This week we start a new book. The fifth and final book of the Torah: Devarim. It consists entirely of Moshe’s last speech to the Jewish nation before he dies and they go on to enter the Land of Israel.
The Ramban explains in his introduction to Devarim that the purpose of Moshe’s speech is to get the nation ready to keep the mitzvot when they enter the Land of Israel. In his introduction to the book of Shmot he explains that our existence in the Land of Israel is actually based on the Torah. If we aren’t keeping it properly as a nation, the land will not maintain us and we will inevitably land up dispersed and scattered without a homeland, as has been our history. In order to try and prevent this tragedy Moshe gave us a good pep-talk, and that pep-talk is the book of Devarim.
Interestingly, there is a big rabbi called Rabbi Margaliot who says he heard from his teacher, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, who heard from his teacher, the famous Vilna Gaon (literally translated – the Genius of Vilna… a good nickname eh?), a deep insight into Sefer Devarim that most people don’t know:
Our Sages tell us that there are 6000 years in the history of the world, and then Moshiach comes. Of these 6000, the last 1000 is supposed to be the time that Hashem gets the world ready for Moshiach. Meaning, everything falls into place, and all the pieces on board are moved into their final position for the end of the game – checkmate… or in our case – the coming of Moshiach. The Jewish year at the moment is 5767. That’s why you see that the last 767 years have been incredibly fast paced for the Jewish people, and incredibly crazy as well. From the Holocaust to the establishment of the State of Israel and the return of millions of Jews to their homeland…. Something is going on. And as we get closer to that final date, things keep getting faster and faster, kind of like students in high-school or uni come exam time. The Vilna Gaon said that in addition to Moshe preparing us to enter the land of Israel, if we know how to look into the hidden depth in the book of Devarim properly, we will see that it describes this last 1000 years and what will happen during that period to prepare the world properly for the finale of history. In Devarim there are 10 parshiot, meaning we will be reading Devarim for the next 10 weeks – each week a different portion, and in each of those portions a century is described. 10 x 100 = 1000.
Why, of the five books of the Torah, does Sefer Devarim describe this last 1000 years? Because our entering the land of Israel after wandering around in the desert for 40 years is bringing us to our goal, and to a period of rest where we can serve Hashem properly in peace. Moshe is preparing us for that period. So too, when Moshiach comes the world will reach the purpose it was created for. We will be able to finally rest properly in our homeland and serve Hashem in complete peace and harmony. There will be no more doubt and confusion – the purpose of the world’s creation and the Creator of the world Himself, will be crystal clear. The last 1000 years of history are the period where we prepare for that time. So just as Sefer Devarim describes Moshe’s preparing us to enter a period of peace and rest in the Land of Israel, it also describes, just in a more hidden fashion, Hashem’s getting us ready to enter a period of eternal peace and rest, togethor in the Land of Israel, when Moshiach comes.
The Gemara talks about how difficult that final period of preparation will be. One of our Sages said “Let it come, but let me not live in that time”. The few generations before us lived through some tough times, and although we have seen some incredible miracles and kindnesses from Hashem in our times, they are also tough times without question. This period of preparation is not an easy one. BUT, for those who have eyes that can see, when we look at our world and the last 767 years, we see they are clearly years that are not normal. Clearly, Hashem is getting us ready for something.
With that realisation we can see and know without doubt that very soon Hashem is going to bring us to a new period in which our world is complete for the first time in history. To bring us to a period of complete peace and recognition of our purpose as Jews – both as a nation and as individuals created by God – each with an individual mission and task. May we all be able to prepare properly for that great day, and merit to live and see the day when it finally arrives after thousands of years of anticipation, with the arrival of Moshiach, may it be speedily and in our days.