The Shabbat on which Parashat D’varim, “things” or “words,” is read is called Shabbat Chazon, a Shabbat of Vision, in referrence to the vision of the prophet Yeshayahu, which is described in this Haftarah.
The fifth and final book of the Torah, words, begins 37 days before Mosheh was to die, during the 40th year since the Exodus from Egypt. Unlike the previous four books of the Torah, Mosheh is the speaker in Deuteronomy. Mosheh begins his final words of instruction to the Children of Israel. According to the midrash, all 600,000 people, Kol Israel, heard Moses’ speech as if it were spoken directly to them. Focusing first on recounting their physical journey, reviewing the events that occurred during their 40 years journey from Egypt to Sinai, leaving Sinai, appointing leaders, Mosheh reviews the people’s reactions to the negative reports of the spies and the rebellion at Kadesh Barnea, the price they had to pay, the wilderness years, the defeat of their enemies Sichon and Og, the allotment for the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menasheh. The appointment of Joshua to succeed him and in charge of leading the Israelite in the conquest of the Promised Land. Mosheh reiterates that the Land of Israel was allocated to the Israelite tribes.
Parashat D’varim is always read on the Sabbath just before Tisha B’Av.
Tisha B’Av “the ninth of Av” is an annual fast day in Judaism, on which a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of both Solomon’s Temple by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in Jerusalem.
Tisha B’Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and it is thus believed to be a day which is destined for tragedy.
The Talmud (Yoma 9b) teaches that one of the reasons for the destruction of the Temple was the sin of baseless hatred between Jews. Many times such hatred has its origins in forbidden forms of speech, such as gossip and painful words.
Proverbs 18:21 states, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”
Socrates and the Triple filter test
One day, in ancient Greece, an acquaintance met the great philosopher Socrates and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”
“Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”
“That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“No,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and.”
“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”
“No, on the contrary…”
“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”
“No not really …”
“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”
As Tisha B’Av draws near, it would be appropriate to use the days ahead to contemplate this lesson about the significance of our words and to attempt to rectify the sins which caused the Temple’s destruction.
2 Mitzvot in parashat D’varim
|1. Not to appoint judges who are not familiar with judicial procedure Deut. 1:17
2. The judge must not fear a violent man in judgment Deut. 1:17