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July 19, 1996 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-07-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The Cultural Commission Of

Congregation Beth Abraham Hillel Moses

Proudly Presents

Just For The Fun Of It!

Love And Reverence
Are Recurrent Themes

AN EVENING OF DINNER, DANCING AND LIVE ENTERTAINMENT

Shabbat Devarim: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22; Isaiah
1:1-27.

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RABBI RICHARD C. HERTZ SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

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Sunday, August 4, 1996
6:00 p.m.

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,o'i-poc_i otunpod • (siQleti9

his week's Torah reading is
Devarim, "These are the
words." Its name is based
on the ancient practice of
naming books after key opening
words or phrases.
Deuteronomy is a profoundly
religious book that seeks
to teach love and reverence
for God to every Israelite
and to encourage rituals
that have that effect.
Deuteronomy's aim is to
spiritualize religion by
freeing it from excessive
dependence on sacrifices
and priesthood. Deuteron-
omy regards moral and spiritual
qualities, especially those required
for leadership, as forms of wisdom.
Some commentators have
pointed unmistakably to the wis-
dom literature in the third divi-
sion of the Bible as main
influences based on Deuterono-
my's ideas and values. Certain of
its teachings have almost verba-
tim counterparts in the wisdom
literature.
The Torah's humanitarianism
is most fully developed in
Deuteronomy in its exhortation on
behalf of the poor and disadvan-
taged, debtors, indentured ser-
vants, escaped slaves, resident
aliens, orphans, widows and even
animals. Fully 200 of the 613 pos-
itive and negative command-
ments are based onDeuteronomy.
The book's contribution to Jew-
ish worship has been extensive
and profound. Many prayers in
the prayer book come from
Deuteronomy. The classic expres-
sion of the monotheistic idea is, of
course, the Sh'ma.
The speaker in Deuteronomy is
Moses himself. The book is the
valedictory that Moses gave at the
end of his life. Here he sums up
the laws that he gave to the peo-
ple and the lessons of the period
in which he led them, as he urged
them to observe those laws and
keep those lessons in mind al-
ways.
Moses tells the people that had
they trusted in God they could
have entered the land immedi-
ately and not wandered in the
wilderness. The consequences of
not trusting in God underscore his
message.
These two thoughts— mis-
trusting and disobeying God lead
to disaster, trusting and obeying

Richard C. Hertz is distinguished
professor of Jewish studies at
University of Detroit-Mercy.

lead to success — are constantly
emphasized.
The enemies that the Israelites
had to meet remind the people
that they had persevered and sur-
vived. Moses reminds them, too,
how his plea to the people had fall-
en on deaf ears. God could
ri
have destroyed the entire
generation had Moses not
persuaded God to be le-
nient; their children only
would enter the promised
land.
Moses reminds the Is-
raelites that since the pre-
vious generation had
completely died out, it is now up
to them to proceed. The travel-
ogue begins as Moses reminds the
people where they have been, how
they had to go through Transjor-
dan and the territory of Seir-
Edom, east of the Negeb
Highlands.
Then come the instructions of
how the territory of the Am-
monites and of Sihon, King of the
Amorites, were conquered. Moses
does not dwell on the victories
over Sihon but rather the quality
of their consequences. If Israel
obeys completely, it will defeat the
enemy total ly.
Victory over Og followed the de-
feat of Sihon, and Moses begins to
allot their territory to the tribes
of Reuben and Gad and half of the
tribe of Menasseh. After summa-
rizing the territory conquered,
Moses begins to apportion it.
Moses, realizing his job is coining
to an end, pleads with God that
he be allowed to enter the
promised land, but he is rebuffed.
This sedrah refers to the pun-
ishment of Moses — being ex-
cluded because he had spoken
angrily to the people and extract-
ed water from a rock by hitting it
instead of speaking to it as he and
Aaron were commanded. In so
dong, they showed a lack of trust
in God and failed to raffim God's
sanctity in the sight of the people.
Moses does not rebel against God
even though he has received the
disappointing sentence; he carries
on until his dying day to lead the
people to the promised land. ❑

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