Sefer Devarim | ספר דברים

Referred to by Chazal as “Mishneh Torah,” a repetition of Torah, Sefer Devarim covers some familiar narratives and laws, though it is not a complete retelling of the first four books of the Torah, and contains many laws not previously seen. The book consists of a long series of speeches by Moshe Rabbenu which he delivers to Bnei Yisrael before his death, in arvot Moav (the plains of Moab) on the east side of the Yarden (Jordan River), before they are to cross over into the Land of Israel. For this reason, it is largely written in the first person, with Moshe speaking as “I,” in distinction to the first four books, which are generally in the third person (“he”) unless someone is being quoted.

Table of Contents

Structure of Sefer Devarim

You can see a visual chart of the structure of Sefer Devarim from

Introductory Historical Speech, Devarim 1-4

  • Historical introduction from Sinai/Chorev to the present: Devarim 1:1-3:29
  • On the Torah: Devarim 4:1-40
  • Setting aside of Arei Miklat (cities of refuge for manslayers) on the east side of the Yarden (Jordan River): Devarim 4:41-43
  • Closing of the first speech: Devarim 4:44-49

Main Address about the Mitzvot, Devarim 5-26

  • Opening and review of Aseret ha-Dibrot (the Ten Commandments): Devarim 5:1-6:3
  • Shema: Devarim 6:4-9
  • Mitzvot for the Land of Israel: Devarim 6:10-9:29
  • Review of the Second Luchot (Tablets): Devarim 10:1-11
  • Closing of the second speech: Devarim 10:12-11:25
  • Blessings and curses: Devarim 11:26-32
  • Idolatry must be wiped out and there will be only one place of worship: Devarim 12:1-13:19
  • Things Jews must do because they are holy, including kashrut: Devarim 14:1-29
  • The Shmita year: Devarim 15:1-23
  • The Shalosh Regalim (pilgrimage festivals): Devarim 16:1-17
  • Establishing the justice system and leadership of the nation: Devarim 16:18-19:21
  • Laws of war: Devarim 20:1-14
  • Family and social laws: Devarim 20:15-25:19
  • Bikkurim (bringing the first fruits): Devarim 26:1-15
  • Closing of the second speech: Devarim 26:16-19

The Covenant Address, Devarim 27-30

  • The ceremony of the blessings and the curses on Har Gerizim and Har Eival: Devarim 27:1-28:69
  • The covenant of Arvot Moav: Devarim 29:1-30:20

Moshe’s Farewell Address and Final Day, Devarim 31-34

  • Farewell address: Devarim 31:1-30
  • The Shira of Haazinu: Devarim 32:1-47
  • Instructions to Moshe: Devarim 32:48-52
  • Moshe’s final blessing: Devarim 33:1-29
  • Ascent to Har Nevo and Moshe’s death: Devarim 34:1-12

Major Midrashim on Sefer Devarim

Although there is a Devarim Rabba included in the set of Midrash Rabba (an invention of printers in early modernity), the most significant midrash on Sefer Devarim is Sifrei, a halachic midrash collection.

Major Mefarshim on Sefer Devarim

The major Rishonim, Rashi (along with the supercommentary Mizrachi), the standard (“short”) Ibn Ezra, and Ramban, all comment on Sefer Bamidbar, as well as Rashbam, Rabbenu Bachya, Chizkuni, Abravanel, and more. Modern commentaries include, among others, the Gur Aryeh, Emek Davar, Or ha-Chaim, Shadal, and Malbim.

Parsha Guides for Sefer Devarim

Image: James Jacques Joseph Tissot, Moses, c. 1896-1902, gouache on board (Photographer: John Parnell), Photo by The Jewish Museum, New York (used with permission)