The Book of Debarim – Completing the Divine Name
The Hachamim were very particular in the way they scheduled the weekly Torah readings, ensuring that each week’s reading would be relevant to that season. There is always some connection – either obvious or subtle – between the weekly Parasha and the time of year when it is read.
Each and every year, we begin the Book of Devarim on the Shabbat before Tisha B’Ab, during the period of mourning for the destruction of the Bet Ha’mikdash. Undoubtedly, some connection exists between this transition from Bamdibar to Debarim, and the period of mourning for the Temple.
Our Sages teach us that while we are in exile, the Name of G-d is not complete. The final verse of Tehillim states, “Kol Ha’neshama Tehalel Y-H” (literally, “Every soul shall praise G-d”). The word “Neshama” is related to the word “Shama,” which means “desolate,” and it thus alludes to our period of exile, when the Mikdash lay in ruins. The verse tells us that during this period of “Neshama,” of destruction and desolation, “Tehalel Y-H” – we can only praise “Y-H,” the first two letters of the divine Name of “Y-H-V-H.” In the times of Mashiah, the final two letters – “Vav” and “Heh” – will be added to the “Yod” and “Heh” to complete the divine Name. This is what we pray for in the Kaddish prayer, when we say, “Yeheh Shemeh Rabba.” The word “Shemeh” means “Shem Y-H,” and we pray that this Name shall be made “Rabba” – great, or complete, with the arrival of our final redemption.
In truth, the divine Name has five letters, not four. The Sages teach us that the letter “Yod,” with which this Name begins, is written in the Torah scroll with a decorative “crown,” which may be perceived as an independent letter. And thus the divine Name of “Y-H-V-H” may be viewed as a five-letter Name. These five letters correspond to the five books of the Torah. Bereshit corresponds to the “crown” of the “Yod”; Shemot parallels the letter “Yod” itself; Vayikra represents the first “Heh”; Bamidbar symbolizes the “Vav”; and the final book, Debarim, is associated with the fifth and final letter, the second “Heh.”
The reading of Sefer Debarim, then, expresses our hopes for the completion of the divine Name. This book represents the final letter of Y-H-V-H, and thus symbolizes our longing for the Messianic Era, when G-d’s Name will be complete, when Y-H will be transformed into Y-H-V-H.
Moshe Rabbenu himself alludes to this concept in the beginning of Parashat Debarim, when he recalls how close Beneh Yisrael were to the Land of Israel, noting, “Ahad Assar Yom Me’Horeb…Ad Kadesh” (“It is a mere eleven-day journey from Horeb [Sinai]…until Kadesh”). The deeper meaning of this verse is that the path from “Horeb” – referring to the state of “Hurban” (“destruction”) – to “Kadesh” – referring to Kedusha, the period of Mashiah – is through the number 11, the combined numerical value of the “Vav” (6) and “Heh” (5). We achieve redemption by bringing these two letters back to “Y-H” to form the complete Name of Hashem.
This is why we always begin the Book of Debarim at this time, when we mourn the destruction of the Mikdash, as it expresses our fervent hope for the end of the exile and the arrival of Mashiah, which will occur with the completion of the divine Name, symbolized by the reading of the Book of Debarim.
How do we bring back these two letters in order to achieve our final redemption?
The “Vav” is represented by the six books of the Mishna, and the “Heh” symbolizes the five books of the Humash. And thus the way we restore the missing letters is through our Torah study, by devoting time to learning the holy words of the Humash and the Talmud. This is the way we “rescue” the missing letters of “Vav” and “Heh” and bring them back to combine with the half-Name of Y-H, thereby bringing Mashiah and our final redemption, speedily and in our days, Amen.