Friday, July 24, 2020 /3 Av, 5780
Parashat D’varim Deuteronomy 1:1−3:22
This week we begin the final book of Torah, Deuteronomy, or in Hebrew, D’varim. As this final book begins we stand on the precipice of finally entering the promised land, but not until Moses can recount all that we have learned since our exit from Egypt. The Greek Deuteronomium from which Deuteronomy comes means “second law” and in truth this book is a repetition of all that we have learned in our wanderings before Moses bids us farewell and climbs Mt. Nebo for a look into the promised land before he dies.
So why D’varim meaning words, sayings, or things? I always liken this book of Torah and its beginnings in this week’s parashah to when our children are going off alone for their first time. We remind them of their manners, of what they need to not forget to do, and that we love them. Likewise, Moses will be preparing us to be without him for the first time. He prepares us for new leadership and reminds us of the teachings and “things” that we must remember, especially that God will still be with us even if he is not.
Of course D’varim always comes at the same time that we are beginning to prepare for the High Holy Days, so I think there is a secondary meaning to D’varim. These “words” of Torah remind us of how important our words can be. We are always so mindful of our actions, but somehow we often think that our words are more fleeting. Not true! Our words can have the same enduring effects of our actions. It just may not be quite as obvious.
As these High Holy Days come closer and we begin to recount our actions and shortcomings of the past year, may we not forget our D’varim, our words. May we recognize the power of our words to bring us closer, to heal and to bind us together. Words are powerful things… that is what D’varim means to me. May we use this power to reach out to our friends and family in this time of physical isolation, knowing that while we all would prefer a big hug, our words can break down the barriers and remind us of our closeness, just as Moses used them to remind the Israelites of his, and more importantly, God’s enduring presence. Some things never change!
Cantor Ilan Davidson