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Through the Looking Glass



Sefer Devarim is referred to by Chazal as Mishne Torah, which means a repeating of the law. The Chumash constitutes Moshe Rabenu's farewell address to the Jewish people.  During the final days before Moshe's death, he recounts to the Jewish people much of the history of the previous forty years, and repeats many of the mitzvot. Hence the term Mishne Torah, or in Greek, Deuteronomy.

An interesting phenomenon we see at the beginning of Sefer Devarim is that there are basically three introductions to the Sefer.  The first pasuk says:

אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה אל כל ישראל בעבר הירדן במדבר בערבה מול סוף בין פארן ובין תפל ולבן וחצרות ודי זהב

Here we are told that Moshe spoke to all of Israel.

The next two pesukim state:


אחד עשר יום מחרב דרך הר שעיר עד קדש ברנע.  ויהי בארבעים שנה בעשתי עשר חדש באחד לחדש דבר משה אל בני ישראל ככל אשר צוה השם אתו אלהם

Here we are told that Moshe told to B'nei Yisrael everything that Hashem commanded him to say.

The final introduction is in the next two pesukim, were it states:

אחרי הכתו את סיחון מלך האמרי אשר יושב בחשבון ואת עוג מלך הבשן אשר יושב בעשתרת באדרעי.  בעבר הירדן בארץ מואב הואיל משה באר את התורה הזאת לאמר

So now we are told that Moshe began to explain the Torah.

Why does Moshe's speech need to be introduced three times?  The phraseology of each introduction may shed some light.  First is says that “Moshe spoke.”  Then it states that “Moshe said everything that Hashem commanded”. Finally, it says that “Moshe began to explain the Torah.”  Perhaps this is supposed to reflect a progression or development in B'nei Yisrael's perception of Moshe's speeches to them in general over the prior forty years.  First they only related to Moshe as their leader of flesh and blood.  It took time for B'nei Yisrael to internalize the reality that everything that Moshe said was actually of divine origin, the word of Hashem.  The final and perhaps most significant stage was for B'nei Yisrael to accept the concept of Torah, a system of law commanded by Hashem and communicated by Moshe which would continue to guide them even after Moshe's death.

The context of each of these introductions is also noteworthy.  In the first introduction, Moshe's speech is referred to in relation to various places.  The second speech focuses more on time.  It mentions that the journey from Horev to Kadesh Barnea takes 11 days, and the exact date of Moshe's speech.  Finally, the third introduction focuses more on action, with its reference to the battles against Sichon and Og, and the reference to Moshe's speech as not simply being a speech, but an active process of elucidation and clarification of the law.  This may hint to part of the process that Moshe is telling B'nei Yisrael they must implement in the future in order to fulfill their destiny as the people of God.  B'nei Yisrael is perhaps being told that if we view the places we find ourselves through the appropriate lens of time, this will ultimately lead us to act in the proper way.  Much of Torah governs our actions through particular mitzvot that are done at specific times, whether times of the day, week or year.  In addition, it was important for B'nei Yisrael to view their settlement of Eretz Yisrael  through the lens of everything that occurred prior to their conquest and settlement of the land, which would hopefully lead to actions that befit a Holy People in the Holy Land.

Shabbat Shalom.




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