Life Lessons from the Torah Portion: Dvarim

Where are we?

Moshe Kempinski,

Judaism Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski
צילום: PR

The Torah portion of Dvarim is always read before the fast day of Tisha B'Av (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av) that commemorates the destruction of the first and second temple. This is mainly due to the fact that in this Torah portion we are reminded again of the sin of the spies that occurred exactly on the Ninth day of Av (Tisha B'Av).

At the borders of the biblical land of Israel Moshe wanted the twelve scouts to explore the land reveal its greatness and bring back tidings of its promise. Ten of these men did not have the vision to do that. All they saw was their own unworthiness, “And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight." (Numbers 13:33 ).

They were stymied by their own fears and insecurities; “You murmured in your tents and said, Because Hashem hates us, He took us out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand[s] of the Amorites to exterminate us." (Deuteronomy 1:27)


The sages in tractate Taanit ( 29a) state that the children of Israel cried a Bichiya Shel Chinam,(a baseless weeping) on that night so  Hashem responds by saying, “You cried for nothing, in the future, this day of Tisha B’av ( the ninth day of the month of Av) is appointed for tragedies and real weeping.

Their failure was based on their faulty view of themselves. Their impaired vision of "we were in our own sight as grasshoppers" weakened them in their journey into destiny.

That same impaired vision continues to stymie and hinder many segments in our population and of our leadership to throughout our history and continues to keep great portions of our people in exile.

There is another dramatic and instructive connection between the reading of Parshat Dvarim and Tisha B’Av.

In the Torah portion, Moshe begins to give over his last instructions to his people. In the midst of these final words he includes teaching, rebuke and hope to his people a mere thirty seven  days before he passes away. All his words become critical baggage as his people begin their thousands of years of voyage and destiny.

Moshe declares to his people;


 How ( Eicha ) can I bear your trouble, your burden, and your strife all by myself?( Deuteronomy1:12)

The purpose of this statement was a declaration of faith to those who may end up losing their faith in the uncertain future. Moshe was not complaining but rather offering a rhetorical question. " How can I bear all your burden by myself? Moshe is saying” I could not have done all that without the help of G-d”. That will be important for the people of Israel to remember in their own history. They  must remember all their failures,  successes and miracles and by so doing  recognize that G-d was an active participant in that whole voyage. It is all about opening up their eyes and looking around the place where they are standing.


The use of the word Eicha in verse 12 is not coincidental.

We in fact see the use of that word again  to begin the lamentations that we recite on the eve of the Ninth of Av ,"O how ( Eicha ) has the city that was once so populous remained lonely! "( Lamentations 1:1)

We see the use of the same word in the book of Isaiah when  the prophet discusses the results of moving away from G-d's purpose;

“But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword, for the mouth of Hashem spoke.How has ( Eicha)  she become a harlot, a faithful city; full of justice, in which righteousness would lodge, but now murderers”:( Isaiah 1:20-21)

What then unites those three verses? What is the thread that is woven between them alluded to by the use of the word Eicha

We perceive that in all those situations, calamity follows when the awareness of G-d's presence is discounted or ignored. In truth G-d is always ever present but the people are not.

To understand this we need to explore one more time where a word that is spelled exactly the same way as Eicha ( Alepo Yud Chaf Heh) is used.

After failing with the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve try to hide from G-d.

At that point Hashem calls out to them "And Hashem God called to man, and He said to him, "Where are you ( Ayecha) ?"( Genesis 3:9)


Hashem did not need Adam and Eve to tell Him where they were hiding. He in fact wanted them to begin to ask themselves the same question.

Where are we?

Where have you drifted off to?

Where can we reconnect to the roots and anchor of who we are meant to be?

That is a question that is being asked of us every day of our lives. At times the question sears like a flaming coal like on Tisha B’Av. At other times it is a gentle reminder. At all times we need to ponder where are we standing on the path of our growth? When we determine the answer to that question, we are ready to move forward.

 Otherwise we will continue to stumble.


LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved