Things, Things


אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בְּעֵבֶר, הַיַּרְדֵּן

The title of this post is a reference to a comment by Leora when I asked last Thursday what Devarim evoked.

The fifth book of the Torah has several Hebrew names. The most commonly used is Seifer D’varim, short for Seifer v’eileh ha-d’varim, the Book of “these are the words”, taken from its opening line; these are the words (that Moshe addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan).

In Hebrew, Devarim means words or things. The polysemy of the word davar suggests that when Moshe spoke he hoped that the people would hear words and then translate them into things, i.e. tangible actions. Judaism isn’t a creed that can be summed up in a few words, it is about being and doing.

Moses offers his words, words of Torah, as a legacy, a concrete way
to accompany the people in his absence but also as vade mecum for each of us.