This week’s Torah portion covers Deuteronomy 7:12 to 11:25. The Israelites are still camped on the opposite side of Jordan, poised for entrance into the land. But these are Moses’ last moments with his people; these are his last words, his parting wisdom.
Moses summarizes the last forty years, all of their highs and lows. Even though he is speaking to a new generation, people who have never known anything other than desert wanderings, he recalls the events as if they too were eyewitnesses. He rebukes “their” lack of faith and reminds them of the golden calf at Sinai, the fearful report of the spies, the rebellion of Korach, their complaints about food.
Moses promises them that if they remember to keep God’s commandments after they settle the land, all will be well with them. The forty years of manna in the desert was meant to demonstrate their reliance on God. They are now set to conquer a land rich with pasture and agriculture. Knowing the tendency for abundance to stifle humanity’s hunger for God, Moses warns “man does not live on bread alone, but by the utterance of God’s mouth does man live.”
More than food, Moses is most concerned with the prevalence of cultic worship among the tribes residing in the land. Deuteronomy, more than any other book in the Torah, is zealous in its condemnation of idolatry.