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Torah Commentary Blog

Parashat D'varim (July 28, 2012)
by Dr. Mark Weisstuch

IN D’VARIM, the eponymous first portion of the last of the five books of the Torah, Deuteronomy, Moses begins by recapitulating the recent history of the people in their desert wanderings and then describes the battles waged by the Israelites against several Trans-Jordan fiefdoms. The Israelites are on the threshold of entering the Promised Land. This is a new generation. The generation that left Egypt and received the Torah at Mount Sinai committed the grievous sin of lacking faith in the power and promise of God. After being commanded to invade the Land, they hedged, they doubted — they became pragmatic. They strategized that it would be advantageous to send scouts into the unknown territory to reconnoiter the terrain and assess the strength of the enemy. The scouts reported — with two notable dissenters, Caleb and Joshua — that the land was inhabited by undefeatable giants, next to whom they felt like grasshoppers. (Deuteronomy 1:28; Numbers 13:32-33) The people’s resolve wilted; they hemmed and hawed; the grand vision clouded over; they demonstrated that they were inadequate partners to God in the great enterprise of securing the Land of the Covenant.

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