Last Men Standing: D’varim 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Would you have the skills to survive if you were the last person alive in your neighborhood? In your city? How essential is it to acquire such skills?

The death of the generation that experiences the Exodus is not apocalyptic, but it speaks to do the tenuousness of the relationship between God and Israel:

The Pitch: “Indeed, the hand of the Lord struck them, to root them out from the camp to the last man.” – Deuteronomy 2:16

Swing #1: “[This verse] makes clear that the exodus generation (who experienced the covenant at Horeb) died out and was not allowed to enter the land. However, by emphasizing that this generation entered into the covenant at Horeb, the author is stressing that Israel is always, in a sense, ‘at Horeb’, hearing the commandments of Yahweh and having to choose weather or not they will demonstrate total allegiance to Yahweh.” – Peter T. Vogt, Deuteronomy Theology and the Significance of Torah: A Reappraisal

Swing #2: “It seems that the use of more intensive verbs [here] is to be explained by the turning point that comes to expression here: the rebellious generation has perished, and the words of God are now addressed to the generation that is about to enter the promised land.” – Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1-11: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary

Swing #3: “Moses meant that not only did the people of that generation suffer death in the desert, but they did not enjoy their sojourn in the desert while it lasted, as we have been told in Bamidbar Rabbah. The people suffered from a variety of afflictions prior to their deaths. Moses said ‘from the midst of the camp’ to indicate that God made a clear separation between the people whose death had been decreed and the remainder of the camp. The former were in a constant state of groaning because of their diminution.” – Or HaChaim

Late-Inning Questions: How might the thoughts of our commentators impact the confidence level of the post-Exodus generation? Are Moses’s words to them comforting, or harrowing? Can we always be confident that we’ll avoid the missteps of our ancestors?

On-Deck at TBT: At a time of uncertainty such as this, observing Tisha B’Av can help us come to terms with our people’s history and the strands of hope that always remain. Our observance begins tomorrow evening at 9:30 p.m., with services the following day at 8:30 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 9:30 p.m.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of avoiding our ancestors’ missteps (on a quite unserious note), let future generations never repeat the mistake of allowing All Star Games to be marred by the best players in the world wearing pajama-like softball uniforms.

Shabbat Shalom!