Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Parshat Devarim

Devarim, Chazon and Tisha Be'Av

Parshat Devarim is always the Shabbat prior to Tisha Be'Av, the fast day commemorating the destruction of the Temple. This Shabbat is called Shabbat Chazon, after the haftara from the book of Yeshayahu, which begins with words: "Chazon Yeshayahu" – "The vision of Isaiah". It castigates Israel for its moral disintegration and forecasts disaster.

Is there something special about Parshat Devarim in it is always Shabbat Chazon and connected to Tisha Be'Av, or is it simply a coincidence: since the cycle of Torah readings must be completed by Simchat Torah, Parshat Devarim will always precede Tisha Be'Av?

Interestingly enough, the Midrash, even though it was written in Eretz Yisrael where there was a three year Torah reading cycle and so, Devarim would not have been attached to Tisha Be'Av, does find a connection.

The connection is the word: "Eicha" – "איכה"-, which appears in the parsha, the haftara and in Megillat Eicha, the book read on Tishe Be'Av.

"How (איכה) can I bear your trouble, your burden, and your strife all by myself?" (Devarim 1:12)

"How (איכה) is the faithful city become a harlot! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers" (Yeshayahu 1:21)

"How (איכה) does the city sit solitary that was full of people!" (Eicha 1:1)

Aside from the word: "Eicha, what is this connection between these three pesukim? We can develop this midrashic idea further. Each Eicha is answering the question of a different Eicha.

To begin, the prophet asks or exclaims: "How does the city sit solitary that was full of people!" Jerusalem, the capital of once mighty empire lay in ruins, its inhabitants deported and its leaders massacred. How did this happen?

The answer can be found in Yeshayahu: "How is the faithful city become a harlot!" The reason why the city was deserted, was because it morally bankrupt – it was absent of honesty. Once its commitment to God had gone, it was only a matter of time before the city became destroyed.

Yet how did the city in which God's Temple resided, the city which hoted the word of the Lord, become so unfaithful and lost in harlotry.

The answer can be found in Moshe's Eicha: "How can I bear your trouble, your burden, and your strife all by myself?"

A gulf developed Moshe and the people. They found it hard to wok with each other and to speak a common language. Their communication became tiresome and burdensome.

This breakdown in communication, led to a breakdown in justice which in turn led to the physical destruction of the people

May all Israel see better days.


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