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Devarim 2014

The book of Devarim is known in English as Deuteronomy from the Greek deuteros nomos, or "second law" -- itself a translation of the early rabbinic name for the book, namely Mishneh Torah.

The book represents the speeches of Moses in the last month of his life. He addresses the next generation, those who will be fortunate enough to cross the Jordan and enter the promised land. He reviews the history of Israel after leaving Egypt and recapitulates the main contents of the Law. Early on (in next week's sedra) he repeats the Ten Commandments. Towards the end, he renews the covenant between the people and G-d. The book is a "repetition of the Law" - hence Mishneh Torah in Hebrew, deuteros nomos in Greek.

Words are our medium of prayer. Each time we pray the Amidah, we begin by saying “O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth shall declare Your praise”.

We open our mouths but the words we utter do not come from us – we ask that they come through us. The kabbalists describe bitul as the spiritual state associated with one's consciousness opening up to a continuous flow of Divine wisdom by nullifying his sense of autonomy. Bitul is the experience of being nothing when compared to the presence of Hashem. For prophets and everyone except Moses, bitul is partial, never complete. Of Moses it is said that his words, devarim, were the words of G-d. It was precisely because he said "I am not a man of words" that he became the man of Devarim, the one whose words were not his own but those of the Divine presence, speaking through his lips.

Through history, as powers great and small crumble, dynasties fading into history, words prove more powerful than power, and more lasting than land.                                  

Warren Hyer

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