Commentary for Devarim

24 Jul

The book of Deuteronomy is largely based around Moses’ final set of discourses to the Israelites as they camp on the banks of the Jordan River, ready to go into the Promised Land. Moses begins with a short history of the Israelites, recounting the events, both the good and the bad, which have led them to this place on this day.

 

One theme that pops up occasionally over the course of the parshah is giving reassurance to those in need. He recounts how when establishing a judicial system he told the judges to “fear no man, for justice is God’s (Deut 1:17).” No threat shall be carried out against them so long as they rule justly, as God desires. When the reality of the difficulty of conquering the Promised Land first begins to dawn upon the Israelites, Moses tells them “fear not and be not dismayed (1:21).” He even speaks of a time when he himself needed reassurance before a battle with Og, King of the Bashan, and God said to him “do not fear him, for I am delivering him and all his men and his country into your hand (3:2).” The parshah also ends on this same note, with Moses reassuring Joshua about the daunting task he will have before him: “You have seen with your own eyes all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings; so shall the Lord your God do to all the kingdoms into which you shall cross over.   Do not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who will battle for you. (3:21-22).

 

Many times in our lives we have anxieties about the future. Sometimes, like the judges, we take up new positions that we know will be strenuous or require us to make tough decisions with many outside forces trying to pull us one way or the other. Sometimes, like the Israelites, we face some monumental task or are forced to do things that will put us in conflict with others or will change our whole lifestyle as we know it. Sometimes, like Joshua, we are thrust into all of these situations at once.

 

The future can be very scary, and having doubts and fears about it is perfectly normal. Even Moses did. Just like us, the Israelites were regular people. They were faced with the monumental task of not only conquering the Promised Land, but then also settling it, which would drastically change their entire way of life from the nomadic way- the only way they had ever known- to the agrarian lifestyle they had only heard about from the previous generation. And they were afraid. As they were about to enter the undiscovered country that was their future, they needed reassurance. Moses gave them that reassurance by reminding them that God would always be there for them, just as God had been there for their forefathers, and just as God will always be there for us when we need reassurance as well.

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