Friday, July 24, 2009

Parshat D'varim - פרשת דברים

This week we start the last book of the Torah - Sefer D'varim. Sefer D'varim is also referred to by another name - Mishneh Torah, which can be loosely translated as "Torah digest," as it goes over many events and laws in the Torah. The Vilna Gaon explains that there are indications in the first five P'sukim as to what we learn in the entire Sefer. If you read the first five P'sukim yourself, you will see that there on three distinct occasions, the text tells us that Moshe related something to B'nei Yisrael. First it says, "אשר דבר משה" in the first Pasuk, then it says "דבר משה אל בני ישראל" in the third, and then "הואיל משה באר" in the fifth.

The Vilna Gaon explains that the first time Moshe speaks it is a reference to the rebukes that comprise the first part of Sefer D'varim, the second incidence refers to the Aseret Hadibrot with the listing of the Mitzvot that Hashem sets out for Am Yisrael, and the third quote is linked to the blessings and curses we are promised for following or disobeying Hashem.

The Maor v'Shemesh poses an intriguing question on this set-up: Why does Moshe rebuke B'nei Yisrael first? After all, if this is "Mishne Torah," a revision of the Torah, why should we hear a rebuke now? The answer he suggests is that in Judaism, one should not try to keep on taking on new things until one is settled and comfortable with all that he has already taken on. Moreover, one cannot go to learn Torah until he has dealt with issues of Teshuvah. If there are outstanding problems, one must deal with them first before advancing to other things. Here we see that Moshe rebukes Am Yisrael in a subtle way, hinting at their previous mistakes by mentioning the places where they sinned. Moshe understood that the only way a true "Mishne Torah" could begin with a rectification of all previous wrongdoing.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and an easy fast on Thursday.

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