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Parashat Devarim - 5774

My friends,

This Shabbat, we begin the reading of the 5th and last book of the Torah, called "Devarim" - "The Words" - based on the first sentence, "These are the Words that Moses addressed to all Israel." In Hebrew it is also known as Mishnei Torah, Repetition of the Torah, translated as Deuteronomy.

The first Parasha in the book "Devarim" is always read on the Shabbat before Tisha b'Av, also known as Shabbat Chazon, named after the first word of the Haftarah from the Book of Isaiah. This is the third reading of admonition to the people of Israel, before that dreadful day, Tisha b'Av, a day of fasting and mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and the Exile of our people from the Land of Israel in 586 B.C.E. by the Babylonians, and in the year 70 C.E. by the Romans.

The people are camped on the East side of the Jordan River, about to begin the conquest of the Promised Land. Moses reviews the forty years of wandering and encourages and commands the people to go up to the land and conquer it. He also tells them the difficulties he encountered as their leader, carrying their trouble, burden and bickering. The word he uses is "Eichah" - "how can I alone handle all of your problems," which is also the first word of the book of Eichah, the Book of Lamentations, which is read of Tisha b'Av. It is a message of the importance of a united people, who have an important goal to achieve.

Moses emphasizes the need for law and justice in the land and that it be dispensed rightfully to all, even to the stranger and alien among them.

This Parasha concludes with Moses again urging the people to go and conquer the land, and not to be afraid, "because the L-rd your G-d will battle for you."

Our hearts and prayers go to our people in Israel who are fighting to keep the land. They have sacrificed much and have fought valiantly to keep Israel's citizens safe. Israel's enemies are many and they all seek Israel's destruction. Today's Babylonian and Roman Legions are attacking our people from the air, ground and underground. Our people are united like never before to bring this war to an end, even if it requires sacrifices on the part of an entire nation.

We pray that G-d continue to protect our people.

Shabbat Shalom,