Two Wrongs Don't Make Repentance

When we have done something wrong, we should not try to correct the error with another wrong. Spiritual maturity requires us to accept the consequences of our actions.

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Special Shabbat Reading

Special readings are applicable this Shabbat.

  • Shabbat Chazon (שַׁבָּת חֲזוֹן | Vision)
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 1:1-27

Shabbat Chazon ("Sabbath [of] vision") takes its name from the Haftarah that is read on the Shabbat immediately prior to the mournful fast of Tisha B'Av, from the words of rebuke and doom coming from Isaiah in the Book of Isaiah 1:1-27. It is also referred to as the Black Sabbath due to its status as the saddest Shabbat of the year (as opposed to the White Sabbath, Shabbat Shuvah, immediately precededing Yom Kippur).

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Devarim (דְּבָרִים | Words)
  • Torah: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 1:1-27
  • Gospel: Matthew 24:1-22

Regular readings above are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the current Torah Portion Schedule for all these variations, and special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Deuteronomy 1:1 | Events at Horeb Recalled
    • Deuteronomy 1:9 | Appointment of Tribal Leaders
    • Deuteronomy 1:19 | Israel's Refusal to Enter the Land
    • Deuteronomy 1:34 | The Penalty for Israel's Rebellion
    • Deuteronomy 1:46 | The Desert Years
    • Deuteronomy 2:26 | Defeat of King Sihon
    • Deuteronomy 3:1 | Defeat of King Og
  • Prophets
    • Isaiah 1:1 | Introduction
    • Isaiah 1:2 | The Wickedness of Judah
    • Isaiah 1:21 | The Degenerate City

Portion Summary

Devarim is both the title for the last book from the scroll of the Torah and the title of the first Torah portion therein. Devarim means "words." The English-speaking world calls this book Deuteronomy. The Hebrew title for the book comes from the opening phrase of the book: "These are the words (devarim) which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness" (Deuteronomy 1:1).

One ancient name for the book of Deuteronomy is Mishnah HaTorah, which means "repetition of the Torah." This is similar to the Greek Septuagint name Deuteronomos, which means "second law." The English name Deuteronomy is derived from Deuteronomos.

The book of Deuteronomy is dominated by Moses' farewell address to the children of Israel as he urges them to remain faithful to the covenant and prepares them for entering Canaan. During the course of the book, Moses reviews the story of the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the trip to the Promised Land, reiterates several laws of Torah and introduces new laws. The book seems to follow the general pattern of an ancient Near Eastern covenant treaty document.

As we study the first week's reading from the book of Exodus, the children of Israel are assembled on the plains of Moab across the Jordan from Jericho.

According to tradition, the Israelites refused to enter the land on the ninth day of the fifth month (Tisha b'Av). Consequently, Judaism observes that day as an annual fast day. The same date is the anniversary of the destruction of both the first and second Temples:

On the ninth of Av it was decreed that our fathers should not enter the land, the Temple was destroyed the first time, and the second time. (b.Taanit 29a)

The first Torah reading from the book of Deuteronomy is always read on the Shabbat before the ninth day of the fifth month.

In this week's Torah portion, Moses retold the story of sending the twelve spies into the land of Canaan and the tragic results of that mission. He reminded the generation of how their fathers faithlessly refused to enter the land and how God punished them with the wandering in the wilderness. He retold the story of how, after the rebellion, the Israelites made a failed attempt to enter the land.

You have probably heard the expression "Two wrongs don't make a right." This means that when we have done something wrong, we should not try to correct the error by doing another wrong. After committing the sin of rejecting the land, the Israelites perceived that they had displeased the LORD. They reversed themselves and immediately prepared to enter the land. They girded themselves for war to attempt an invasion. The LORD spoke through Moses, telling them, "Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; otherwise you will be defeated before your enemies" (Deuteronomy 1:42).

The Israelites would not listen. They attempted an invasion of Canaan and were soundly beaten back. When God told them to enter the land, they would not. When God told them not to enter the land, they insisted on entering.

Ordinarily, repentance is a simple matter. When we realize we have sinned by doing something wrong, we simply need to confess our wrongdoing, turn around and do the opposite. However, it is not always so simple. Sometimes our sin creates consequences that make it impossible for us to reverse course.

For example, suppose a father forbids his daughter from a certain marriage. She refuses to listen and elopes with the fellow. After a year of marriage, she realizes that she has made a terrible mistake by ignoring her father's warnings. She decides to end the marriage. After all, her father didn't want her to be married to this man. The second wrong does not right the first wrong. The choices we make have consequences, and sometimes it is necessary to live with those consequences.

Spiritual maturity requires us to accept the consequences of our actions. The children of Israel were not willing to accept the consequence of their rejection of the land. Rather than submit to the forty-year decree, they rebelled against God's word again. When we truly trust God, we will be willing to submit to His justice, even if it means discipline.

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Unrolling the Scroll. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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