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

The comments are from 2013, lightly edited.  Three reasons for the repetition:  1) I think it’s a good introduction to Deuteronomy.  2) I overslept this morning and still do not feel awake, despite its being midafternoon, and 3) Deuteronomy contains a lot of repetition from the earlier books, so it is not inappropriate for me to repeat some, right? 

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 (as is this week’s portion), which means “Words”.  Moses has clearly progressed greatly as a speaker from his early days as a tongue-tied shepherd.  This is essentially a month-long sermon.  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).  Alternatively, 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 their lack of faith.  Don’t be like them.  You have proven your military prowess; that, with your faith will allow you to succeed.

This Sabbath, according to the calendar, is the 9th day of the month of Av, literally, Tisha B’Av, which is a fast day.  However, we do not observe fast days on the Sabbath, except for Yom Kippur, so this year, the 9th of Av will be observed on the 10th, i.e., starting Saturday night.  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 Sabbath right before the observance of Tisha B’Av is called Shabbat Chazon, chazon (“vision”) being the opening word 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, in some traditions, morning (hear it at ).  It is also traditionally used for most of the Tisha B’Av morning haftarah, Jeremiah 8:13-9:23.  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,


Canonical List of PCisms (selections)

  • vertically challenged— short
  • morally handicapped— someone who has no other reason to park in a handicapped zone
  • folically independent— bald
  • musically delayed— tone deaf
  • in denial— unaware that forgetting something obviously proves it happened
  • economically disadvantaged— welfare bum
  • target equity group— vocal minority
  • sanitation engineer— garbage man
  • ontologically challenged— fictional or mythological The absolute root of all evil known in the multidimensional
  • people of height— too tall
  • gravitationally challenged— fat
  • chronologically gifted— old
  • other aged— too old/young (dual purpose)
  • Nitpicklike— humor challenged
  • motivationally challenged— lazy
  • nasally gifted— runny nose
  • aquatically challenged— drowning
  • nasally gifted— large nose
  • differently organized— messy
  • creatively re-dyed— stained
  • petroleum transfer technician— gas station attendant
  • residentially flexible— homeless
  • uniquely coordinated— clumsy


Words that last

By Wilson Andrews and David Brown, Published: May 6, 2013

A research team led by Mark Pagel at the University of Reading in England has identified 23 “ultraconserved words” that have remained largely unchanged for 15,000 years. Words that sound and mean the same thing in different languages are called “cognates”. These are five words that have cognates in at least four of the seven Eurasiatic language families. Those languages, about 700 in all, are spoken in an area extending from the British Isles to western China and from the Arctic to southern India. Only one word, “thou” (the singular form of “you”), has a cognate in all seven families.

All 23 “ultraconserved words”

Listed by the number of language families in which they have cognates. Click here to learn more about this research.

7 – thou
6 – I
5 – not, that, we, to give, who
4 – this, what, man/male, ye, old, mother, to hear, hand, fire ,to pull, black, to flow, bark, ashes, to spit, worm

———————————-   Published Sunday, July 01, 2001
Vicar claims record for longest sermon

WHALLEY, England (AP) — Rev. Chris Sterry had a lot to tell his parishioners about the Old Testament.

So much, in fact, that more than 28 hours after he started preaching at an English church, he was still in the pulpit delivering a sermon he claims set a record for an unscripted speech.

Sterry began his sermon at 6:30 a.m. Friday, lecturing on the Book of Genesis in a bid to get his name into another well-known book — the Guinness Book of Records.

”This will be a proper sermon,” Sterry, 46, said before he began preaching. ”As a former lecturer on the Old Testament I am looking forward to unlimited opportunity to talk about one of my great enthusiasms.”

When he reached the existing record of 27 hours and 30 minutes Saturday morning, the Anglican vicar was lecturing to about 100 parishioners about the biblical tale of Daniel in the lion’s den.



In my previous incarnation as a patent agent, I spent a lot of time reading and writing a lot of words.  Naturally, typos occasionally crept in, sometimes aided and abetted by an automatic spell-checker.  One of my favorites, which I’ve seen in several published applications and granted patents, deals with rheology, the study of how matter flows and deforms under different conditions:

Process to prepare polymeric fibers with improved color and appearance 

“Many such ultra-low particle size colorants are expensive, and difficult to maintain at high dispersion when compounded into a polymer matrix.  It is also known that very low particle size additives in polymer melts can exhibit a profound effect on the Theological properties of said melt, resulting in formulations which are difficult to spin using standard equipment and techniques.”


30 Untranslatable Words From Other Languages Illustrated By Anjana Iyer (selections)

When something is “lost in translation,” it could have been due to a simple mistake or due to the fact that one language was not quite able to capture the essence of a word’s meaning in another language. This conflict is the idea behind New Zealand-based designer Anjana Iyer’s “Found in Translation” series of images, which try to explain the meaning behind words in other languages that have no direct equivalent in English.  

Here are just a handful of words and images:

  1. Furnweh (German) – feeling homesick for a place you have never been to.

tph devarim fernweh

  1. Tingo (Pascuense) – to gradually steal all the possessions out of a neighbour’s house by borrowing and not returning.
    tph devarim tingo
  2. Gökkata (Swedish) – to wake up early in the morning with purpose of going outside to hear the first birds sing.
    tpg devarim gokotta
  1. Tsundoku (Japanese) – the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piling it up together with other such unread books.
    tph devarim tsundoku
  2. Gattara (Italian) – a woman, often old and lonely, who devotes herself to stray cats.
    tph devarim gattara
  1. Won (Korean) – the reluctance on a person’s part to let go of an illusion.
    tph devarim won
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