This is a basic overview of the parsha story in a format that can be adapted for a wide range of ages. Sources include parsha text, commentaries and midrash. When introducing midrash or other non-pshat elements, I use the words “some people think” or something similar. (find out why)
Please see the Vayeishev overview for how we use these narratives in our homeschool. I also have copywork sheets to go with the weekly parsha (Devarim is up now, including 2 levels of copywork for littles and middles)… enjoy!
Last week, we finished reading Bamidbar. Now, we’re starting the very last sefer in the entire Chumash!
This is a very strange sefer (book) indeed. Each one we’ve learned so far told part of the story of bnei Yisrael: Bereishis had the most story in it, talking about over 2000 years of history; Shemos tells about more than 100 years; Vayikra is pretty small, with only 14 months of the story, and Bamidbar is a long one, because it talks about 38 years of our travels in the midbar. Now comes Devarim, which is about only 37 days – five weeks!
All of Devarim is one long speech by Moshe in the last five weeks of his life.
Did you ever have to write a test? Were you nervous ahead of time?
Shmuli was worried because he had a spelling test coming up. “What if I do badly?” he wailed. “My teacher’s going to hate me!” His mother said, “Tests are one way teachers find out how well you’ve learned. If you don’t do well, she won’t hate you; she’ll find ways to help you learn them better.” But Shmuli was still anxious. “I’m not sure I know all the words!” Shmuli said. “Okay,” his mother said. “Let’s see which words are hardest.” Going over the list, they found only three words he couldn’t spell. That evening, they practiced those words over and over until Shmuli knew them perfectly!
Hashem loves bnei Yisrael so much! This parsha says He multiplied them like the stars in shomayim. If you’ve never done multiplication, try skip counting by fives or tens and see how fast the numbers get really, really big! Just look up on a clear night in the country and try to count the stars (you’ll probably fall asleep before you’re done!). Hashem wants His people to pass the test – so Moshe helps them learn from everything that happened after yetziyas Mitzrayim.
What kinds of things does Moshe teach bnei Yisrael?
- Judges: Moshe couldn’t judge everybody by himself, so judges were chosen from the shevatim to judge fairly and not listen to one person just because he’s rich, or another just because he’s poor.
- Protection: a desert is a frightening place to travel alone, or even in a large group. Nobody can survive for 40 years in the desert without help – so Hashem helped bnei Yisrael, carrying them like a father carries a child.
- Battles: travelling through the midbar, Hashem would lead bnei Yisrael to other nations’ land. Hashem told them when to go around, when to cross peacefully without a fuss, and when they must fight and conquer the land.
- Power: true power comes only from Hashem – even mighty kings fell before Him, like סִיחֹן/Sichon, king of the Emori people, and עוֹג/Og, the mighty giant-king of Bashan.
- Land: Hashem promised eretz Yisrael to Avraham’s descendents, and now it will be divided among them. The land conquered from Og and other kings on the other side of the Yardein River will go to half of shevet Menashe, along with Gad and Reuvain, while the rest of bnei Yisrael will get their land across the river in eretz Yisrael.
Moshe reminds bnei Yisrael of the story of the meraglim – with a very important lesson!
At first, he tells a short version of the story – the meraglim went to eretz Yisrael, came back, said it was good there, but bnei Yisrael didn’t want to go there. But why didn’t bnei Yisrael want to go there? Because ten of the meraglim said it was a terrible, deadly land filled with giants! Moshe leaves that part out of the story at first because it doesn’t really matter whether they said it was good or bad – Hashem said it was a good place, so we should only listen to Him.
Moshe tells everyone about all the complaining and rebelling in the midbar.
After the story of the meraglim, some of bnei Yisrael realized they should have gone in when Hashem said to, so they tried to go up now – even though he’d said not to. They died, because they’d gone against what He told them to do.
Do you remember learning how to walk?
It’s probably better if you don’t remember! Why? Because it’s a pretty scary time. There’s so much you have to figure out – how to stand up and balance, how to move your legs properly, one at a time, one in front of the other. Most babies spend more time falling than walking at first. Boom! But it’s not just scary – it’s exciting. Most babies know that figuring out how to walk will get them the thing they want most – independence. They can go off on their own and be free at last! The story of bnei Yisrael in the midbar is filled with mistakes; they’d been slaves for so long, they forgot how to be free. They’d forgotten how to listen to Hashem, and how to serve Him properly. They fell down a lot, but it was an exciting time, because whenever they made a mistake, they were learning how to be independent, a free people at last.
But the most important lessons were still to come, as we will find out in next week’s parsha…
Do you read these parsha summaries with your kids??? Are they helpful to you? Is anybody out there? I have more readers than ever and fewer comments than ever before… :-( Since I’m hoping to market these as a book someday, feedback – constructive, of course! – is more than welcome, it’s essential. Tell me what I’m doing right! Tell me what I’m doing wrong! (except my teenage offspring, who have already most generously filled me in on what I’m doing wrong…)