If Shakespeare had written Devarim it might have opened with the words “Friends, Levites and the people of Israel, lend me your ears”.
However, it is the voice of Moses that we hear. In the last few weeks of his life. We hear him not as a liberator, a worker of miracles or a prophet. He is Moshe Rabbenu, our teacher.
These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel
אֵ֣לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֗ים אֲשֶׁ֨ר דִּבֶּ֤ר משֶׁה֙ אֶל־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל
We are no longer the children of Israel, B’nei Yisroel, but, here, in Bamidbar, we are described as Kol Yisroel, the people of Israel.
This book usually called Deuteronomy, (from the Greek for “second law”, (a translation of the Hebrew description “Mishneh Torah”; the Repetition of the Law.) is known to us as Devarim; “words”. It is spoken to a new generation that, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, had not experienced the flight from Egypt and the revelation at Sinai. It is a reminder of our continuing Covenant with God and our history.
This weekend is Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat of Vision, which leads us into Tisha b’Av, the destruction of the Second Temple and the beginning of the weeks of repentance. We survived because we never let go of Devarim, “words”. We continued to listen and each day, and even at the end of our lives, we say the Shema,
שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהֹוָ֥ה | אֶחָֽד
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is one.