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Devarim 5760

Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  I thought that the beautiful little piece that follows is particularly appropriate for Tisha B'Av as so much pain, suffering, even destruction comes through speech.


A careless word may kindle strife:
A cruel word may wreck a life,
A bitter word may hate instill:
A brutal word may smite and kill,
A gracious word may smooth the way:
A joyous word may light the day,
A timely word may lessen stress:
A loving word may heal and bless!


August 9, Wednesday evening starting at sunset, begins Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av. It is the saddest day in the Jewish year. On this same day throughout history many tragedies befell the Jewish people, including:

  1. The incident of the spies slandering the land of Israel with the subsequent decree to wander the desert for 40 years.

  2. The destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem by Nevuchadnetzar, King of Babylon.

  3. The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.

  4. The fall of Betar and the end of the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans.

  5. The expulsion of Jews of England in 1290.

  6. The expulsion Jews of Spain in 1492.

Tisha B'Av is a fast day (like Yom Kippur, from one evening until the next evening) which culminates a three week mourning period by the Jewish people. One is forbidden to eat or drink, bathe, use moisturizing creams or oils, wear leather shoes or have marital relations. The idea is to minimize pleasure and to let the body feel the distress the soul should feel over these tragedies. Like all fast days, the object is introspection, making a spiritual accounting and correcting our ways -- what in Hebrew is called, Teshuva, returning, to the path of good and righteousness.

Teshuva is a four part process:

  1. We must recognize what we have done wrong and regret it.

  2. We must stop doing the transgression and correct whatever damage that we can.

  3. We must accept upon ourselves not to do it again.

  4. We must verbally ask the Almighty to forgive us.

On the night of Tisha B'Av we read in the synagogue Eicha, the book of Lamentations, written by the prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah). We also say Kinot, special poems recounting the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people.

Learning Torah is the heart, soul and lifeblood of the Jewish people. It is the secret of our survival. Learning leads to understanding and understanding leads to doing. One cannot love what he does not know. Learning Torah gives a great joy of understanding life. On Tisha B'Av we are forbidden to learn Torah except those parts dealing with the calamities which the Jewish people have suffered. We must stop, reflect, change ourselves and only then will we be able to make a better world.

You will find The Complete Tisha B'Av Service by Rabbis Avrohom Chaim Feuer and Avie Gold helpful to understand the day and the service. Available at your local Jewish bookstore or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.

Portion of the Week


This week we begin the last of the Five Books of Moses, Deuteronomy (which is the Greek name for the book of Devarim --as it is called in the original Hebrew). The Book is the oration of Moses (Moshe) before he died. It is the preparation of the Jewish people for entering and living in the Land of Israel. Moshe reviews the history of the 40 years of wandering the desert and gives rebuke so that the Jewish people will learn from their mistakes. It is always good to give reproof right before one dies. People are more inclined to pay attention and to take it to heart.

Moshe recalls what happened at Mt. Sinai, the appointment of judges and administrators, the story of the spies, the prohibition to attack Edom and Moav, the defeat of the Kings Sichon and Og, and how the land of Gilad was given to the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of the tribe of Menashe.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

In recounting the incident of the people wanting to send spies to find out whether they could conquer the Land of Israel, Moshe says, "And all of you approached me, and said, 'Let us send people before us to explore the Land for us.' " Rashi, the great commentator, states that this means that the people came to Moshe in a disorderly manner. Children were pushing the elders and the elders were pushing the children. What difference does it make that they came in a disorderly manner? And why is it mentioned in conjunction with the offense of the acceptance of the slander of the spies about the land and the refusal to listen to the Almighty's command to enter the land?

Rabbi Yitchok of Volozhin elucidates that the people might have tried to mitigate their insistence on sending the spies by saying that the idea was good, but the project went astray. Moshe was telling them that the very fact that they came pushing and shoving, without derech eretz (proper manners), that there was something wrong with the project right from the start. People who are involved in a project that is truly proper will have appropriate derech eretz at the beginning of the venture. Since they acted rudely and unruly, they should realize that they were doing something wrong.

Our lesson: We must be aware that if we want people to agree with a project that we wish to engage in, we must speak with proper honor and respect. And if we find that we are not speaking with proper honor and respect, then we should be aware that our motivation is not on the right level!

Our Aish Center in Kiev was recently torched and seriously damaged by anti-Semites (two Sefer Torahs were burnt!). Details are on the Aish website, under: Jewish Issues --"Fighting Fire with Fire."

If you would like to join with Jews around the world to rebuild the synagogue and center in Kiev, please contact Russell Myers at (905) 764-1818 ext. 227, email: or send checks payable to: Aish HaTorah Russian Program to 949 Clark Ave. W. Thornhill, ON L4J 8G6 Canada. U.S. and Canadian tax receipts will be issued.


Jerusalem 6:58   Miami 7:48  New York 7:51
L.A. 7:33  Hong Kong 6:49  Singapore 6:58
Guatemala  6:16  Honolulu   6:51  J'Burg 5:23
Melbourne 5:17  Moscow 8:12  London 8:26
Atlanta 8:18  Toronto 8:20  Montreal 8:03


It is your attitude,
not your aptitude,
that determines your altitude!

Dedicated by...

In Loving Memory of
my mother
Rachel bas Yaacov
-- Sol Zuckerman

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