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Fights, Fields, and Family (Shoftim)

Preview: Is there any organizing principle for the apparently random series of laws that makes up the bulk of sefer Devarim? Well, there sure seem to be a lot of laws about war; and a lot of laws about fields; and a lot of laws about family—and when you pay close attention, you notice that they tend to cluster together in recurring patterns.

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It’s All Coming Together Now (Tu B’Av)

Preview: Tu B’Av is a little-known holiday that Chazal associate with a bevy of Biblical events—from overcoming liability for the sin of the spies, to the case of Tzlofchad’s daughters, to reuniting with the tribe of Binyamin following civil war. These events are strewn across Tanach, seem to share little in common, and are never dated in Tanach itself to the fifteenth of Av. But careful study shows that they are, indeed, deeply connected—both to each other, and to the particular day to which Chazal date them. In fact, the key to figuring this all out may be to recognize that yet one other event falls out around the fifteenth of Av—one that Chazal never explicitly connect with this date: the war with Sichon, all the way back in sefer Bamidbar

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History’s Best Sermon Hook (Devarim)

Preview: “Hashem told us at Sinai: Enough standing around this mountain!” Read properly, this, in effect, is the first line of Moshe’s valedictory address. What a wild way to begin one’s goodbye – and what a curious way to summarize the experience at Sinai! Why start this way?

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On the Heels (Ekev)

Preview: The idiomatic use of “ekev” – “because;” “on the heels” – is exceedingly rare in the Torah. In fact, it may function as a technical term of sorts, for it appears in the Torah only five times in total, and always in the context of Hashem’s pledge concerning the Promised Land. Small wonder that we find textual parallels between all these texts. What do they mean?

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Bee Line (Devarim)

Preview: “And they chased you like bees” – what’s the meaning of this strange metaphor? “And we were like grasshoppers in their eyes” – what’s the meaning of this strange metaphor? Might the two be connected?

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