Parshat Devarim Summary

Parshat Devarim is the 1st parsha in Sefer Devarim (also known as Deuteronomy).

This parsha is verses Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22, or a total of 105 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

The Book of Deuteronomy / Devarim is the 5th and last book of the Torah. Up to this point the Torah has taken us from the creation of the world to the creation of the Jewish people.

Those people are now camped on the east side of the Jordan River across from Jericho. Moses knows that he will not be allowed to lead the people into the Land.

Moses stands before the generation that will enter the Land. He reviews with them their history and the commandments they received from God.

Aliyah 1: Deuteronomy 1:1 – 1:10, 10 verses

According to Jewish tradition Moses was born and died on the 7th of Adar (the 12th month on the Jewish calendar). He begins his first speech / lecture on the 1st day of the 11th month, which is the month of Shevat. Thus, the Book of Devarim takes place during the last 5 weeks of his life.

The book begins by briefly mentioning some places and events. Moses reminds the people that when they left Mount Sinai the plan was that they would soon after enter the Land of Israel.

However, the population was too large for Moses alone to lead them.

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Aliyah 2: Deuteronomy 1:11 – 1:21, 11 verses

Moses asked God to continue to bless the Jewish people so that the population would grow even larger. But he still wanted help with leading the people.

Moses appointed leaders over the people: leaders of groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. He instructed the judges to to treat every person with the proper respect.

The people traveled through the wilderness until they came close to the Land.

Aliyah 3: Deuteronomy 1:22 – 1:38, 17 verses

Moses reminds the people about the incident with the spies that had happened almost 40 years before.

Parshat Shelach (Numbers 13) records the story of the spies from one point of view.

In this recounting of the story, Moses reveals that it was the people who requested spies be sent into the Land.

Moses accepted their request. The 12 men Moses sent returned with positive news about the Land.

But the men of that first generation rebelled against the word of God. They refused to believe that God could bring them into the Land. Despite what they had seen with their own eyes during a year in the desert, they still thought they could not go into Israel.

Therefore, God decreed that none of that generation except for Caleb and Joshua would go into the Land of Israel.

Aliyah 4: Deuteronomy 1:39 – 2:1, 9 verses

God told the people that they would not enter the Land, but rather their children would. They were told to turn away and go back into the wilderness.

The people regretted what they had done and resolved to enter the Land.

God told Moses that their attempt to fight the current residents of Canaan would be a failure. They did not heed this warning. As they were warned, they were defeated in battle.

The wanderings in the wilderness are described cryptically as “and we circled Mount Seir many days.”

Aliyah 5: Deuteronomy 2:2 – 2:30, 29 verses

It is now the 40th year. God told them to stop wandering and start heading to the border of the Land.

Parshat Devarim - map of Moab and Ammon

On their way, they passed through the land of the descendants of Esau. They were not permitted to conquer them, but rather they purchased food and water from them.

In a similar way, God told them not to fight against Moab. Nor would God give to Israel the land of the Ammonites.

These verses describe some of the history of the who dwelled in Seir, Moab, and Ammon in the past. So, even though the Jewish people were not permitted to take the land of Moab, it’s not because the Moabites had a real claim to their land. They had conquered another nation and taken the land from them.

However, God did want the Jewish people to conquer Sihon. In fact, they were told to provoke him into a war.

Aliyah 6: Deuteronomy 2:31 – 3:14, 21 verses

With God’s permission, the Jewish people conquered Sihon, killed him and his people. They destroyed the cities but kept the cattle and other animals.

Then they were able to defeat Og king of Bashan. They destroyed his people and the cities.

Moses gave the land conquered from Sihon and Og to the two and a half tribes: Gad, Reuben, and half of the tribe of Manasseh.

Aliyah 7: Deuteronomy 3:15 – 3:22, 8 verses

These verses list the borders of the areas given to Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh.

Moses gave them this land on the condition that they would help the rest of the Jewish people conquer the land west of the Jordan River. They were to build dwelling places for their families and livestock. Then they were expected to join the fight for the Land of Israel.

Moses assured Joshua that just like God permitted the people to defeat Sihon and Og, so to would they defeat the current residents of the Land.

Haftarah Summary

Isaiah 1:1 – 27

Parshat Devarim is always read on the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av. This haftarah does not relate directly to the parsha. Rather it is the last of the three haftarahs that are read leading up to the day of mourning.

The prophet Isaiah rebukes the Jewish people for failing to recognize all of the good that God does for them. Due to their sins, God will not accept their offerings or their prayers. But God has not rejected His people, He will purify and redeem them.

Further Reading

Here’s a previous article on Parshat Devarim.

Image Credit: The map shown above is from the collection of the National Library of Israel, courtesy of Eran Laor Cartographic Collection.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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