Moses informs the people that God will not allow him to enter the promised land. Joshua will lead them. Recalling the events and battles that have led to this day. Moses assures the people of God’s protection as they embark upon their conquest of Canaan: “You shall not fear them, for Adonai your God does battle for you.”
Moses tells of his failure to persuade God to let him enter Canaan. He exhorts the Israelites to follow God’s statutes – and to teach them to their children and their children’s children. In a second address, Moses recalls the Revelation at Sinai and restates the Ten Commandments. He then proclaims: “Sh’ma Yisra-el – Hear, O Israel: Adonai is our God, Adonai alone.”
Moses promises that if the people follow God’s path, divine blessing and abundance will be theirs. Moses tells them not to fear the nations they will battle, yet warns against arrogance. They should never forget that it is God who will give them the land. Moses reminds Israel of the sin of the golden calf and God’s forbearance, God’s miracles in Egypt, at the Sea of Reeds, and in the desert.
“I set before you this day a blessing and a curse,” Moses says, contingent on whether Israel observes God’s laws. Once Israel enters the land and dwells in safety, God will choose a place where the Divine Presence shall abide. There Israel will rejoice and bring offerings. Moses cautions against idolatry and false prophecy, and reminds Israel to observe the three pilgrimage Festivals.
Moses addresses the need for judges in the new land. The people, if they wish, may have a king, chosen by God. Priests and Levites will serve at a place of God’s choosing. God will also raise up a prophet, like Moses himself, to instruct the people; diviners and magicians are not to be consulted. Moses reiterates the laws establishing cities of refuge and presents laws of warfare.
Parashat Ki Tetze
Moses instructs Israel regarding inheritance, the return of lost objects, usury, and divorce, among other issues. Oppression of hired workers is forbidden; kindness to the stranger, orphan, and widow is mandated. Weights and measures must be accurate. To God, “whoever deals dishonestly” is abhorrent. Abhorrent also were Amalek’s actions in attacking Israel’s stragglers; Israel must never forget.
Parashat Ki Tavo
The people are to take the new land’s first fruits to God’s holy place. There they shall recount to the priest their history – from Abraham to Egypt to that very day. “You have affirmed this day that Adonai is your God,” concludes Moses. In turn, Adonai will take Israel as a treasure, a holy people. After crossing the Jordan, Israel is to inscribe the Torah on stone pillars and conduct rites to affirm the covenant with God.
Moses asks the people to embrace God’s covenant, for themselves as well as for the generations yet unborn. Moses foresees periods of Divine anger and reconciliation, of exile and return. He assures Israel that God’s commandments are attainable, neither baffling nor beyond reach, not in heaven nor beyond the sea. “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse,” Moses concludes. “Therefore choose life, so that you may live.”
Moses now tells Israel that he can go no further. Joshua shall lead the people over the Jordan, and God will go before them. Moses writes out the law, the Torah, and entrusts it to the priests, with instructions for it to be read every Sabbatical year. Even so, God apprises Moses that the people will indeed break the covenant. God has Moses compose a song that will bear witness to God’s actions and intentions.
“Let the earth hear the words of my mouth,” sings Moses. He depicts Israel’s future betrayal of God and God’s ultimate forgiveness. His song completed, Moses again urges the people to observe “all the instructions of this Torah.” God now orders Moses to ascend Mount Nebo, to behold from afar, before he dies, the land promised to Israel.
Parashat V’zot Ha-b’rakhah
Moses blesses the children of Israel, tribe by tribe. He ascends Mount Nebo, where God enables him to see the sacred land which God pledged to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Moses dies, his gravesite unknown. The children of Israel mourn him for thirty days, then turn to Joshua, upon whom Moses laid his hands.