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Devarim and Shabbat Hazon – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis

This week we open the Fifth book of the Torah, Devarim. Described as “Mishneh Torah” a “second law”, it translated into Greek as Deuteronomy.

This week is also Shabbat Hazon, the special Shabbat before Tish b’Av”. The name comes from the first words of the Haftorah by Isaiah. The recitation of the Torah is to the tune of “Eichah” as we begin the season of repentance The word “Hazon” translates as “vision”, and this is what Moses will set out. It is essentially Israel’s history and future from his perspective.

Moses says:

I cannot carry you alone.

He relays to the current generation the story of the people. This generation had not experienced the exodus, the revelation at Sinai and forty years of wandering He recalls the rebellions against God and the battles on the way. The boundaries and distribution of the Land are set out. Like a parent sending his children off alone, he wants to make sure they have the tools to be successful.

They need to understand the mistakes of the previous generation. This is a new generation, transitioning from a nomadic people to a nation building cities and cultivating the land that God had promised their ancestors.

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Why the strange detail about the size of the iron bedstead of Og of Bashan? It was not going to be the size of any challenge that would matter but trust in ourselves.

A system of laws is established:

I commanded your judges at that time, saying, "Hear [disputes] between your brothers and judge justly between a man and his brother".

For many of us, when our own grandparents came to this country, we only caught glimpses of our own family story. Old photographs may be inscribed with names, but they cannot speak. As we ourselves grow older there is often regret that we did not learn more. However, they did give us the tools to be successful and with which to build our lives. We inherited “words” (Devarim), stories, our communities, our family traditions, and our faith.

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