do not be afraid and do not be concerned.”

All of you then approached me and said, “Send men ahead of us to explore the land. Let them bring back a report about the way ahead of us and the cities that we shall encounter.” I approved and appointed twelve men, one for each tribe. They set out and headed north toward the hill country, going as far as Cluster Valley and exploring the territory. They took samples of the area’s fruit and brought it back to us. The report that they brought back was, “The land that HaShem is giving us is good.”

You did not want to head north, however, and you rebelled against HaShem. You protested in your tents, and said, “HaShem brought us out of Egypt because He hated us! He wanted to turn us over to the Amorites to destroy us! Where are we heading? Our brothers took away our courage by telling us that they saw there a race that was larger and taller than we, with great cities fortified to the skies, as well as children of the giants.”

I said to you, “Don’t be so impressed! Don’t be afraid of them! HaShem is going before you. He will fight for you, just as you watched Him do in Egypt. In the desert, you also saw that HaShem carried you along the road you traveled to this place, just as a man carries his son. But now, here, you have no faith in HaShem! He goes before you in fire by night and in cloud by day to show you the path to follow, just like a scout finding you a place to camp.”

When HaShem heard what you said, He angrily swore, “No man of this evil generation will see the good land that I swore to give your fathers. The only exception will be Caleb son of Yefuneh. Since he followed me wholeheartedly, not only will he see it, but I will give him and his descendants the land he walked. You too will not enter the land. Joshua son of Nun, who stands before you, will be the one to enter, and he will give Israel their hereditary property.The ones to enter the land will be the children whom you feared would be taken captive and your little ones who even now do not know good from bad. To them I will give the land and they will occupy it. You must now turn around and head into the desert toward the Southern Sea.”

Your answer to me was, “We have sinned to HaShem! We will head north and fight, just as HaShem commanded us.” Each of you took his weapons, and you made every effort to head north to the highlands. HaShem said to me, “Tell them not to go and not to fight, since I will not be with them. Let them not be killed by their foes.”

I spoke to you, but you would not listen. You rebelled against HaShem’s word, and willfully headed north to the highlands. The Amorites who lived in the highlands came out to confront you, and chased you like bees. They struck you down in Seir as far as Chormah.

You came back and wept before HaShem, but HaShem would neither listen to you nor pay attention to you. You remained in Kadesh Barnea for a long time, as long as you remained in all the other places. We then turned around and headed into the desert toward the Southern Sea as HaShem had told me. We traveled around in the Seir highlands for a long time.

Encountering Esau

HaShem said to me, “You have traveled around these highlands long enough. Turn around and head north. Give the people the following instructions: You are passing by the borders of your brothers, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. Although they fear you, be very careful not to provoke them. I will not give you even one foot of their land, since I have given Mount Seir as Esau’s inheritance. You may purchase from them with money food to eat and drinking water. HaShem your Lord is blessing you in everything you do. He knows your way in this great desert, and for these forty years, HaShem your Lord has been with you, so that you lacked nothing.”

Encountering Moab

We passed by our brothers, the descendants of Esau who lived in Seir, and headed through the Aravah from Elath and Etzyon Gever. We turned around and passed through the Moab desert. HaShem said to me, “Do not attack Moab and do not provoke them to fight. I will not give you their land as an inheritance, since I have already given Ar to Lot’s descendants as their heritage. The Emim lived there originally, a powerful and numerous race, as tall as giants. As giants, they might be considered Rephaim, but the Moabites called them Emim. It was like Seir, where the Horites lived originally, but were driven out by Esau’s descendants, who annihilated them and lived there in their place. This is also what Israel is to do in the hereditary land that HaShem gave them.

Now get moving and cross the Zered Brook!” We thus crossed the Zered Brook. From the time that we left Kadesh Barnea until we crossed the Zered Brook, 38 years had elapsed, during which the generation of warriors had died out from the camp, as HaShem had sworn. HaShem’s hand had been directed specifically against them, crushing them so that they would be finished. It was at this time that all the men of war among the people finished dying.

Encountering Ammon

HaShem then spoke to me, saying, “You are now about to pass through Ar, which is Moabite territory. You will be coming close to the Ammonites, but do not attack or provoke them. I will not let you occupy the land of the Ammonites, since I have given it as a heritage to the descendants of Lot.” This might also be considered the territory of the Rephaim, since the Rephaim lived there originally. The Ammonites refer to them as Zamzumim. The Rephaim were a powerful and numerous race, as tall as the giants, but HaShem annihilated them before the Ammonites who drove them out and lived there in their place. This was the same as HaShem had done for Esau’s descendants who lived in Seir, when he annihilated the Horites before them, allowing Esau’s descendants to drive them out and live in their place to this very day. This was also true of the Avvim who lived from Chatzerim to Gazza; the Kaftorim came from Kaftor and defeated them, occupying their territories.

“Now set out and cross the Arnon Brook. See ! I have given over Sichon, The Amorite king of Chesbon, and his land, into your hands. Begin the occupation! Provoke him into war! Today I am beginning to make all the nations under the heavens fear and dread you. Whoever hears of your reputation will tremble and be anxious because of you.”

I sent emissaries from the Kedemoth Desert to Sichon king of Cheshbon with a peaceful message, saying, “We wish to pass through your land. We will travel along the main highway, not turning to the right or the left. We will buy the food we eat for cash, and will pay for the drinking water you give us. We only wish to pass through on foot, just as we passed by the territory of Esau in Seir and Moab in Ar. We only wish to cross the Jordan to the land that HaShem our Lord is giving us.” But Sichon, King of Cheshbon, would not let us pass through his land. HaShem had hardened his spirit and made his heart firm, so that He could give his land over to our hands, as it is today.

Last Episodes in the Desert

HaShem said to me, “See! I have begun to place Sichon and his land before you. Begin the occupation and take possession of his land.”

Sichon and all his troops came out to meet us in battle at Yahatz. HaShem our Lord gave him over to us, so that we killed him along with his sons and all his troops. We then captured all his cities, and we annihilated every city, including the men, women and children, not leaving any survivors. All that we took as our plunder were the animals and the goods of the cities we captured.

Thus, in the entire territory from Aro’er on the edge of the Arnon Gorge and the city in the valley itself, to the Gilead, there was no city that could defend itself against us, since HaShem had placed everything at our disposal. The only land that we did not approach was the Ammonite territory, which included the area around the Jabbok, the cities of the highlands, and all the other areas that HaShem our Lord had commanded us to avoid.

We then turned and traveled along the road to the Bashan, where Og and his troops came to confront us in battle at Edre’i. HaShem said to me, “Do not be afraid of him, since I have turned him over to you along with all his people and his land. You will do the same to him as you did to the Amorite king Sichon, who lived in Cheshbon.”

HaShem thus also turned Og, king of the Bashan, and all his people over to us, and we defeated him, not leaving any survivors. We then captured all his cities, not leaving a single city that we did not take from his people. These included the entire Argov group of 60 cities that constituted Og’s kingdom in the Bashan. They were all cities fortified with high walls, gates and bars, and there were also very many open towns.

We destroyed these cities just as we had done to those of Sichon, king of Cheshbon, annihilating every man, woman and child. For ourselves, we took as plunder all the animals and all the spoils of the cities.

At that time we thus took the lands of the two Amorite kings who lived to the east of the Jordan, in the area between the Arnon Brook and Mount Hermon.

The occupied territory included all the cities of the flatlands, the entire Gilead, and the entire Bashan as far as Salkhah and Edre’i; the cities of Og’s kingdom in the Bashan.Of all the Rephaim, only Og had survived. His bed was made of iron. It is in the Ammonite city of Rabbah, nine standard cubits long and four cubits wide. Of the land that we then captured, I gave the Reubenites and Gaddites, the territory between Aro’er on the Arnon Gorge and the southern half of the Gilead highlands, along with the cities there.

The rest of the Gilead and the entire Bashan which had been Og’s kingdom, I gave to half of the tribe of Manasseh. This included the entire Argov group and the entire Bashan, which was known as the land of the Rephaim.Yair, a descendant of Manasseh, took the Argov group as far as the borders of the Geshurites and Maakhathites, and he gave that area in the Bashan the name Chavvath Yair, a name which is still used today. To Makhir I gave the Gilead region.

To the Reubenites and Gaddites, I gave the territory between the Gilead and the Arnon Gorge, including the interior of the gorge and its boundary. The territory extended as far as the gorge of the Jabbok, the border of the Ammonites. It also included the Aravah, the Jordan, and its boundary, from the Kinnereth as far as the Aravah Sea, which is the portion of the Dead Sea under the rapids on the cliff to the east.

At that time I gave you instructions, saying, “HaShem has given you this land as a heritage. Let every able-bodied man among you go forth ahead of your fellow Israelites as a special force. I know that you have much livestock; your wives, children and livestock can remain in the cities I have given you until HaShem gives your brethren the same haven that He has given you. When they occupy the land that HaShem your Lord is giving them across the Jordan, each man will be able to return to his inheritance that I have given you.”

At that time, I gave instructions to Joshua, saying, “Your own eyes have seen all that HaShem your Lord has done to these two kings. HaShem will do the same to all the kingdoms in the land to which you will be crossing. Do not fear them, since HaShem the one who will be fighting for you.”


Haftarah Connection

Haftarah Study

Isaiah 1.1-27

This is the third and last of the “Prophecies of Destruction” which are read during the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av.

The Prophet Isaiah compares Israel to Sodom and Gomorrah and tells the people to return to HaShem and quit their worthless sacrifices because they just use them to pretend they are not guilty of sin. He wants the judges to be returned to serving in justice and return the nation to righteousness before it is too late.


Sidra Stats

Sidra Stats

  • Forty-Fourth of 54 Sedras in the Torah
  • Written on 196 lines in the Sefer Torah
  • 105 P’sukim (verses)
  • 1,548 words
  • 5,972 letters

Next week’s Parashat: VeEthChanan