Deuteronomy

The Book of Deuteronomy is the biblical book whose law and theology most directly shaped later Judaism.

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Deuteronomy's Appeal to Wisdom

Deuteronomy has a strong intellectual orientation. It urges all Israelites to study God's laws. Its style is didactic and sermonic, explaining the meaning of events and the purpose of laws, to secure Israel's willing, understanding assent.

Deuteronomy and Judaism

Deuteronomy strongly influenced later Jewish tradition. The core of Jewish worship is the recitation of the (6:4) and the public reading of the Torah (rooted in 31: 11). Also based on Deuteronomy are the duty of blessing God after meals (ShemaBirkat haMazon, 8: 10), Kiddush [a prayer of sanctification] on Shabbat (5:12), affixing mezuzot to doorposts, wearing tefillin (phylacteries) (6:8‑9, 11:18, 20) and tzitzit (tassels) (22:12), and charity to the poor (e.g., 15:8).

Deuteronomy is the source of the concept that religious life should be based on a sacred book and its study. As the biblical book that deals most explicitly with beliefs and attitudes, it plays a major role in Jewish theology. In the theological‑ethical introduction of his digest of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides cites Deuteronomy more than any other book, starting with the command to believe in God and Him alone.

Deuteronomy's effect on Jewish life cannot be overstated. No idea has shaped Jewish history more than monotheism, which this book asserts so passionately.

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Dr. Jeffrey Tigay

Dr. Jeffrey Tigay is A.M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania.