Even though this last Book of Torah is divided into various parashiyot (portions), it is actually a series of three discourses (some say five) that Moses gave over the last days of his life. Unlike the other Books of Torah, this one is not Gd speaking to the Israelites, but Moses speaking. You may have heard me teach that, to me, it is as if Moses, who knows that he will not be entering the Land of Israel with our people (we are now at the edge) because of the incident with striking the rock, is reminding our ancestors of their history and of the lessons he has taught over their years together and also reminds them of his warnings and admonitions now that they are about to re-enter the Land. He is worried we will forget! Sometimes he sounds a bit bitter, but mostly, cares so much that he wants us to remember and do the right thing, keeping true to the values, teachings and mission for which we were taken out of Egypt.
Deutero means 'second telling ' (Greek) and much of the content is repeated content, although we are introduced to the Shema and Ve-ahavta in the following week's parasha (Va-etchanan) along with a restatement (in slightly different form) of the Ten Commandments.
A note: Saturday night/Sunday is Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the month of Av, on which date in our history both Temples were destroyed (the first by the Babylonians, the second by the Romans), the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 and World War I broke out in 1917*. While it is a day of mourning and fasting, from that dark place understanding, growth, and healing might transpire through our actions. Can we commit to one act of tikkun (healing, repair) as our contribution toward increasing light in this gateway to our High Holy Days season?
Tisha B'Av is totally relevant today! Tisha B'Av's origins are in mourning for the destruction of the Temple, but its practices and rituals (sitting on the ground, not wearing clean clothes, not eating or drinking, not washing, not greeting one another) sounds like we're describing the life of a refugee. The destruction of the Temple was not just a physical tragedy pertaining to the Temple per se; the destruction also stands for the plight of the people who lived (or died) in that frightening, unsafe, impoverished and unsheltered world, leading us to consider what it means to seek shelter, security, safety, nourishment, protection in our own...
Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman
A note re Tisha B’Av from last week’s candlelighting reminder in case you missed it
Av contains both the 'high point' and the 'low point' of the annual Jewish calendar with themes of destruction and renewal. The first days of the month leading up to the 9th day of Av (Tisha B'Av) are the 'low': in different years (but this same date in Jewish history), both the First Temple (built by King Solomon, destroyed by the Babylonians) and the Second Temple (built by the Jews returning from Babylonia, completed by Herod, destroyed by the Romans) were lost to us and our people were sent into exile. It is an emotional day of mourning established by second-century rabbis, observed with a full fast and the reading of the Book of Lamentations. Additional tragedies on this date in history include the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290 and Ferdinand and Isabella's expulsion of our people from Spain in 1492. A tradition has it that the messiah will be born on this day (August 6th is my birthday – in the year I was born, I luckily just missed it by a few hours). Some feel that, since the creation of the State of Israel, it is no longer necessary to observe Tisha B'Av in this way.
Because the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat this year, a calendar adjustment by rabbis from long ago institute that the observance of the fast day of Tisha B’Av be moved to one day later (Yom Kippur is the only ‘shabbat’- no matter on which day of the week it falls – on which we fast).
The mood shifts dramatically to one of hope on the Shabbat that follows, known as Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath of Comfort and Consolation (from the Haftarah from the Prophet Isaiah that begins "Be comforted, My people"). In the shtetls of Europe, it was a popular time for weddings! The high point is the 15th day of Av, Tu B'Av, known as "Jewish love day"! Why did we ever lose that practice??? The Mishna teaches that it was one of the happiest of days when many would meet their beshert (their 'intended' soul mate) as the daughters of Israel went out in the fields, followed by potential suitors. This year, Tu B'Av comes on Thursday night the 11th and Friday the 12th - what a good day to rekindle sparks with a loved one (or close friends...). It's all good, or can be, if we make it so.