During all the years that Israel was in the wilderness, on the eve of every ninth of Av, Moses sent a herald throughout the camp to proclaim, “Go out and dig graves, go out and dig graves!” and the people went out and dug graves, in which they spent the night. In the morning, the herald went and announced, “Let those who are alive separate from the dead!” The living then stood up and found themselves some fifteen thousand short [NOTE: One-fortieth of the adults died each year — see parashat Shelach-Lecha for narrative explanation]….In the last of the forty years, they did the same….finally when they saw that not one of them had died, they said: It appears that the Holy One has removed the harsh decree from over us. The declared that day a festival.
These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel, on the other side of the Jordan, concerning the Wilderness, concerning Arabah, opposite the Sea of Reeds, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di’zihab; eleven days from Horeb, by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.
— Devarim/Deuteronomy 1:1-2 (Stone translation)
“These are the words” launches Moses’ long rebuke of the people. The first verse, according to commentaries beginning with the Third Century Sifrei Devarim, uses place names as code for sins:
YHVH said to Moses as follows:
The portion “Shelach” [“Send out”] — Bamidbar/Numbers 13:1 – 15:41 — contains the famous story of the spies sent out to scout the land of Israel and the aftermath, resulting in most Israelites doomed to death in the desert. It also includes the passage about wearing of fringes [tzitzit] (Bamidbar/Numbers 15:38), well-known as the final portion of the Shema reading in most prayerbooks.