Rebuke and Revelation

Rabbi Aviva Richman

Parashat Devarim

In Parashat Devarim, Moshe gives an account of Torah, reframing the journey in the desert for the next generation that will enter the land. Some commentaries find not so subtle subtexts in Moshe’s introductory remarks that create a bleak picture of Israel’s propensity to sin. Parashat Devarim always falls before Tisha b’Av, and this motif of rebuke aligns with a day that brings failures and destruction to the forefront of our minds. But taken in context, as the beginning of Moshe’s final speech to the people, an emphasis on sin is a depressing frame for a recapitulation of Torah. Perhaps the focus on rebuke is meant to motivate the people to be more careful in their actions. Even so, some interpretations veer away from a theology that constantly points a finger at our failures. Instead, we encounter a sense of God who takes responsibility to proactively steer humanity towards success. (5782)