Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22), Shabbat Chazon, Tisha B’Av

Over the course of the next few days, we will start reading the book of Deuteronomy; mark a special Sabbath by a special haftarah chanted to the melody used for the book of Lamentations; and, starting Monday night, observe Tisha B’Av, the most mournful day of the Hebrew calendar.  First the first time in many years, I have no chanting assignments for any of these, which is just as well, since I am still recovering from laryngitis.

Deuteronomy is a puzzle, as it does and does not fit with the rest of the Torah.  The most traditional Jews believe it was given on Mt. Sinai to Moses along with the rest of the Torah and Oral Law.  Some scholars posited that it was more or less the contents of the scroll found in King Josiah’s reign in 621 B.C.E. that prompted a religious revival, possibly written not long before that date, indicated by its emphasis on centralization of worship, consistent with 7th c. B.C.E. practice.  Others place it anywhere from just after the time of Moses to later than 586 B.C.E. (Babylonian exile).  Some interesting and accessible discussions are at and .

Anyhow, the book is called Devarim in Hebrew, which means “Words”.  Moses has clearly progressed greatly as a speaker from his early days as a tongue-tied shepherd.  According to Rabbi J. H. Tigay’s introduction in Etz Hayim, Deuteronomy consists of five retrospective discourses and poems (1:6-4:43, 4:44-28:69, 29-30, 32, 33), plus two narratives (Ch. 31, 34).  Or you can view the book as three parts: history with a moral, laws, and final address.  The core is the discourse on laws.  There about 100 of them, about 70 of which do not appear in the earlier books.  We’ll start on those next week.  This week, Moses gives a recap of the Israelites’ journey since Sinai (=Horeb), carefully constructed to draw parallels with the new generation’s situation.  His main point: Your parents blew their opportunity to enter the Promised Land because of the lack of faith.  Don’t be like them.  You have proven your military prowess; that, with your faith will allow you to succeed.

In case you haven’t noticed yet, we’re in the midst of a couple of months during which the haftarah is not assigned according to the Torah portion but rather according to the calendar.  This Sabbath, the one right before the ninth of Av (Tisha B’Av), is called Shabbat Chazon, chazon (vision) being the opening of the haftarah, Isaiah 1:1-27, the third of the three Haftarot of Rebuke.  It includes doom and disaster, ending with hope.  Traditionally, it is largely chanted in Lamentations (Eichah) mode, which is used for chanting the book of Lamentations on Tisha B’Av night and morning (hear it at ), and for the Tisha B’Av morning Haftarah (except for the last verse) and the blessing before the haftarah.  Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of the First Temple (because of sinning), the Second Temple (because of baseless internecine hatred), and traditionally, various other Jewish disasters over the millennia.  The book of Lamentations is Jeremiah’s chronicle of the horrors of the Babylonian siege that led to destruction of the First Temple and exile.  Like Yom Kippur, Tisha B’Av is observed with a total fast; unlike Yom Kippur, you don’t have to take off work.  It is also customary to sit on the floor and read Eichah by candlelight and to forgo wearing leather shoes.  I didn’t observe Tisha B’Av at all until I went to Camp Galil, where we had a New Age-y type experience at night around the swimming pool.

Shabbat shalom,


On One Foot – Parshas Devarim
by S. Galena Posted: 07-09-2006(Viewed 982 times) 

Jews: Tell it again!

Moshe: Once upon a time…

Moshe recounts the history of the 40 years in the dessert

God: I love that story



May 6, 2013

‘Vigilante Copy Editor’ (abridged)

(Some people take their word usage very, very seriously. IGP)


In the sculpture park at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, one of the nation’s oldest art schools, a clandestine struggle is under way — over grammar. In recent months, a vandal (or team of vandals) has used permanent markers to correct grammar and punctuation mistakes on the informational placards near the sculptures. I’m perplexed. Who is so devoted to the park, and to the rules of grammar, that he or she would break the law to correct these mistakes?

I’ve heard of something similar, chronicled in the book “The Great Typo Hunt” by Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson, two friends who toured the country correcting spelling errors on signs. The pair denied any involvement with the Pratt graffiti. “We no longer practice nor condone typo corrections without permission,” Mr. Deck wrote me. “Typo hunting must be done in the light, not in the shadow”

Copy-edited or not, the Pratt placards add something important to the mix of form and function at the park. I hope Pratt will continue issuing them whenever it installs new sculptures. And if Pratt decides to hire a copy editor, it seems at least one candidate has already applied for the job.

Jay Dockendorf is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker and writer. He is a recent graduate of Yale University.


Grading the Gettysburg Address: App-alling!

By David Lebedoff, May 03, 2013

David Lebedoff is a lawyer and writer in Minneapolis. His books include “Cleaning Up: The Big Spill, from Alaska to the Gulf” and “The Same Man: George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh in Love and War.

“Imagine taking a college exam, and, instead of handing in a blue book and getting a grade from a professor a few weeks later, clicking the ‘send’ button when you are done and receiving a grade back instantly, your essay scored by a software program.”

This suggestion, which was the opening paragraph to a front-page New York Times article last month, caught my attention. The article discussed the debate over computerization of education and grading, and it reported that a nonprofit enterprise founded to offer courses online has created such a system and plans to “make its automated software available free on the Web to any institution that wants to use it.” The software uses artificial intelligence to grade student essays and short written answers, freeing professors for other tasks.”

So, what might such a system do?

Four score and seven [EIGHTY-SEVEN] years ago our fathersANCESTORS is preferable] brought forth on [ONE PART OF] this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty [NO NEED TO CAPITALIZE], and dedicated [WHAT’S YOUR SOURCE FOR THIS?] to the proposition that all men[PEOPLE] are created equal.

Now [CAN YOU BE MORE SPECIFIC ABOUT THIS TIME REFERENCE? WHEN EXACTLY IS NOW?] we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met [ASSEMBLED] on a great battle-field [NO HYPHEN IN WEBSTER’S NEW WORLD FOURTH EDITION] of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, [EXTRANEOUS COMMA] as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that [IN ORDER] that [SUCH A] nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger [ANOTHER] sense, we can not dedicate* — we can not consecrate* — we can not hallow* — this ground.[*REPETITIVE LANGUAGE] The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have [ALREADY] consecrated it, far above our poor [MORE LIMITED] power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember [THIS IS CONJECTURE] what we say here, but it can [MAY] never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which [THAT] they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is[,] rather[,] for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — [A COLON IS PREFERABLE TO A DASH] that from these honored dead [AND WOUNDED] we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth [CONTINUATION] of freedom — and that government of the people*, by the people*, for the people* [*REPETITIVE LANGUAGE], shall not perish from the earth.

Grade: C-.

General comment: Too short.

Comment added by: OldUncleTom

5/4/2013 6:04 PM EDT

Warning to educators:

The use of computer automation for the thinking parts of your job will likely end up with people deciding that computers can do the rest of your jobs better also.


From the Washington Post Style Invitational
Published: February 28, 2013

For its 20th anniversary

Among the myriad humor genres the Invitational has indulged in, it is probably best known for neologism contests, in which you make up a new term, usually by altering one or more existing words, and give it a zingy definition.

A few neologisms from the past decade that ought to be in your vocabulary:

Change a word by one letter:

Guiltar: A musical instrument whose strings are pulled by your mother. (Frank Mullen III, Aledo, Ill., 2003)

Epigramp: A maxim that brands the speaker as an old codger. “If God had wanted women to wear pants. . .” (Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md., 2007)

Eruditz: A philosophy professor who can’t figure out how to work the copying machine. (John Kupiec, Fairfax, Va., 2007)

Skilljoy: The would-be friend who’s a bit better than you at everything. (Steve Fahey, Kensington, Md., 2008)

Sparadigm: A model panhandler. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, 2009)

Portmanteau (overlapping) words:

Treadmillstone: The unused home gym that keeps staring at you. (Rick Haynes, Potomac, Md., 2008)

Palindrome terms:

AHA HAHA: When you finally get the joke. (Tom Flaherty, Culpeper, Va., 2010)

Move a word’s first letter to the end:

Carecrows: Women who are so devoted to their men that they frighten them away. (Lawrence McGuire, Waldorf, Md., 2011)

13-letter words:

Typochondriac: A paranoid proofreader. (Ward Kay, Vienna, Va., 2011)

Words containing W, I, T, T and E (in celebration of Tom Witte’s 1,000th ink):

Wattleship: A seniors cruise. (Tom Witte, 2009)


Top Ten Tisha B’av Pickup Lines

10. My heart aichahs for you
9. I am falling head over heels for you (and because of utter starvation)
8. Forget breaking the fast, you just broke my heart
7. I am mourning the destruction of your singlehood
6. You take my bad breath away
5. All we need is you, me and a little Schindler’s List
4. You are B’av and beyond
3. Baby, you’re in such good shape you must fast everyday
2. Did you siege Jerusalem? Cause you’ve been Rome-ing through my mind all day
1. You had me at not saying hello

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1 Response to Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22), Shabbat Chazon, Tisha B’Av

  1. sebastian says:

    Id have to talk with you right here. Which is not some thing I usually accomplish! I enjoy studying a post that can make people consider. Also, thank you for allowing myself to remark!

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