A. The 5th book of the Torah
B. The meaning of the 5th book
- Main meaning: add nothing, omit nothing to the Torah
- The warnings and teachings of the Torah
- The meaning of these historical events
Read the first verses in Hebrew
III Themes of the Parasha
- A lesson for our generation
- The priority: understanding our heritage
- The Talmud's "shock" formulation
- Rashi's teachings on the land of Israel
- The rest of the world and Israel
- How to live in Israel, according to Rashi
- The flowers of Rashi
- The Ramban
- Second Level: happiness closehand
- Exercise in memorization: Re-read the parasha in this
Read the commentaries of Rashi and reflect on them
Lo tishma el divre hanavi hahu
o el holem hahalom hahu
Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet
or unto that
dreamer of dreams
Listen to the Parasha chanted
Teanim ashkenazim (ORT link)
listen to the Haftara chanted
Teanim Ashkenazim (ORT link)
A. The 5th Book of the Torah
We begin the fifth book of the Torah, Devarim (Deuteronomy).
Devarim is a short book. As seen from the table below, it is
book no. 4 in terms of size.
II The meaning of the 5th book
Main meaning: "add nothing and omit nothing from the Torah"
This 5th book ends the written law.
It teaches us first and foremost that respect for the word of
God means to add nothing and to omit nothing from the Torah.
The Torah can never be an old testament that is supplanted by
a new testament. This is in total contradiction with the essence
of the Torah which is the word of God.
The Bible recognizes that there are other religions, and says
simply: "they have their gods" and it is not in conflict
with them. But the word of God cannot be changed by someone
who wishes to find a "new" meaning in his word, so
that he can become a "new" prophet, equal to God.
If Jews had studied and understood the text of the Torah, they
would not have been swayed by "new" movements which
tried to introduce new interpretations and new prophets. The
Torah itself condemns this.
It is even explicit on this point, because it is aware of man's
propensity to be swayed and that this is something that is eternal.
When we fall for temptation, we have no right to say we were
The Torah even gives us the example we should follow: the book
of Devarim begins by saying that Moshe abided by "all that
Hashem had given him in commandment, hekhol asher tziva Hashem"
It is not me therefore who warns against attempts to modify
the word of God, but chapter 13 of Devarim:
lo tosef-alav ve lo tigra mimemnu
"all that I have commanded, thou shalt not add or omit
--- men are easily tempted by the miraculous or the miraculous
theories that other religions offer,
--- there are always false prophets who try to use miracles
as proof that the Torah refers to "them" and not to
the sole message of Moshe;
--- these false prophets (who can be moral men) then develop
an alternative interpretation of the Torah in order to show
that the Torah refers everywhere to them.
The Torah responds to these attempts in two ways:
One) with a positive commandment
ve lo kam navi od beTisrael ke Moshe
"And there hath not risen a prophet since in Israel like
unto Moshe" (Devarim 34, 10). The revelation ended with
Moshe and all we need to know was transmitted by him.
Two) a warning (13, 2-4)
"ki yakum bekirbekha navi o holemhalom
And if there arise in the midst of thee a prophet or a dreamer
ve natan elekha ot o mofet
and he give thee a sign or a wonder
u va haot vehamofet asher diber elekha
and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto
lo tishma el divre hanavi hahu o el holem hahalom hahu
thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet or unto
that dreamer of dreams."
All Jews, who have a religious bent and are attracted by the
direct or disguised teachings of missionaries who work for messianic
movements, such as Jews for Jesus should:
One) read these texts,
Two) respect them, for they are the word of God,
Three) reject all the arguments put forward by these missionaries
(who always use the same tactic: you long for the Messiah, X
is the Messiah, he performs miracles and the Bible speaks of
him in such and such verse).
I often see, on my way to work, at Jerusalem's central bus
station Christian missionaries openly proselytizing, with the
Bible in their hands. They go for young people without a kippa,
for they consider them to be a-religious, and they launch into
this set discourse.
I also receive similar propaganda in the mail.
The missionaries then use the Jews they have seduced into their
fold as examples to bring others into their movement.
There are Jewish organizations that are combating this new form
of Shoah, which is being waged by Christians at a time when
official churches are talking of dialogue and reconciliation.
Note that the Vatican Council's declaration on missionary activity
explicitly mentions the missionary "duty" which "begins
in Jerusalem" as the condition for the salvation of the
There seems little point in talking of a dialogue between the
two religions, when such missionary activity persists.
The warnings and teachings of the Torah
The Torah teaches us that such events will take place and will
have 5 distinguishing features:
--- a prophet
--- a visionary
--- who will emerge from the ranks of the people
--- the miracles will be used to promote missionary work.
Indeed, this phenomenon took place many times in our history
and led to the creation of new religions which, as described
in the Torah, claim to be
--- a continuation of the Torah
--- which predicted their development.
In response, the Torah calls for fidelity and love:
lo tishma el divre hanavi hahu o el holem hahalom hahu
thou shalt not hearken unto that prophet or unto that dreamer
The meaning of these events: a test of
After having instructed and warned us about false prophets,
the Torah goes even further and gives us the meaning of these
events in 13, 4:
"ki menase Hashem Elokekhem etkhem ladaat ha yishekhem
for Hashem your God putteth you to proof, to know whether ye
do love Hashem
bekhol levavekhem uvekhol nafshekhem
with all your heart and with all your soul."
This tells us that those who let themselves be swayed
--- do so because their love of Hashem
--- is imperfect and not total.
Just as a man may love his wife but lets himself be seduced
by another woman: the love this man has for his wife is not
The Torah teaches us that such people do not know that it is
NORMAL for love to be tested this way in order to become even
and include this teaching of the Torah which they do not know;
--- then they will realize how they became the dupes of others
and of themselves,
--- they will understand that they had abandoned the words of
the Torah, for a new temptation,
--- and, by returning amidst their people, they will attain
a love that is not subject to uncontrollable urges, personal
projections, and confusion between the true word and illusions-visions-miracles.
Just like a man who, after having erred, understands exactly
what happened and why and runs back to his wife. The prophets
use the same metaphor in relation to God.
Many Jews erred in this way ; there are many forms of Shoah
(psychic, physical and often both), which find their victims
when they have lost their way, as seen in the words of Moshe.
Like the Jews in the desert, those who have erred should re-read
verses 1, 29-31:
"lo taaretzun velo tireune mehm
dread not, neither be afraid of them.
Hshem Elokekhem haholekh lifnekhem
Hashem, your God who goeth before you,
Hu yilahem lakhem
He shall fight for you,
according to all that He did for you in Egypt before your eyes.
And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that Hashem
thy God bore thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way
that ye went, until ye came unto this place."
Thus it is with love: after the first romantic encounter that
leads two people to live together, they begin a long process
of coming to terms with the reality of loving the real person
rather than the object of their needs or fantasies; and they
should not reproach one another for not living up to this fantasy.
This is when one discovers if one really loves the other person
totally, "with all our heart and all our soul."
Both partners will go through a difficult time before this takes
Sadly, many people do not realize that these are normal stages
of love, and they often flounder at this time, or flee to other
loves, in pursuit of their original fantasy.
The Jewish people are surrounded by false friends who use similar
tactics to persuade them to leave their people. Missionary work
is extremely well organized and does not depend on the talents
of one person or discourse.
A Jerusalem taxi driver told me an incredible story: as a young
child in occupied France, he was sent to safety, like other
Jewish children, in a convent: "my two Jewish friends who
were also sent there are now priests or nuns, but I had an aunt
who sewed my name in the hem of a jacket and, after the war,
she looked for me and found me through the jacket and was able
to get me out of the convent; the others were swallowed up."
Two Jewish victims of a Christian Shoah.
Adults can understand better the trials we have to overcome.
Annihilation: kill the witness
This problem also has a tragic aspect: when a person abandons
a love object, he or she often wants to kill it in order to
avoid culpability, and so the other person becomes the victim
who must be eliminated. Thus, religions which emerged from the
Torah and did not respect the words of chapter 13 (not to add
or omit anything) ended up "through an absurd love of God"
killing Jews in every century.
Today this takes on the new form of the battle against "the
judaisation of Jerusalem," which is an indirect way of
killing Jews. This concept, which was formulated during the
Congress of Churches of the Middle East held in Beirut, with
the collaboration of the PLO and a message of support from the
Vatican Secretariat, has now replaced the previous one of "internationalization
of Jerusalem." The two have the same goal: the annihilation
of the Jewish people.
The forms of annihilation are becoming more and more civilized,
but the strategy remains the same and we have been warned against
it by the Torah.
Let us now follow the path of the last book of the Torah.
III - Themes of the parasha
The following points are only a guide to help readers understand
the meaning of the text as they are reading it, which everyone
must do, even if it is in English.
In Chapter 1, until Devarim 2, 16, Moshe recounts the long list
of rebellions by the people, despite the deeds and promises
of Hashem that they will be given the land of Israel. The result
of their rebellion was that the annihilation of this entire
generation in the wilderness.
Then, from Devarim 2, 17, the reverse takes place: the people
behave correctly and want peace with their neighbors, but the
latter refuse and they are the ones who are annihilated.
The parasha ends with several promises
based on these lessons
--- you will find rest "after" these difficult trials;
--- you will acknowledge the heritage which Hashem gave you;
--- Hashem will protect you in the future as he did before;
--- you will not be afraid, for Hashem, your God, will fight
It may be reassuring to note that it is not the first time in
our history that we are confront the same situation of:
--- the rejection of the Torah by individual Jews;
--- and the rejection of our role by our neighbors.
This took place since the first generation and the Torah, which
knows "its Jews," gives them a detailed analysis of
this phenomenon and of the appropriate response.
A lesson for our generation
1. This problem has persisted ever since among our people, who
refuse to come to the land of Israel, even though Hashem says
we should (and we are not talking about coming on holiday or
to retire, for the Torah does not mean this). It talks about
coming "to live" (tihiyu) in Israel, not coming here
for a few days of fun, because Israel is "our heritage"
and we have a holy mission here.
2. We are not the first generation to be seduced by false prophets.
3. We are not the first generation to be surrounded by enemies
who use every possible strategy to stop us from realizing this
goal. After having waged war, and been defeated, these neighbors
then used a strategy of peace and pacifying declarations, but
the Torah has shown us that our ancestors were also similarly
seduced and were almost annihilated because they rejected their
We should not forget any of these teachings of the Torah.
The priority: understanding our heritage
Devarim is also called mishne Torah, which means "short
summary of the Torah" for its goal is to make us remember
and to warn us. The fact that the first theme of the book relates
to the land is a sign of its centrality. It stresses faith in
the promises of Hashem and a commitment to living in Israel
in order to live according to the Torah.
The Talmud's "shock" approach
Tractate Ketuvot 110 b elaborates on these teachings in a forceful
manner, and aims to "shock" us with these two statements
(positive and negative):
--- "she kol hadar beeretz dome kemi she yesh lo eloka
every (Jew) who lives in the land of Israel is like someone
who has Eloha" (a God)
--- "vekhol haddar be hutza laaretz, ein lo eloka`
and every (Jew) who lives outside of Israel does not have Eloha
she neemar 'latet lakhem et eretz kenaan liyot lakhem leelokim
as it is said, 'to give you the land of Canaan and to be your
and every (Jew) who does not live in the land of Israel does
not have God (Eloha), and this is written in order to teach
you this: that he who lives outside of Israel is like a person
who practices idolatry (oved avodat kohkavim)."
A lot of courage and sincerity is needed to study the Torah,
for the Torah detects those who are insincere.
The Talmud text explains here that anyone who lives in a foreign
culture inevitably absorbs the surrounding culture, its values,
its character, and its "gods" who are different to
the god of the Jews. So a person who does not choose the god
of the land of Israel makes a different choice, and is subjected
to influences against which he cannot defend himself. This is
called today, inevitable assimilation.
The Talmud draws the conclusion that "it is better to
live in the land of Israel in a city where the majority is non-Jewish,
than outside of Israel in a city which has a Jewish majority."
It answers in advance all those who claim that they can live
a life of Torah outside of Israel.
Rashi, on whom this commentary is based, takes up the same point
in his commentary on Vayikra 25, 38:
"haddar beeretz Yisrael, ani lo leelokim, vekhol hayotze
mimena ka oved avodat kokhavim
he who lives in the land of Israel, I am for him Elokim, and
every (Jew) who leaves it is like a person who practices idolatry."
The Flowers of Rashi
Rashi's teachings on the land of Israel
Keeping to this theme, let us study everything Rashi wrote on
the land of Israel. I will not make any comments, for every
reader should reflect and find his own meaning.
--- on Bereshit 16, 3 (Avraham's sojourn in Canaan): "This
indicates that the years of sojourn outside of the land (Israel)
have not been taken into account. God only told him" I
will make you a great people, when he was already in the land
--- on Bereshit 47, 29 (do not bury me in Egypt): "Egypt
whose land will one day be covered with vermin (during the plagues),
and mroeover the dead who are buried outside of Israel live
with the suffering of underground migrations that strive to
rejoin the land of Israel for the resurrection" (see Bereshit
--- on Vayikra 18, 28: (that the land spue not you out): "Eretz
Yisrael eina mekayemet overei avera
the land of Israel
does not accept those who defile it" (Rachi uses the same
verb ose as 25, 38 above: the Onkelos Targum interprets this
as "emptying," "rejecting."
--- on Vayikra 28, 12: regarding Yaakov's dream, Rashi stresses
the principle that one does not descend from a level of kedusha
(bakodesh maalin vela moridin, Zohar III: 162 b), saying: "the
angels who had accompanied him to the land of Israel could not
leave it, so they went up to heaven, on a ladder."
One must not leave the land of Israel; and the Sages discuss
at length whether someone who lives in Israel has the right
to leave it on trips which do not have the goal of disseminating
--- on Bamidbar 13, 17: Rashi predicts that we will first see
what is not good in Israel and then what is good will reveal
itself (this is an important teaching especially at this time
when many use the argument that the situation in Israel is not
good, in order not to come and live here): "Get you up
this way, said Moshe: this is the method of traders who first
show you cheap merchandise and then move on to the expensive
--- on Devarim 11, 10: Rashi says that the least beautiful
city in Israel is more beautiful than the most beautiful city
of Egypt (it is clear that he is not referring only to visual
--- on Devarim 33, 13: "from the moment Jerusalem was
chosen as the dwelling place for the shekhina, the shekhina
did not dwell anywhere else."
--- on Devarim 46, 6: "Yaakov said: the goods that come
from outside of Israel do not suit me."
--- on Yehoshua 15, 3: "Jerusalem is higher than all the
land of Israel."
--- on Isaiah 30, 2: "The land of Israel is higher than
all other countries" (see also Bereshit 45, 9, and Bamidbar
--- on Isaiah 45, 8: "The land of Israel which I prefer
to all others."
--- on Ezekiel 36, 2: "The land of Israel is the highest
the most beautiful point in al the world."
--- on Yoel 2, 21: "The land of Israel, if I return to
thee in repentance."
--- on Psalm 24, 1: "kaShel haaeretz ; to Hashem is the
land: the land of Israel."
--- on Psalm 132, 6: "the beit hamikdash (the Temple)
is higher than all the land of Israel."
--- on Job 5, 10: "He gives dew to the land: to the land
--- on Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 1, 4: "All the righteous
(tzaddikim) of the land of Israel are called eretz, land."
The nations of the world and the land of Israel
Clearly, day-to-day politics cannot only follow the Torah, but,
on the other hand, it is impossible to understand the history
of the land of Israel without referring to the teachings of
Thus, Rashi teaches us about the constant involvement of other
nations in the land of Israel, when he writes on Devarim 33,
17: "is it possible that each of the 31 kings who were
defeated by Yehoshua all reigned over the land of Israel? This
is to teach us that there is not a king or a governor who did
not acquire a palace or a piece of land in the land of Israel,
for it had great value to all of them."
He also says that kings fought among each other in order to
be able to allot names to different places in the land of Israel.
There is a similar custom today, when donors who give money
to Israel are allotted plaques in their names. Rashi says that
"this is in honor of this land."
Thus, the constant and obsessive preoccupation with Israel
by the nations of the world should not be seen solely as a form
of persecution or double game by the "friends" of
Israel: it is also a sign of true appreciation of the importance
of this land.
This phenomenon should motivate Jews to make aliya to Israel
and to live here according to the Torah.
The Arabs come every week in thousands to pray on the Temple
Mount in Jerusalem and they urge each other to do so, sometimes
numbering up to 200,000 to 300,000. In comparison, how many
Jews come to pray at the Western Wall, the shaar hashamayim,
gateway to heaven, though which their prayers will pass and
rise to heaven? Go check and see, and your heart will be moved.
Parasha Devarim should be read with the feelings of hope as
expressed by Moshe and Yehoshua.
Let us also think about Moshe's suffering as he gazed at the
landscape of Eretz Yisrael, in the knowledge that he would never
enter it, while we, who are so little deserving, have been accorded
This is why I have inserted on this site, devoted to the Torah,
images of the land of Israel and a listing of sites on life
in Israel. This is an intrinsic part of the Torah which is the
indissoluble union of divinity, land and people.
How to live in the land of Israel, according to Rashi
In Vayikra 20, 2 one finds an expression, am haaretz (the people
of the land), which has a negative connotation today, meaning
"ignorant brutes." I once saw a man curse a yeshiva
student, because he devoted a lot of time to the Torah, and
publicly humiliate him, calling him am haaretz. As noted in
the study of the episode of Balaam, the aggressor did not realize
that this term signifies great praise of the student for it
defines him as belonging to the "people of the Holy land."
As is written in the last verse of the parasha, even in the
evil words of the enemy Balaam, "God is fighting for you."
This is how it is for the many enemies of Israel; their attacks
against Israel turn into disaster for them and into victory
In fact, the expression am haaretz has a totally different
meaning, as Rashi comments:
"am shebegino nivret haaretz, am she atidin lirash haaretz
al-yede mitzvot allalu, am haaretz, it is a people by whose
merit the land was created, those who will inherit the land
through their mitzvot."
This is what one wishes for the inhabitants of this land --
that it should be for them the promised sanctuary. Amen.
Rashi is answering here the question many people are asking
today about Israel: has it been built on the right foundations,
- after the creation of the state, the edifice seems to be crumbling,
- the institutions built by the pioneers are no longer able
to transmit the old values and are cut off the traditions of
- many of those in power (often supported by leaders of the
diaspora) are ready to agree to a peace, which is determined
by Israel's enemies and which involves abandoning our heritage.
Rashi tells us two things:
- those who build the land of Israel, it is as if they created
it: respect them;
- those who will secure our heritage are those who will live
here and keep the mitzvot.
Rashi elaborates on Vayikra Rabba 36, 4: "the heavens
and the earth were created only because of Israel, for it is
written 'in the beginning Elokim created the heavens and the
earth,'and we know that 'beginning'refers to Israel."
Rashi explains this at length in his first commentary on the
If Rashi begins his commentary on the Torah with these words,
it means they are extremely important and helps us understand
why Moshe begins his review of the Torah in Devarim with the
Ribbi Moshe ban Nahman, known as the Ramban or Nahmanides, (the
glory of Sephardi scholarship 1194-1270), also begins his commentary
of the book of Devarim with these words: all this "so that
man may not say: I cannot take possession of the land (Israel)."
May the wisdom of these Sages, and the courage they displayed
in maintaining hope from generation to generation, help all
of us at this critical time in the history of the land of Israel.
Hope and happiness at close-hand
Let us end with a divine confidence that warms our hearts. I
say "confidence" for the Torah creates a divine bond
between the Creator and His people whom He loves on His land
which He loves.
We know that the message of the Torah is transmitted by:
- studying with 1's whole being, which includes the circumcision,
for mila also means word,
- the study of 2 laws which are one; the oral and the written
- the study of the 3 forms of the Torah: sefer (letters), sipur
(story), and sefar (numbers),
- the 4 levels of interpretation found in the word pardes (peshat,
remez, drash, sod),
- passing from study to action and halakha,
- the many sparks that emerge from the midrashim,
Ribbi Yaakov Abuhatzera adds an important teaching, based on
sefer (letters). He says that the book of Devarim is more than
a review of the Torah, it is its apex. This state is called
in Hebrew malkhut (royalty). Those who have studies this concept
will understand the meaning. You will also remember the self-development
which we underwent during the Omer in order to attain this state
of "royal perfection," malkhut.
This is shown in:
- the first 2 words of the parasha: ele hadevarim (these are
the things, the words..),
- the next 5 words: asher diber Moshe el kol Yisrael (which
Moshe spoke unto all Israel) have a numerical value (gematria)
of 496, which is the same as that of malkhut, royal perfection.
In addition, the letters of the word Yisrael mean, inter alia,
li rosh "for me this head," which signifies that the
people of Israel are the center of God's divine plan. This meaning
is transmitted in the sefer (letters), sipur (narrative), and
sefar (numbers according to the Hebrew letters) of the text.
Indeed, the gematria of rosh is the same as that of hamalkhut,
which is 501. The meaning of the Torah is therefore "numbered"
into the text, just like a code.
These formulations have been transmitted by tradition and no
one has the right to play around with gematriot or false Torah
So if we know how to read the Torah, we can see from the first
verse of this parasha, that we are close to this goal of perfection
and wholeness to which we aspire for ourselves, for the people
of Israel, and for all creation. The Torah was given to us so
that we would learn to see happiness that is often invisible
to those who do not know how to see with their heart, or to
those who have not yet understood the treasure of their Jewish
tradition. "Modia," I make known, said He who gave
us His Torah.
He who wishes to study, can do so, for we received the tradition
of the Torah. Let us study with joy.
Exercise in memorization:
learn by hear these important expressions:
lo tosefalav ve lo tigra mimenu
Do not add or omit anything (from the Torah).
Eretz Yisrael eina mekayemet overei avera
The land of Israel does not accept those who defile it.
Re-read the whole parasha in this perspective.
Discuss your thoughts with those who are close to you.
Look up the relevant commentaries of Rashi and reflect on them.