Devarim

"Because of you the Lord was incensed with me, too and He said: 'You shall not enter it [the Land] either'" Deuteronomy 1:37


By Rabbi Miriam Berger, August 4, 2011
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Whether you read the Torah using academic source criticism or as direct revelation from God at Sinai, the book of Deuteronomy is a synopsis of the other books of the Torah.

Parashat Devarim sets the tone of Moses' monologue. His warning to the Children of Israel, his teaching of how they are meant to behave when they settle in the Promised Land, is based on the premise of what life could have been like if they had not sinned in the wilderness.

The sins that he mentions are part of the culture of the society they created; lack of faith in God's guidance, complaints about quality of life after the Exodus, the pessimism of the 10 spies who believed the Land of Israel beyond their reach - "You would not go up but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord... you did not believe the Lord, your God" (Deuteronomy 1:26-32).

It feels somewhat chutzpahdik on Moses's part to be preaching to the Children of Israel in this way because the monologue is also his farewell speech.

Moses has to give these warnings because he will not be there to lead the people since he has forgone his own right to enter into the Land of Israel through his own sin. He is quick to remind the people of their collective sin and the resulting punishment but he does not cite his own punishment as a lesson.

Today, as we unravel the responsibility of the Prime Minister, leading police officers and even the journalists themselves in the phone hacking scandal, perhaps we are doing the opposite and only acknowledging the sin of the individual and ignoring the endemic cultural sin of the collective - the thirst for the sensationalised story.

    Last updated: 1:06pm, August 4 2011