We are in the middle of the High Holidays on the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have come and gone and Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, begins tonight, October 2nd. According to Jewish tradition, on the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot, Deuteronomy 32 is read as a community. I encourage all of us as Christians to take the time to do our own reading of Deuteronomy 32 during this season.
Deuteronomy 32 is an incredible chapter of the Torah which represents the whole of the Israelite story up to this point and also contains a message of exhortation and caution for the Israelites’ next chapter. It is this portion of Deuteronomy that makes a break in style and format with the rest of the covenant book. The chapter is a seventy-line poem. Tradition holds that Moses sang it to the people on his last day of life.
The song begins as a reminder to the Israelites of this generation to pass on their spiritual inheritance—to tell their children and grandchildren about the miracles they witnessed in their deliverance from Egypt and their wanderings in the desert. Moses sings, “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.”
Moses reminds them of their chosenness and the responsibility that accompanies that gift. He says, “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.”