Below is a collection of Parashat Devarim resources created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
This is a growing collection. Check back soon or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you didn’t find what you’re looking for.
DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Question #1: Sefer Devarim is a review of key events during the past forty years in the desert and also many of the mitzvot. This is Moses’s message to the generation who is about to enter the Land of Israel. They will need to build a nation in their own land. The first mitzvah Moses teaches is about having judges and a system of justice. A judge must be fair and just.
Why do you think these are the first mitzvot that Moses teaches? What makes a good judge and why is this important for nation-building?
Look inside the text: (Devarim 1:15-17),
וָאֶקַּח אֶת רָאשֵׁי שִׁבְטֵיכֶם אֲנָשִׁים חֲכָמִים וִידֻעִים וָאֶתֵּן אוֹתָם רָאשִׁים עֲלֵיכֶם שָׂרֵי אֲלָפִים וְשָׂרֵי מֵאוֹת וְשָׂרֵי חֲמִשִּׁים וְשָׂרֵי עֲשָׂרֹת וְשֹׁטְרִים לְשִׁבְטֵיכֶם
וָאֲצַוֶּה אֶת שֹׁפְטֵיכֶם בָּעֵת הַהִוא לֵאמֹר שָׁמֹעַ בֵּין אֲחֵיכֶם וּשְׁפַטְתֶּם צֶדֶק בֵּין אִישׁ וּבֵין אָחִיו וּבֵין גֵּרוֹ
לֹא תַכִּירוּ פָנִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּט כַּקָּטֹן כַּגָּדֹל תִּשְׁמָעוּן
So I took your tribal leaders, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you: chiefs of thousands, chiefs of hundreds, chiefs of fifties, and chiefs of tens, and officials for your tribes. I charged your magistrates at that time as follows, “Hear out your fellow men, and decide justly between any man and a fellow Israelite or a stranger. You shall not be partial in judgment: hear out low and high alike. Fear no man, for judgment is God’s. And any matter that is too difficult for you, you shall bring to me and I will hear it.”
Question #2: Sefer Devarim is comprised of Moses’s last teachings to the Israelites before they enter the Land of Israel. He tells them about their wanderings in the desert and the important mitzvot to remember. This parasha ends with a summary of the battles they fought and encouragement for the battles they will need to fight in the land.
Did you ever move to a new place? Or a new school or even a new summer camp? How did you feel? Excited? A little frightened? What type of conversation would help you feel more confident? How did this help them feel better?
Look inside the text (Devarim 3:22),
לֹא תִּירָאוּם כִּי ה’ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הוּא הַנִּלְחָם לָכֶם – God tells the people not to be afraid because He will fight for them.
Question #3: Sefer Devarim is also called the “Mishneh Torah” because it is a review of key events and mitzvot (and some additional mitzvot). This is Moses’s “Last Will and Testament “ to the nation about to enter the promised land. According to the midrash, this took place over a period of only five weeks – from the first day of the month of Shvat until the seventh day of the month of Adar, when Moses dies. When Moses was first chosen by God, and speaks to God at the burning bush, Moses claimed that “לא איש דברים אנוכי” (Shemot 4:10) – I am not a man of words. Yet, he is the voice of Sefer Dvarim!
Do you think a job can change a person? Were you ever given something that was difficult and you felt different once you accomplished it?
Question #4: In Sefer Devarim, Moses retells a number of stories that we are familiar with from earlier in the Torah. A close reading of those stories reveals that he changes them somewhat, and those changes are likely intentional, with important educational messages. Is it OK to reshape past events in order to convey important core ideas, or is the truth of the past more important? If it is OK to make changes, are there limits to how much we can change? What are the risks involved? (This is a burning question in questioning the truth of the historical foundations of modern countries, in Holocaust education, and much more!)
Question #5: On their march toward their promised land, the Israelites are instructed not to start wars with Edom (descendants of Esau, our cousins), Ammon, and Moab (also cousins, descendants of Lot), because God had given them their lands the same way that he would give us ours. Everyone likes to feel special, and it’s probably important that everyone understand that they are special. How does it make us feel when we discover that other people are special in ways that we thought we were unique? How can we maintain our own feeling of uniqueness without feeling threatened by other people’s specialness?