Torah Portion: Devarim (Words) Deut. 1:1-3:11
HafTorah: Isaiah 1:1-27
First a few words about this fifth book of the Torah. It is the last book of the Torah. It is introduced with, “These are the words of Moses.” So in this book Moses speaks in the first person. In all the other books the pattern was, “G-d said.” Here it is, “I spoke.” Moses recounts the last 40 years in the desert. Remember all of those people were either not born yet or very young at the time of leaving Egypt. So Moses recounts some of the things that transpired in the wilderness. There were some things he does not mention which we may talk about in a few minutes. It took Moses over a month to deliver this farewell speech to the people. (remember he can see his own death here and senses the importance of what he is saying.)
This Sabbath is also called the Sabbath of Vision. It is always read right before the 9th of Av, which begins at sundown Monday. It has this name because the readings from the prophets is Isaiah 1:1-27, which opens with the words, “The vision of Isaiah.” It is thought that on this day G-d grants a vision of the 3rd Temple to every Jew. I would like us to take a little time and talk about vision and its application to us in our lives. We see this word in several places in scripture. In Daniel 10:7 Daniel saw a vision but the people with him did not see it. Yet they must have felt the spiritual force of what Daniel saw. However, the vision was for him. In Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” It is the same word in Hebrew in all of these places. In Proverbs we read that chaos reigns. So it is pretty clear that vision is important to us spiritually. Why is that and does G-d have a vision for each of us? I think so. Why? Without a vision, a personal vision, we can become like a ship without a rudder. A vision for our life gives us direction. The rabbis teach that on this Shabbat as G-d gives this vision of the 3rd temple, the people are to see it as a fact. It already is, even if not visible in our limited physical sight. So it is with us. When G-d gives us a vision for what He has for us we should see it as already a fact spiritually. Our only issue is to take those steps shown to us by G-d to bring this vision about in our lives practically. This involves taking steps to plow the ground, plant the seed and be ready to harvest the crop. We may have to educate ourselves by going to school, change the way we live our lives, or learn a new skill to bring G-d’s vision into reality for us.
In many ways this is where Israel failed in their first attempt to enter the land. In D’Varim 1:21 we read , “which the L-rd our G-d has given you.” In Hebrew the word for give is natan. Here in this verse it appears in the past tense. So it says G-d has already given you this land. All you have to do is cross over and possess it. G-d has already won the battle for you. Catch the vision and possess it. Maybe that is why Moses closes the verse with, “Do not be dismayed, hold fast to what G-d has given you.” But we all know what happened. They could not catch G-d’s vision for them so they wandered for 40 years.
Later we see this new generation faced with a similar situation in D’Varim 2:31-34 where they face Sichon the Amorite king. G-d again says, “Go and inherit the land.” They follow this vision and defeat the Amorites. Then in Verse 34 we read that Israel kills all the men, women and children. An interesting point is that the word for “man” in this verse is “matim” which means dead. These people were already dead in the vision of G-d. Israel seizes on this and wins the war. G-d promises a vision for each of us and assures the outcome. All we have to do is go in and possess it.
My prayer for each of us is that we grasp G-d’s vision for us. That we can walk in the spiritual sight that G-d gives us and hold on to our vision. Other people may not understand, like the people with Daniel, and may even try to discourage you but you hold onto G-d’s vision for you.