These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan—that is, in the Arabah—opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. — Deuteronomy 1:1
The Torah portion for this week is Devarim which means “words,” from Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 1:1–27.
It is generally thought that we spend one-third of our lives sleeping. That is equivalent to more than 26 years based on an average lifespan of 80 years. That’s a lot of time that we spend unconscious! Is it all a waste of time?
If God sent us here to perfect the world and ourselves, then why did He include sleep in the plan? Surely, we would get a lot more done if we had all of that time back . . . or would we?
This week, we begin not only a new Torah portion, but also the final of the Five Books of Moses. Deuteronomy in Hebrew is Devarim, and that is also the name of our Torah portion. The book begins: “These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel . . .” Devarim means “words,” and it is a fitting title for the last of the books of Moses. Most of this book contains Moses’ words to the children of Israel as he reviewed their history and the laws that God had given them.
But make no mistake about it; although much of this book is “review,” it is definitely not repetitive. In the Jewish tradition, we are taught that there is never anything repetitive or extra in the Bible, and this last book is no exception. There is something fresh and new in everything that Moses says; we just have to open our eyes to see it.
While the title Devarim is highly appropriate and descriptive of this part of the Bible, the Jewish sages teach that we are to take into account the entire opening phrase when understanding this title: “These are the words . . .”
When we see something new or novel we often say, “Look at these!” The sages teach that the word “these” is an expression of amazement and wonder. When we look at the words of Moses, we have to view them through a lens of wonder. We have to look at everything as if seeing it for the very first time. It is only in this way that we can learn something relevant and new.
Tradition teaches that this is why God gave us the gift of sleep. Every night that we go to sleep is an opportunity to press our “reset button” and every morning is an invitation to see the world anew and afresh. As we go through our days, we settle into a rhythm and mode. But when we break for sleep, we allow for a change in perspective.
So tomorrow when you wake up, remember the opportunity afforded to you by a night of sleep. See everything as fresh, new, and full of possibilities. That goes for God’s Word, your life, and your future.
Honor Rabbi Eckstein