I'd like to blame the lag in writing this week on the amount of Torah I've been chanting these weeks. The time I would usually spend on the blog has been devoted to practice. But I'm taking a few moments here for some words--devarim--on Devarim/Deuteronomy, the last book of the Torah that's now at the forefront.
Basically, Devarim is one long sermon--Moshe pouring his heart and soul out to these people he's lead for forty years. It's his last chance to speak with them--they're going on to "the Land," he is not. So while some people find it repetitious and preachy, I'm drawn to the emotion behind the words and the directness of the language.
Chanting the Hebrew, I'm very aware of Moshe speaking to you--you, the people and you, each individual. There's not much of the standard "God spoke to Moses and said...." that you get in Bamidbar/Numbers. It's more like "God told you, God showed you, God will guide you." Moshe wants us all to hear, to listen, to understand. It's no coincidence that the Shema--the prayer closest to our hearts and souls, is first spoken in Devarim.
Yes, there is a lot of fire and brimstone--and a lot of "If you don't obey...."; the consequences are grave and long-lasting. But the covenant assures that we are not forsaken. There's always a path back with guidance along the way, using Torah as our map.
Devarim is the book that draws me in. I can remove myself from the stories--it's about them in that time, not me, now. But in Devarim, Moshe speaks to me--I am part of the "you." Reading it at this time of the year helps prepare me for the reflection of Elul and the reckoning of the High Holidays. And as I continue to study, it brings me new personal spiritual insights that I then bring to the next yearly cycle.