Friday, July 20, 2007

What is Missing from Deuteronomy

R. Jay Kelman, in this week's Devar Torah, not yet available on the web:

Each one of the five books of the Chumash has a unique central theme(s), be it the choosing of the Jewish nation, redemption, Torat kohanim or missed opportunities. A quick perusal of Sefer Devarim, both its law and narrative, will quickly reveal that the main message of this last book of Chumash is Moshe Rabbeinu preparing his beloved people for entry into the land of Israel (finally)...

The 200 mitzvot recorded in Devarim focus primarily on our national institutions - our political and judicial system, the laws of war, social justice. Even the many laws of marriage are connected to the theme of creating a uniquely Jewish society, hence the prohibition in this context of intermarriage. Even the holidays mentioned are only those which we have an obligation to celebrate in Jerusalem.

Despite the focus on the land of Israel there is barely a mention of the Temple nor any laws of sacrifices. How strange yet how profound. Apparently the Temple is not integral to setting up a just society. Rather it is the natural outgrowth and culmination of creating such a society. We must focus on ensuring the total honesty of our business dealings (25:13), appointing judges of complete integrity fearful of none but G-d (1:17), a social welfare system second to none, maintaining our moral values even in war time (20:19), preserving Jewish unity (14:1), compassion towards the less fortunate (16:14), not encroaching on the rights of others (19:14) - all the above and so much more being mentioned in Devarim. If we succeed the Temple will take care of itself.

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