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Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Devarim – Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22

I hate people who constantly criticize me. That may sound harsh. But I bet you feel the same way. Most don’t know you well or at all. They have no idea what burdens you carry. Still, the Torah says, “love the stranger as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:34) The real problem: too often their criticisms are true. Parshas Devraim explains what to do about such enemies:

“These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 1:1)

How to Actually Love Your Enemies

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the fifth and final book of the Torah. Deuteronomy (Devarim in Hebrew) is known as Mishneh Torah, meaning repetition, review, or explanation of the Torah. The Children of Israel heard the previous four books of the Torah directly from G-d who spoke through Moses’s throat. But Moses received Deuteronomy from G-d in the way other Prophets received their messages. Then at a later date conveyed it to the Israelites.

God Stirs Things Up

The Hebrew devarim means words. It also means things. The double meaning is on purpose. Moses spoke words but he also related certain events. He reminded the Israelites of past mistakes. So right before the triumphant entrance into the land of Israel, the Almighty tells Moses to scold his followers.

Wow! How would you feel if right before you graduated from high school or got a big promotion someone you respected listed all your blunders for the previous 40 years? Sounds like a downer to me.

God knew what He was doing. During the transition ahead the Children of Israel would face many challenges. During hardship their faith tended to slip. The Almighty clarified the challenge ahead by stirring up memories of past events. It must have been difficult for the Israelites to hear their faults recounted. But they were better off being armed with knowledge of who they really were.

Your Lovable Enemies

Transitions require honest accountings of strength and weaknesses. That way you can play to the former and reinforce the latter.  Loved ones often underplay your shortcomings. They want to encourage you. Highlighting negatives seems downright cruel. After all, won’t they undermine your confidence if they suggest you have limitations?

Not so your enemies. They’ll let you have it with both barrels. They couldn’t care less about your self-esteem or prospects for success. Spewing vitriol makes them feel good. So they do.

The more they sting, the more closely you should examine their words. What may have been a random swipe may turn out to be golden insight you can use.

Follow these three steps:

  1. Listen. Actually hear what they are saying. The tendency is to ignore harsh words. The better you can train yourself to listen to what your enemies say the better use you can make of it.
  2. Consider. By focusing on listening first you reduce the chance of an emotional response. Having heard what was said, you can calmly decide if it contains any facts. Did they just vent anger? Or was a kernel of truth spoken?
  3. Absorb. If any of their criticism is valid, take it on board. To do otherwise is to play into their hands. Why do you want to avoid improving yourself merely because the source is repugnant? By the way, there’s no better way to antagonize your enemies than by gaining from their efforts. (If they hurt themselves it’s not revenge!)

Granted this process is a difficult one. You’ll never get it down completely. I know I haven’t. Negativity need not be bad. The trick is to use it to propel your life forward.

How do you deal with your enemies? Please comment below.


Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

© , Kevin S. Bemel, All Rights Reserved

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