Devarim (Deuteronomy) In this final book of Torah, Moses reviews much of the history and the laws given to the Jewish people: hence the Greek name, (taken from phrase 'Mishneh Torah', Deut. 17:18) meaning second telling. In Deuteronomy, the belief that following God's rules will bring blessing; while spurning God will result in calamity is stressed. Idolatry and other false practices are continually denounced. Many scholars identify Deuteronomy with the book of Teaching found by Hilkiah the High Priest (during the reign of King Josiah- II Kings 22:8) during the reforms the king was instituting to strengthen Israel and its religion. There are thirty-four chapters, divided into eleven parashiyot. The parashiyot of Devarim are: Devarim, Va'Etchanan, Ekev, Re'eh, Shoftim, Ki Tetze, Ki Tavo, Nitzavim, VaYelech, Ha'azinu, and Zot HaBrachah


Re'eh: Life requires a balance of physical sustenance, emotional nourishment and spiritual joy.

This portion begins with one of the most powerful statements in the Torah affirming free will: 'See, I set before you blessing and curse' - blessing if the people follow God's ways, and curse if they don't. These blessings and curses are actually to be articulated from the tops of two mountains when the Israelites enter into the Promised Land, and more detail is given about that ritual at the end of this discourse (Deuteronomy 27:12). The parasha continues with laws that are to be fulfilled by the Israelites in the land: the eradication of idolatry, and the centralization of sacrificial worship at specific sites which God will identify. Moses strongly warns the people about false prophets, idolaters, 'lawless' cities, and the incorporation of any pagan practices into Israelite ritual. The remainder of the parasha outlines those mitzvot that set Israel apart from other nations: kashrut, tithing, laws regarding loans, the Sabbatical year, Israelite slaves, consecration of the first born, and the major festivals.

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These summaries and introductions are used with permission of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, Canada. Kolel is a dynamic, pluralistic, egalitarian institution where men and women engage in Jewish learning which values both traditional and liberal interpretations. Kolel is a gateway into a richer expression of Judaism for each individual, wherever their journey of Jewish discovery may take them.

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