“The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day” Deuteronomy 5:3


The repetition of the Ten Commandments in this week’s reading highlights a general question with regards to the entirety of the book of Devarim, namely that it seems to be a repetition of what already appeared in the Torah. In fact, the rabbis referred to it as Mishneh Torah, the Second Torah, a view also expressed in its Latin name Deuteronomy. 

The sages of the Talmud considered repetition to be an impossibility, as in their view nothing in the Torah appears for no reason. Accordingly, they mined the nuanced differences between the repeated laws and their first appearances to unearth additional legal details.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (19th century Germany) believed that the Torah was repeated as Moshe was speaking to a new generation — their parents had died out during the 40-year wandering in the desert. Hirsch believed that while the laws were the same, their packaging needed to be different. This generation would enter the Land of Israel and be tasked with building a country.

In other words, each new generation must look at the Torah afresh, seeing in its words the wisdom for a new era. While the laws remain the same, what they say to us will often be different as we face new challenges and live in a world which thinks about things in new ways. 

Every time the world is upended, we are tasked with making a Mishneh Torah. This is something which our people had to do after the Holocaust and it is something we can do today. Covid-19 has pushed the pause button on life and enabled us to consider if we’d like to do things differently. 

This is our generation’s opportunity to meditate on how we want our Jewish communities to look and function. I’ve heard a lot about shorter services and more online content, but it is also about how we look after one another better, and that we now can’t help but appreciate that our communities are part of  the greater world. 

What affects one affects all. As we mourn our losses, and adjust to new realities, let us also use this time to shape our future, a better one. 

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive