In the weekly synagogue readings of the Bible, we are in the last book of the Pentateuch; known in the English-speaking world as Deuteronomy. The origin of the book title is from the Greek deuteros nomos (second law) based upon the verse: “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of the law” (17:18). The name is a misnomer because Deuteronomy does not contain a second law. However, it does explain God’s revealed law at Mount Sinai to a second generation of Israelites.

In Hebrew, the fifth volume of the Pentateuch is Devarim (Words). Of course, the book contains words! How odd for the last discourse of Moses to his people to have a book title that seems to lack so much meaning. It is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where Polonius tries to make conversation with him by asking what he is reading. To this, Hamlet makes his famous response, “Words, words, words.”


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