This week we begin the fifth and final book of the Torah, Deuteronomy. This book is also called
Mishna Torah, “Repetition of the Torah” – thus the Greek title ‘Deuteronomy.’ Its contents were
spoken by Moses to the Jewish people during the final five weeks of his life as the people prepared to cross the Jordan River into the land of Israel. A central theme of Deuteronomy is Moses’ review of the mitzvos, and his emphasis on the change of lifestyle the Jewish people were to undergo. The transition was to be made from a supernatural existence in the desert to a natural life to be experienced in the Land of Israel.
The portion begins with Moses’ veiled rebuke in which he makes reference to the many sins and rebellions of the past forty years. Moses spends significant time discussing the failed mission of the spies; ten of the twelve men sent to scout out the land returned with a bad report, resulting in the entire nation wandering in the desert for forty years. Moses later discusses the Children of Israel’s conquest on the eastern bank of the Jordan River. This Torah portion concludes with words of encouragement for Moses’ successor, Joshua.