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Parashat Ekev

General Overview: Moses continues his pep talk to the Israelites, cautioning them not to fear the Canaanite armies for G‑d will wage battle for them. He also notifies them that their entry into the Land is not due to their own virtues – Moses reminds them of their many transgressions to emphasize this point – but rather, it is in the merit of the nation's Forefathers. The commandments of prayer and Grace After Meals are mentioned. The second part of the Shema is also found in this portion.

First Aliyah: This section begins with a promise: if the Israelites observe G‑d's commandments, they will be blessed in a multitude of ways, including the obliteration of their Canaanite enemies. Moses enjoins the Israelites not to fear these enemies, for G‑d will miraculously deliver them into their hands. Moses instructs the Israelites to destroy all the idols and their accoutrements which they will find in Canaan. Moses then discusses their forty-year desert ordeal, and the many tests and miracles which accompanied them. Moses provides a description of many of the wonderful features of the Land of Israel, and the Israelites are commanded to bless G‑d after they eat and are sated.

Second Aliyah: Moses admonishes the Israelites that the new-found fortune which will be their lot once they enter the Promised Land should not lead them to forget the One who provided them with the wealth. Such a blunder would lead to their destruction and ruin.

Third Aliyah: Moses tells the Israelites that they will inherit the Land of Israel not due to their own merits and righteousness, but because of the promise G‑d made to the Patriarchs. In fact, Moses reminds them of the many times they angered G‑d while in the desert, placing special emphasis on the sin of the Golden Calf, when G‑d would have annihilated the Israelites if not for Moses' successful intercession on their behalf. He also makes brief reference to the other times when the Israelites rebelled against G‑d.

Fourth Aliyah: Moses recounts how after the Golden Calf debacle, G‑d commanded him to carve two new tablets upon which G‑d engraved the Ten Commandments, to replace the first set of tablets which Moses had shattered. At that time, G‑d also designated the Levites to be His holy servants, because of the devotion they demonstrated throughout the Golden Calf incident.

Fifth Aliyah: Moses charges the Israelites to love and fear G‑d, and to serve Him. He expounds on G‑d's greatness, and impresses on the Israelites their great fortune: that G‑d has chosen them to be His treasured nation. He again reminds them of the many miracles G‑d had performed on their behalf since they left Egypt.

Sixth Aliyah: Moses tells the Israelites that the land of Israel is constantly dependent upon G‑d for irrigating rains, and that the land is constantly under G‑d's watchful eyes. We then read the second paragraph of the Shema prayer. In this section we are admonished to observe G‑d's commandments, which will cause G‑d to supply bountiful rainfall and harvests. Non-observance will lead to exile. We are commanded regarding prayer, tefillinmezuzah, and teaching Torah to our children.

Seventh Aliyah: Moses informs the Israelites that if they follow G‑d's ways and cleave to Him, they will easily occupy the land of Israel, and no man will stand up against them.

Parashat Vaetchanan

General Overview: In this week’s Torah reading, Vaetchanan, Moses continues his attempt to impress upon the Israelites the importance of following G‑d’s commandments, the rewards which will result from obeying G‑d’s words, and the punishments they will incur if they neglect to do so. Moses recounts the story of the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai, and repeats the Ten Commandments. Moses designates cities of refuge. This portion also contains the Shema.

First Aliyah: Moses recounts how he pleaded with G‑d to allow him entry into Israel. G‑d refused this request, but instructed Moses to climb a mountain from where he would see the Promised Land. Moses enjoins the people to follow G‑d’s law, and never to add to or detract from it. Moses uses the Baal Peor incident to demonstrate that those who remained faithful to G‑d survived and thrived.

Second Aliyah: Moses implores the Israelites to treasure the Torah, praising its wisdom, its righteous and just precepts, and the closeness to G‑d it affords. He admonishes them to never forget the day when G‑d gave them the Torah, and vividly describes that awesome event, enjoining them to recount that day’s events to their children and grandchildren. He then focuses on the divine revelation, reminding them that G‑d did not appear as any image or form. Worshipping graven images, Moses warns, will result in national exile and decimation. But even when exiled, G‑d will not forsake His people, and eventually they will repent and return to G‑d. This section concludes with Moses extolling the Israelites’ uniqueness: the only nation personally delivered by G‑d from bondage, and the only people to whom G‑d revealed Himself.

Third Aliyah: Moses designates three cities of refuge on the eastern side of the Jordan River. These cities provided refuge for an individual who inadvertently murdered another.

Fourth Aliyah: Moses repeats the Ten Commandments, reminding the Israelites that the Sinai covenant was not limited to those who were physically present at Mount Sinai.

Fifth Aliyah: Moses describes the fright which gripped the nation following the revelation on Sinai. The leaders of the tribes approached Moses and pleaded that he be the intermediary to transmit G‑d’s words to them, and G‑d agreed.

Sixth Aliyah: This section begins with the first section of the Shema prayer. This paragraph contains the fundamental mitzvot of belief in G‑d’s unity, love of G‑d, tefillinmezuzah and Torah study. The section continues with G‑d’s promise to give the Israelites a land filled with bounty and spoils. Moses admonishes the people to never forget the Creator who provided them with this wealth. Moses instructs the nation what to respond to their children who might inquire why they observe all the commandments: “We were slaves in Egypt, and G‑d took us out in order that we serve Him, so that we could reap the rewards for doing so.”

Seventh Aliyah: The Israelites are directed to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan along with their idols, and the prohibition against intermarriage is discussed.

Parashat Devarim

General Overview: This week's reading begins the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth and final book of the Five Books of Moses. Moses begins his final monologue, five weeks before his passing. He recounts the story of the Israelite's travel through the desert, placing emphasis on, and rebuking them for, the story of the spies. He describes Israel's conquest of the Emorites and the Bashanites.

First Aliyah: The Israelites are situated on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, on the verge of entering the land of Canaan, and Moses' death is imminent. This is the setting for Moses' final statements to the nation he lovingly tended for four decades. After delivering a veiled rebuke to the nation for their many past misdeeds, Moses revisits the period, some 39 years earlier, before the Israelites left Mount Sinai at G‑d's behest, with the intention of immediately invading and entering Canaan. At that time, Moses expressed to the Jews his inability to single-handedly bear the burden of leadership, because "G‑d, has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as the stars of the heavens in abundance."

 

Second Aliyah: After the Israelites consented to the idea, Moses appointed a hierarchy of judges to preside over the nation. Moses recalls instructing them the basics of judicial integrity. Moses then recounts how the Jews traveled through the desert and quickly reached Kadesh Barnea, on the southern border of the Holy Land.

Third Aliyah: But at that time the Israelites approached Moses and demanded the right to send out scouts to reconnoiter the land. Moses recounts the tragic episode in detail, how the scouts delivered a frightening report, claiming that the land was unconquerable. Despite Moses' protests, the Israelites adopted the scouts' attitude and decided not to enter Canaan. This caused G‑d to bar that entire generation from entering the Promised Land.

Fourth Aliyah: Moses continues: At that time G‑d instructed the Israelites to reverse course and head back to the desert. Realizing their dreadful error, a group of Israelites proceeded to advance toward Israel — in the face of Moses' objections. Lacking divine protection, they were immediately attacked and massacred by the Emorites. At this point, the Israelites heeded G‑d's command, and headed back to the Sinai Desert.

Fifth Aliyah: Moses fast-forwards 38 years. The generation which left Egypt had perished. Now their children were ready to enter Canaan. But first G‑d instructs the Israelites regarding three nations whose land was off-limits for them: Seir (Edom), Moab and Amon. These lands were the rightful inheritance of the descendants of Esau and Lot. Instead, the Israelites circled these lands and approached the land of Sichon, king of the Emorites, and requested passageway through his land. Sichon refused the Israelites' request.

Sixth Aliyah: Moses recalls how Sichon led his nation in battle against the Israelites. The Israelites were victorious and took possession of his land. When the Bashanites then attacked, they meet a similar fate. The lands of the Emorites and the Bashanites were given to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh.

Seventh Aliyah: Moses delineates the borders of the lands allotted to the aforementioned tribes. He then repeats the instructions he gave to these tribes to cross the Jordan together with their brethren and participate in the battle against the Canaanites before returning to their land on the eastern bank of the Jordan. Joshua, who will lead the nation into Israel, is enjoined not to be fearful of the battles which he will face, because "it is the L-rd, your G‑d, who is fighting for you."

Parashat Matot-Massei

General Overview: This week’s Torah reading, Matot-Massei, begins with the laws of oaths. The Israelites wage battle against Midian, and the spoils are divided and tithed. The tribes of Reuben and Gad request and receive territory outside the mainland of Israel. Moses reviews the forty years of Israelite journeys through the desert. The Torah discusses the boundaries of Israel, its division amongst the tribes, the cities which the Levites would receive, and the cities of refuge. Tzelafchad’s daughters are restricted to marrying within their own tribe.

First Aliyah: A person who obligates him- or herself with a vow is required to fulfill the vow. Under certain circumstances, a husband or father can annul vows made by his wife or daughter. The Israelites were commanded to exact revenge from the Midianites for their part in seducing Jewish men to sin (described in the end of the Torah reading of Balak, Numbers 25). A 12,000-strong army of Israelites, led by Pinchas, waged battle against Midian. All adult Midianite males were killed, along with Balaam and Midian’s five kings. The women, children and battle spoils were brought back to the Israelite encampment.

Second Aliyah: Moses was enraged that the Midianite females were spared. “They were the primary culprits, the ones who seduced the Israelites and brought about the plague which killed so many!” Moses exclaimed. All the males, and all women who possibly could have been involved in the campaign of seduction, were killed. The soldiers were instructed how to purify themselves from the ritual impurity they contracted from contact with corpses in the course of battle, and are told how to kosher the food utensils which were among the spoils. The spoils of the war were evenly divided between the soldiers and the greater community. Tithes from the spoils were given to Elazar the high priest and to the Levites. The army officers counted the soldiers who returned from battle, and determined that not a single man was lost in the war. To show gratitude to G‑d for this miracle, the officers donated to the Tabernacle all the gold jewelry which they personally plundered from the Midianites.

Third Aliyah: The tribes of Reuben and Gad owned lots of cattle. Seeing that the eastern bank of the Jordan—the lands of Sichon and Og which they had just conquered—had abundant pasture, they asked Moses if they could remain and settle on the eastern bank. Moses angrily responds that they are following in the footsteps of the spies who were fearful of the Canaanites, did not want to enter the land of Israel, and discouraged the entire nation from doing so. The Reubenites and Gadites respond that they will leave their cattle and families behind in fortified cities, and all their men will proceed into Israel with their brethren and lead them in the conquest of the land. Only after all the land has been conquered and settled would they return to the other side of the Jordan.

Fourth Aliyah: Moses accepts the offer of the Reubenites and Gadites, and informs Joshuaand Elazar the high priest of the agreement. These two tribes, along with half of the tribe of Manasseh, settle on the eastern bank of the Jordan, and conquer many of the areas wherein they encountered opposition. The Torah then recounts the journeys of the Jews in the desert, the 42 journeys which took them from Egypt to the banks of the Jordan.

Fifth Aliyah: G‑d instructs the Jewish people to eradicate all of Canaan’s inhabitants and destroy their idols, after crossing the Jordan River. The borders of the land of Israel are delineated. The land was to be divided by lottery amongst nine and a half tribes (Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh were going to settle on the eastern bank of the Jordan).

Sixth Aliyah: G‑d appoints a representative from each tribe to divide his tribe’s portion of land between the tribal members. The Jews are commanded to provide the Levites with 48 cities where they would dwell—42 cities plus the six cities of refuge which would be designated. Along with these cities, the Levites were given expanses surrounding the cities for their cattle.

Seventh Aliyah: The Jews are commanded to designate six cities of refuge. These cities offer refuge to a person who inadvertently kills another. The murderer must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the serving high priest. The Jews are enjoined not to take “blood money” from a murderer—intentional or unintentional—who wishes to lighten his sentence. In last week’s reading, G‑d instructed Moses to give the daughters of the deceased Tzelafchad his portion in the land of Israel. The elders of Tzelafchad’s tribe now protested that this would cause Tzelafchad’s grandsons—who could possibly be of another tribe—to inherit their mother’s properties, thus possibly transferring land from the portion of their tribe to another. G‑d therefore instructs Tzelafchad’s daughters to marry men from their own tribe, so that the land they inherit will remain in their ancestral tribe.

Sat, August 24 2019 23 Av 5779