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  • August 2, 2014

    Shabbat Hazon - D'varim, Deuteronomy 1:1−3:22

    By Rabbi Shira Milgrom for ReformJudaism.org


    Deuteronomy: Becoming the Master Storytellers



    The Passover Haggadah famously distinguishes between the wise and wicked children by the singular choice of the wise child to identify with the story: "It is because of what the Eternal did for us [me] when I came out of Egypt." At the very core of the Jewish enterprise is the willingness to take the story of our people as our own personal story.

    The decision to frame the people's narrative as our very own is the way the Book of Deuteronomy opens. The Torah speaks through the voice of Moses: "The Eternal our God spoke to us at Horeb" (Deuteronomy 1:6); "We set out from Horeb" (1:19); "When we reached Kadesh-barnea (1:20), and so on. Were we to read the text on its surface (p'shat) level, we would have a problem here. We already learned that the people who stood at Horeb (Sinai) perished in the desert. Those who escaped from Egypt, who stood at Mt. Sinai, who traveled to Kadesh-barnea, who complained day and night, and who finally decided to go back to Egypt following the doom and gloom testimony of ten of the twelve scouts—that generation died out in the desert (1:34-36). To whom is Moses speaking? Presumably, he is speaking to the next generation. This generation did not stand at Sinai; they were not at Kadesh-barnea. The Book of Deuteronomy has taken the fantastic leap into Jewish storytelling: Yes! We did stand at Horeb. Yes! We were at Kadesh-barnea! Yes, yes, yes! This story is ours.

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