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Devarim 5761

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 and 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!


July 28th, Saturday 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 62 years later, 132 CE.

  5. The expulsion of the Jews of England in 1290.

  6. The expulsion of the 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

When Moses could no longer bear the burden of judging the Jewish people alone, he followed his father-in-law's advice and appointed judges. The Torah tells us that Moses said, "And I commanded your judges at that time saying, 'listen amongst your brothers' " (Deuteronomy 1:16). Why did Moses tell them to listen amongst their brethren?

Rashi cites the Sifri (a Midrash) that Moses told the judges to be patient and deliberate in each case that came before them. Even if they had similar cases in the past, they should discuss the present case thoroughly.

Every case is different from any other, and each case should be viewed as entirely new and every detail considered. This applies whenever you become involved in settling quarrels between people. Of course, there are patterns that anyone with experience will recognize, but there will always be factors that make each situation unique. Do not jump to conclusions.

Rather, listen carefully to both sides. Just because one solution worked in a past situation does not mean that it will automatically be effective in a situation that is quite similar though a little bit different. One needs to be creative and flexible. Whenever you try to help people settle quarrels, give the matter your full attention to see what needs to be said and done in this specific situation. By doing this, you will have the merit of bringing peace to many more people than if you rigidly try the exact same approach each time. Why did Moses tell the judges to listen to their brethren? Only by truly listening will they hear the important details that make the case unique.

(or go to

Jerusalem  7:04
Guatemala 6:15  Hong Kong 6:48  Honolulu 6:54
J'Burg 5:20  London 8:38  Los Angeles 7:40
Melbourne 5:10  Miami 7:52  Moscow 8:28

New York 7:59  Singapore  6:58


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

In Honor of
3 Very Special Rabbis
in Bay Terrace, Queens
Rabbi Hyman Levine,
Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky
Rabbi Shlomo Blickstein

With Great Appreciation!
Tom Raskin

1 2 3 2,899

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