The last book of the Chumash differs in tone and content than the previous books of the Chumash. Most of the book concerns itself with the final oration of Moshe. This oration is a combination of history and prophecy. Moshe reviews for Israel, especially for the new younger generation that did not live through the Egyptian experience of slavery and deliverance. The telling of the story is particularly necessary in order to place their own personal lives and the campaign to conquer the Land of Israel, on which they are about to embark, in context. But Moshe speaks not only to that generation. He peers down the long corridor of Jewish history and speaks to us as well.
He warns of the difficulties that settling in the Land of Israel will bring to the Jewish people. He negates the idea that adopting the local culture, becoming part of the Middle East, will bring any peace, security or spiritual gain to the Jewish people. He senses that Israel will stray from the path of Torah to find for itself strange, new gods, attractive to the eye and politically correct to the mind. He thus accurately predicts that Israel will not be able to survive interminably as a national entity in the Land of Israel because of its rejection of Torah and its holy value system.
In Moshe’s words and tone, exile, dispersion and Jewish wandering become almost a foregone conclusion. Moshe’s warnings were not enough to forestall the eventual collapse of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah in First Temple times and of Judea in the Second Temple era. The predicted disasters occurred just as he predicted that they would.
But Moshe is not ready to give up on the Jewish people. And apparently neither is God, so to speak. Eventually, the Jewish people will come to their senses and forsake all of the foreign ideologies and cultures that have so badly served them. Moshe sees “the end of days”, when Israel is oppressed, isolated and in great difficulty, that a process of return will take place. There will be a return to the Land of Israel, a return to the God of Israel and the observance of His Torah, and a return to its own vision, values and destiny.
It is not clear whether this process of return is meant to be instantaneous or will take place gradually over time and generations. But Moshe assures us that this process of return is certain and that the entire lesson of the book of Dvarim is that this panorama of Jewish history is part of God’s will, so to speak, for Israel and the world.
Because of the importance of this subject matter and its relevance to our generation and times particularly, it behooves us to listen intently and concentrate on the words of Dvarim. The process of Jewish history and eventual return is as Moshe himself states in Dvarim, “it is no empty matter”. The Torah comments upon our current situation. We will do well to hearken to its words and message during the coming weeks when Dvarim is read in the synagogue.
Rabbi Berel Wein Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com