Parsha Devarim: Camping out with Scoutmaster Moses

Dear Scouts,

This week we begin the 5th book of the Torah, Devarim (Deuteronomy).  Dr. E. Urner Goodman, founder of the Order of the Arrow, said of the 40 years in the desert that it was “history’s most famous camping trip.”  In Dr. Goodman’s metaphor, I would say that Devarim, at least this parsha, is the “Sunday morning” of this campout.

Moses,our Scoutmaster, gathers the entire Troop Israel together to talk before they leave to go Home (to the Land of Israel). Unfortunately, this campout did not go as well as it should have, and it was up to the Scoutmaster to go over a few things. Hopefully, you’ve had a similar conversation or two with your own leaders.

You remember dinner got burned because the cook was goofing off instead of watching the food.  The dining fly blew away because nobody knows their knots.  You lost a new Scout because you made a makeshift catapult that worked too well. Stuff like that.  Really, Troop Israel didn’t have a campout as bad as that.

This was worse.

Pirkei Avot lists a series of tens that are found in the Torah.  I’ve heard Rabbi Akiva Tatz speak about all these tens in the Torah paralleling each other.  They’re all different aspects of the same thing.  Among them are:

  • Ten trials that Avraham faced and passed successfully.
  • Ten miracles performed for Israel in Egypt
  • Ten miracles performed for Israel at the Red Sea
  • Ten plagues brought on the Egyptians in Egypt
  • Ten plagues brought on the Egyptians at the Red Sea.

These are all great things for us, and then the Mishnah says that we tested Hashem ten times in the desert like it says in Bamidbar (Numbers), “They have tested Me these ten times and did not heed My voice.”

The story of their/our father Avraham was part of their Scout Handbook (the Torah), and then they’d had great instruction complete with demonstration of both the good way to approach these ten aspects of the world they would encounter.  In spite of the fact that they should have Been Prepared to act correctly, they completely messed up every time.

Therefore, Moses gives everyone a stern lecture about everything that went wrong. Why?  Hopefully, they would realize how much they’d messed up and how much better it could have been if they’d done what they were supposed to.  Even if they couldn’t go back and fix the campout, hopefully they’d think about all this on the ride home and not make the same types of mistakes when they went back to school the next day.  I mean… when they entered Eretz Yisrael.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jordan Block
Assistant Scoutmaster, Troop 806
Houston, TX