This Parsha begins the last of the Five Books of The Torah, Sefer Devarim. This Book is also called Mishneh Torah, "Repetition of the Torah" (hence the Greek/English title Deuteronomy). Sefer Devarim relates what Moshe told Bnei Yisrael during the last five weeks of his life, as they prepared to cross the Jordan into Eretz Yisrael. Moshe reviews the mitzvot, stressing the change of lifestyle they are about to undergo: from the supernatural existence of the desert under Moshes guidance to the apparently natural life they will experience under Yehoshuas leadership in the Land.
The central theme this week is the sin of the spies, the meraglim. The Parsha opens with Moshe alluding to the sins of the previous generation who died in the desert. He describes what would have happened if they hadnt sinned by sending spies into Eretz Yisrael. Hashem would have given them without a fight all the land from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates, including the lands of Ammon, Moav and Edom. He details the subtle sins that culminate in the sin of the spies, and reviews at length this incident and its results. The entire generation would die in the desert; Moshe would not enter Eretz Yisrael. He reminds them that their immediate reaction to Hashems decree was to want to "go up and fight" to redress the sin. He recounts how they wouldnt listen when he told them not to go, that they no longer merited vanquishing their enemies miraculously. They ignored him and suffered a massive defeat. They were not allowed to fight with the kingdoms of Esav, Moav or Ammon these lands were not to be part of the map of Eretz Yisrael in the meantime. When the conquest of Canaan will begin with Sichon and Og, it will be via natural warfare.
A Tisha B'Av Steak Dinner
“And these are the words…” (1:1)
A story is told of a kosher restaurant in Manhattan whose cordon was so bleu that most of its non-Jewish patrons didn’t even realize – or care – that is was glatt kosher. Few of them noticed the small and impeccable kashrut certificateover the bar, and those who did, mistook it for an amusing piece of bric-a-brac.
Very often the non-Jewish patrons outnumbered the Jewish ones. In fact, one day there was but one Jewish diner, a quiet and unassuming man with a yarmulke on his head who sat in a side-booth nursing a lemon tea which he refilled from time to time.
Actually some of the patrons were not only not-Jewish but distinctly anti-Jewish. Quite an irony.
Into the restaurant came a large red-faced man draped in an air of power and assurance. He eyed the Jew with an unconcealed look of disdain and loathing. He stood near the Jew and said to the head-waiter in a louder than necessary voice, “I want to order a bottle of Scotch for everyone in this restaurant.” The Maître D’ ran over to him and said, “Do you know how much a bottle Scotch costs in this restaurant?”
“A bottle of Scotch for everyone in this restaurant… except for the Jew!” he said, pointing in the Jew’s direction. The bottles of Scotch were duly dispatched.
Seemingly unmoved, the Jew poured a little more lemon tea into his cup. The non-Jew’s face darkened to a deeper red.
“I want to order a 700 gram filet mignon steak for everyone in this restaurant.” Again the Maître D’ interposed, “That’s two hundred dollars a plate!” “…for everyone in this restaurant except the Jew!”
A few more sips of tea from the Jew.
The non-Jew was now seething with rage.
“Everyone in this restaurant gets the most expensive dessert on the menu and doggie-bags to take home what they can’t eat… except for the Jew!”
The Jew sat totally impassive as vast amounts of out-of-season strawberries coiffed with an outrageous pompadour of sorbet and chocolate made their way between the tables.
The non-Jew could stand no more. He went over to the Jew and hissed through his teeth, “Who are you?”
“I’m the owner,” he replied.
The nations of the world condemn us, they accuse us; they abuse us verbally and physically, but we the Jewish People must remember that in the end everything they do is for us.
Tisha B’Av is the saddest day in the year, the day when the nations of the world have vented their fury on us. They burned both of our Holy Temples. They massacred us at Beitar on Tisha B’Av. In 1492 Spain turned us out into the merciless wilds on that day, and on that day in 1942 the first transports left the Warsaw Ghetto bound for Treblinka.
And yet that saddest day of the year is also the birth date of the Mashiach, the Anointed One, the scion of King David, who will return the Kingship to the Jewish People, and all the nations of the world will then realize that everything they did against us was really paying for our Tisha B’Av steak dinner.