Parashat D'varim

What Makes The Land Holy?

The land of Israel is sacred by virtue of the sacred actions performed by the people who live there.

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The following article is reprinted with permission from the Union for Reform Judaism.

Parashah Overview

    Moses begins his final words of instruction to the Children of Israel, focusing first on recounting their physical journey. (1:1–21)

  • Moses reviews the people’s reactions to the negative reports of the spies and the appointment of Joshua to succeed him. (1:22–45)

  • Moses recounts that all of the Israelite warriors who left Egypt died, as God had intended, and the people continued their wanderings and defeated their enemies. (2:14–3:11)

  • Moses reiterates that the Land of Israel was allocated to the Israelite tribes. (3:12–20)

  • God refuses to allow Moses to enter the Promised Land. (3:23–28)

Focal Point

Then Adonai said to me: You have been skirting this hill country long enough; now turn north. And charge the people as follows: You will be passing through the territory of your kinsmen, the descendants of Esau, who live in Se-ir. Although they will be afraid of you, be very careful not to start a fight with them. For I will not give you of their land so much as a foot can tread on; I have given the hill country of Se-ir as a possession to Esau. What food you eat you shall obtain from them for money; even the water you drink you shall procure from them for money. Indeed, Adonai your God has blessed you in all your undertakings (Deuteronomy 2:2–7).

Your Guide

Why does the text call the descendants of Esau “kinsmen” to the Israelites? (Compare to Genesis 25, 27, 32, and 33; Numbers 20:14; Malachi 1:2–4.)

Scholars say that the descendants of Esau are also called the people of Edom. Furthermore, Se-ir is often synonymous in the Bible with Edom. Why does God caution Israel that the people of Se-ir will be afraid of them but they must not provoke them? (See Exodus 15:14–16; Numbers 22:3–4.)

Why is there such a strong emphasis on the Israelites’ possessing land? Why is this an important component of our religion?

By the Way…

You shall faithfully observe all My laws and all My regulations, lest the land to which I bring you to settle in spews you out. You shall not follow the practices of the nation that I am driving out before you. For it is because they did all these things that I abhorred them and said to you: You shall possess their land, for I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey (Leviticus 20:22–24).

When Adonai your God brings you to the land that you are about to invade and occupy, Adonai dislodges many nations before you--the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, seven nations much larger than you--and Adonai your God delivers them to you and you defeat them, you must doom them to destruction: Grant them no terms and give them no quarter (Deuteronomy 7:1–2).

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Rabbi Fred Greene

Fred Greene is the rabbi at Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell, Georgia. He was previously the rabbi at Congregation B?nai Israel, Bridgeport, Connecticut.