DE­VARIM

The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism - RABBI MIRIAM BERGER

“Be­cause of you the Lord was in­censed with me, too and He said: ‘You shall not en­ter it [the Land] ei­ther’”

WHETHER you read the To­rah us­ing aca­demic source crit­i­cism or as di­rect rev­e­la­tion from God at Si­nai, the book of Deuteron­omy is a syn­op­sis of the other books of the To­rah.

Parashat De­varim sets the tone of Moses’ mono­logue. His warn­ing to the Chil­dren of Is­rael, his teach­ing of how they are meant to be­have when they set­tle in the Promised Land, is based on the premise of what life could have been like if they had not sinned in the wilder­ness.

The sins that he men­tions are part of the cul­ture of the so­ci­ety they cre­ated; lack of faith in God’s guid­ance, com­plaints about qual­ity of life af­ter the Ex­o­dus, the pes­simism of the 10 spies who be­lieved the Land of Is­rael be­yond their reach — “You would not go up but re­belled against the com­mand­ment of the Lord... you did not be­lieve the Lord, your God” (Deuteron­omy 1:26-32).

It feels some­what chutz­pahdik on Moses’s part to be preach­ing to the Chil­dren of Is­rael in this way be­cause the mono­logue is also his farewell speech.

Moses has to give these warn­ings be­cause he will not be there to lead the peo­ple since he has for­gone his own right to en­ter into the Land of Is­rael through his own sin. He is quick to re­mind the peo­ple of their col­lec­tive sin and the re­sult­ing pun­ish­ment but he does not cite his own pun­ish­ment as a les­son.

To­day, as we un­ravel the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Prime Min­is­ter, lead­ing po­lice of­fi­cers and even the jour­nal­ists them­selves in the phone hack­ing scan­dal, per­haps we are do­ing the op­po­site and only ac­knowl­edg­ing the sin of the in­di­vid­ual and ig­nor­ing the en­demic cul­tural sin of the col­lec­tive — the thirst for the sen­sa­tion­alised story.

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