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

Comments are both current and, as indicated, from 2014, very lightly edited.  My plan to write all new comments was derailed by my husband’s appendectomy yesterday morning. It was all incredibly efficient. The total time from onset of symptoms for calling 911, ambulance ride, lab tests, diagnosis, surgery, recovery, and arrival back home was about 21 hours. He’s doing very nicely, since it was done laparoscopically.  Onward:

(2019) Words matter.  Our reaction to them is colored by their dictionary meaning, who says them, tone, and context.  The same words can inspire a team to win the big game or incite a mob’s, or an individual’s, deadly rampage.  A leader who sets out to inspire supporters and deliberately inflames them must bear some responsibility for their response.

Sometimes, we hear what we want to hear, as in this excerpt from “Ladle Rat Rotten Hut” (Howard L. Chace, 1940), which I first read in high school:

“Wants pawn term, dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage honor itch offer lodge dock florist… Oil offer sodden throne offer carvers and sprinkling otter bet, disc curl and bloat Thursday woof ceased pore ladle rat rotten hut an garbled erupt.
“Mural: Yonder nor sorghum stenches shut ladle gulls stopper torque wet strainers.”

The whole thing, plus translation into “real” English, is at  Its purpose was to demonstrate how important intonation is in spoken English, almost as important to the meaning as the words themselves.

Which brings us to this week’s Torah portion, Devarim (words), also the name of the book we are now reading. It’s known in English as Deuteronomy.

(2014) From,
Deuteronomy (n.)   5th book of the Pentateuch, late 14c., from Late Latin Deuteronomium, from Greek Deuteronomion, literally “second law,” from deuteros “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, which this year is observed on the 10th, the 9th being on Shabbat), 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 (“Megillat Eichah”) on Tisha B’Av.  I learned about that, shortly before my wedding, 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,


tph dilbert jargon


Canonical List of PCisms (selections)

  • horizontally gifted– fat
  • other aged– too old/young (dual purpose)
  • folically independent– bald
  • outdoor urban dwellers– homeless
  • nasally gifted– runny nose
  • energy-efficient– off
  • people of height– too tall
  • chronologically gifted– old
  • aquatically challenged– drowning
  • differently organized– messy
  • creatively re-dyed– stained
  • uniquely coordinated– clumsy


Washington Post Style Invitational – SWITCH-WITTERS: THE NEOLOGISMS OF WEEK 1307

In Week 1307 we asked you to replace one letter of a word or name with another, then describe the result. (selections)

3rd place: Peerogative: Getting to use the bathroom of your chosen gender. (Steve Fahey, Kensington, Md.)

2nd place and the Christmas Carol Kazoo:  Braxit: An undergarment that was originally intended to separate, but has lost much support. (Frank Mullen III, Aledo, Ill.)

And the winner of the Lose Cannon: Don compos mentis: Of very stable genius mind. (Jesse Frankovich, Grand Ledge, Mich.)

Left at the alter: Honorable mentions

Foxic waste: Substance that poisons the national discourse. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Romeopathic medicine: A nicer name for erectile dysfunction drugs. (Tom Gleason, Lawrence, Kan.)

Cameraderie: Those grimacing smiles you see in photos of people pretending to like each other. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

Celibration: The joy of no sex. (Karl Koerber, Krestova, B.C.)

Mequel: Junior. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Nap year: The first year of retirement. Actually, every year of retirement. (Ellen Raphaeli, Falls Church, Va.)


(From) 26 Brilliant Quotes on the Super Power of Words

Words can inspire. And words can destroy. Choose yours well.

5.”…But the human tongue is a beast that few can master. It strains constantly to break out of its cage, and if it is not tamed, it will run wild and cause you grief.” -Unknown

8.”Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” -Pearl Strachan Hurd

14.”All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

16.”Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs.” -Hamza Yusuf

19.”A broken bone can heal, but the wound a word opens can fester forever.” -Jessamyn West

26.”If we understood the power of our thoughts, we would guard them more closely. If we understood the awesome power of our words, we would prefer silence to almost anything negative.” -Betty Eadie

PUBLISHED ON: NOV 5, 2015  The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of


History Teacher Puns

  1. Do you think ancient Mesopotamians went on Sumer vacation?
  2. Who built King Arthur’s Round Table? Sir Cumference
  3. There’s no time for Stalin when you’re Russian to industrialize
  4. History.  Did I just rewrite history?
  5. Civil War jokes?  I General Lee don’t find them funny
  6. History teachers live in the past
  7. If anyone Khan, Genghis Kahn
  8. I read the constitution for the articles
  9. As a history teacher I like to Babylon
  10. What kind of music did the Pilgrims like?  Plymouth Rock



Parshas Devarim  JULY 9, 2006

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



From “The Torah in haiku.”

Fifth Book of Moses

It all sounds quite familiar







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

  1. een1096 says:

    A  very very late reply, I know.   I like the PCisms. Mir

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