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Parshas Devarim (Shabbos Chazon) 5770

Deuteronomy and the Sixth Millennium

This week we begin to read publicly in the synagogue the fifth and final book of the Five Books of Moses – the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy). This book consists of many new mitzvos that Moses received from G-d and gave to the Jewish people in the last five weeks of his life (and some that were given previously but repeated here). It also includes Moses’ words of encouragement and rebuke to his beloved people as his last will and testament to them before he died.

What is not so well known about the fifth book of the Torah is that, according to the great 18th Century Kabbalist Rabbi Elijah of Vilna (otherwise known as the “Vilna Gaon”), if one knows how to read Deuteronomy properly, one can find encoded within it allusions to every single person that lived and event that occurred (and that will occur) in the Sixth Millennium.

To understand this amazing idea properly, a little background information is in order:
Each week on Saturday morning a different parshah (portion) of the Chumash (the first five books of the Torah) is read publicly in Jewish synagogues all around the world. Weekly portions have different names (e.g. Parshas Devorim or Parshas Ki Seitzei). There are ten parshas in the Book of Deuteronomy (Parshas Nitzavim and Parshas Vayeilech are counted as one).

Just as Deuteronomy is the final book of the Chumash, so, too, does our tradition teach us that the world as we know it will only last for 6000 years from the creation of Adam and Eve on the Sixth Day of Creation (see Sanhedrin 97a), making this the sixth and final millennium. [We are now in the Jewish year 5770, which means that the beginning of the sixth millennium was the year 1240 in the civil calendar].

The Vilna Gaon reveals to us a mystical tradition that the readings from the book of Deuteronomy are said "to correspond to what will happen in each one hundred years of the sixth millennium -- ten [portions] corresponding to ten periods of one hundred years."

When asked where he himself was alluded to in the Torah (Rabbi Elijah of Vilna lived in the late 1700’s, corresponding to the sixth of these ten portions – Parshas Ki Seitzei – and the years 1740-1840 in the civil calendar), the Vilna Gaon responded, "In the first words of the verse at the end of Parshas Ki Seitzei , “Even shleimah vatsedek – a perfect and honest weight shall you have …” (Deuteronomy 25:15),`Even shleimoh' can be read as ‘Eliyahu ben Shlomo’.” [Eliyahu was the Vilna Gaon’s Hebrew name and Shlomo was his father’s Hebrew name].

If we follow the timeline according to this fascinating Kabbalistic tradition, we will see some amazing things: The seventh of these ten portions in Deuteronomy is Parshas Ki Savo and corresponds to the years 1840-1940 in the civil calendar. The portion read is Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8 and includes the tochachah, a harsh admonition to the Jewish people of all the suffering and tragedy that would befall them from throughout the exile. This period, of course, coincides with the start of WWII and the beginning of the Holocaust that decimated six million Jews.

The eighth portion in Deuteronomy, Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech (see Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30), corresponds to the period that we are in presently - the years 1940-2040 in the civil calendar. And the events described in this Torah portion are happening now as we speak! Let’s take a closer look:

Parshas Nitzavim begins with a mood of Final Redemption, moving from a discussion of Divine wrath and punishment for Jewish disobedience, to talk of a renewed covenant with G-d, national repentance, and the final ingathering of the exiles from the four corners of the earth. We have seen all aspects of this, if only in part, in our day, especially with the advent of the “Baal Teshuvah” movement, where large numbers of Jews are ‘returning’ to Torah study and mitzvah observance like never before.

The Parshah ends with encouraging words about the accessibility of Torah. The goal of knowing and fulfilling the Torah may seem to be beyond human attainment, but this is actually not so. Moses tells the Jewish people that far from requiring superhuman effort to access G-d’s Torah and wisdom, the goal is very much within reach – if they make a sincere effort to grasp it. These words can easily be seen as an allusion to the Internet, which makes all kinds of Jewish learning easily accessible and within reach – to the point that there really are no more excuses for any Jew who wants to learn all about our amazing Torah, wherever he or she may be (…. just have them subscribe to the “z-mail”!!!)

Finally, Parshas Vayeilech discusses the final phase of the transference of leadership from Moses to Joshua, and therefore, it is also the beginning of the entry of the Jewish people into the Land of Israel – again an accurate reflection of events that have occurred in our times with the re-establishment of the State of Israel and a new Jewish leadership.

I would like to conclude with a special blessing for all my beloved brothers and sisters and the entire Jewish people:
Just as the years we are in presently, as mentioned before, correspond to Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech – and the word Nitzavim means to “stand up” while the word Vayeilech means to “go” - may it be G-d’s will that before the end of this hundred-year period we all merit to stand up and go back to our true homeland in Israel, with the coming of the Messiah, speedily and in our day, Amen.

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