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Parashat Devarim - 5775

My friends,

This Shabbat we begin the reading of the last Book of the Torah, called Devarim in Hebrew or Deuteronomy in English. It is Moses' farewell discourse to his people, the people he led for forty years. They have reached their destination, camped on the east side of the Jordan River, ready to begin the conquest of the Promised Land. Moses recalls the events of the last forty years and warns them of the importance of keeping the Torah he taught them, with special emphasis on laws that promote justice and kindness.

This Parasha is always read on the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av, the Fast of the Ninth of Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, commemorating the destruction of the first and second temples, and Israel's exile which lasted almost two thousand years - from the year 70 until 1948 when modern Israel was established and the exiles returned to their homeland.

There is a story told (hard to know of its accuracy) of how Napoleon entered a synagogue on the night of Tisha B'Av. He inquired as to the reason for the congregants' weeping and mourning, thinking that, maybe, some horrible tragedy has happened recently. When told that they were mourning the loss of their homeland more than 1700 years ago, he responded by saying that a people who can mourn for so long for an event that happened so long ago will definitely gain their homeland again. Another version is that his response was that mourning and weeping will not give them back their homeland - only force will help them regain their land.

How privileged we are that we live at a time when Israel has returned to its home. The attachment that we Jews have shown throughout the generations, as expressed in our prayers, life cycle events, and our efforts in so many other ways, has been most instrumental in keeping our people attached to the Land of Israel.

This Tisha B'Av, let us remember that the fight is not over. Israel is surrounded by so many enemies, and it is our duty to continue to show our support.

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Chazon because of the first word of the Haftarah reading from the Prophet Isaiah, which is always read on the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av. He warns all the generations in Israel of the moral and social transgressions that led to the downfall of the Jewish State of old.

Modern Israel must be a country where moral and social justice are at its very core.

"Shahlu Shlom Yerushalayim" - "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem".

Shabbat Shalom,