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

Words.  That is the Hebrew name of the final book of the Torah and of this portion: Devarim. In English, the book is Deuteronomy.  From,

‘Deuteronomy (n.)  5th book of the Pentateuch, late 14c., from Late Latin Deuteronomium, from Greek Deuteronomion, literally “second law,” fromdeuteros “second” + nomos “law” (see numismatics). A mistranslation of Hebrew mishneh hattorah hazzoth “a copy of this law” [Deut. xvii:18]. The book is a repetition, with comments, of the Decalogue and most of the laws of Exodus. The title was translated literally into Old English as æfteræ, literally “after-law.”‘

Our formerly tongue-tied Moses is now fluent enough to spend the last month or so of the Israelites’ journey talking to them.  Nachmanides divides the book into three main parts:  1) historical recap as reproof, starting in Chapter 1; 2) the laws, in Chapter 4; and 3) Chapter 26 to the end, blessings, curses, and Moses’ final song.  This week, Moses gives a quick review of their journey, starting with the organizational structure set up before they left Sinai (=Horeb).  Why bring that up first thing?  Perhaps Moses wanted to make it clear immediately how many others participated in the governance of the people from the get-go.  The focus of the history is on the parts most relevant to the present generation, so we zip from Sinai right to Kadesh-barnea, where the Israelites blew their chance to conquer the Promised Land.  Moses then relates their journeys, skipping most of the next 38 years, up to the successful battles against Sihon and Og and the deal he made with Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh concerning their land east of the Jordan.

This is the Sabbath before Tisha B’Av (9th day of the month of Av, this year beginning Monday night, Aug. 4), known as the black fast in contrast to the white fast of Yom Kippur (mourning versus solemn).  Several disasters are linked to this day, most notably the destruction of the First and Second Temples.  Because it’s in the summer, kids are unlikely to learn about it in Hebrew school; I was introduced to it at camp.  That year, I tried to fast, but a pre-outing check-up showed something amiss in my throat, so they made me stop and stay in camp with a dozen or so other kids.  But I digress.  The Sabbath is known as Shabbat Chazon (“vision,” from the first word of the haftarah), on which we read the third and last of the Haftarot of Rebuke, Isaiah 1:1-27.  It is traditionally chanted mostly using the melody used to chant the book of Lamentations (“Eicha”) on Tisha B’Av.  I learned about that, shortly before my marriage, a few days before I was going to chant it, when the rabbi “reminded” me about using the Lamentations trope.  That was back when I could learn such things very quickly, luckily.  I will be chanting it again this year, same synagogue, different rabbi.

Shabbat shalom,


As regular readers may recall, I am a fan of the Washington Post’s weekly wordplay contests, known as the Style Invitational.  Here are a few examples:

Report from Week 976

in which we asked you to combine the beginning of one word or name appearing in that week’s Style Invitational or Style Conversational with the end of another word to make a new term:

Ignorial: A monument that nobody visits. (Robert Schechter, Dix Hills, N.Y.)

Bristen: To welcome an infant boy into the Jewish and Christian faiths simultaneously; also known as “Snip ’n’ Dip.” (Larry Gray, Union Bridge, Md.)

Badmired: Ill-behaved yet still respected. — Bill C., Chappaqua, N.Y. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Jeleton: The internal strength of a politician. (Brad Alexander; Sarah Gustafson, Vienna, Va., a First Offender)

Charport: A house’s garage after its owner tries out that new turkey fryer on a cold Thanksgiving Day (Lawrence McGuire, Waldorf, Md.)

Crockney: A comically bogus East London accent, like Dick Van Dyke’s in “Mary Poppins.” (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.) [I’ve now heard enough genuine British accents over the decades that I now cringe at the bogus ones in Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady. IGP]


I can relate to this:

tph grammar nerd



tph book appendix


Book-A-Minute Classics (selected)


By Jane Austen
Ultra-Condensed by Annie Berke and Samuel Stoddard

Emma Woodhouse
I do believe I’m correct on all matters.

(Emma is WRONG.)

Emma Woodhouse
There goes that theory. Better get married.



On the centenary of the start of WWI:

The Collected Work of Wilfred Owen
Ultra-Condensed by Mike Isaacson

Wilfred Owen
War sucks. Sometimes it sucks in iambic pentameter.


Because Richard III’s bones were recently identified and, yes, he did have a curved spine:

Richard III

By William Shakespeare
Ultra-Condensed by Samuel Stoddard and David J. Parker

Edward Four
I’m dying.

Richard Three

(Richard Three KILLS and MARRIES. And he keeps KILLING and MARRYING until it makes him KING.)

Behold how foreboding we art.

Richard Three



By Henry David Thoreau
Ultra-Condensed by Samuel Stoddard

Henry David Thoreau

A truly rich man doesn’t have money but rather courage, truth, and an inner glory that transcends the passiveness of our physical beings. That’s why I’m going to live in the boonies.

(Two years later…)

I’m getting the heck out of here and getting my pencil-making job back. Um. But what I said still goes.


Gulliver’s Travels

By Jonathan Swift
Ultra-Condensed by Samuel Stoddard

(Gulliver visits some places.)

A Lilliputian
We’re small.

A Brobdingnagian
We’re big.

A Horse
We can talk.

(Gulliver goes home.)

Now that I’m back from my travels, I hate people.



Huckleberry Finn

By Mark Twain
Ultra-Condensed by David J. Parker

Huckleberry Finn

(Goes rafting. Goes home.)



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