Points to Ponder

Devarim 5777

These are the words that Moshe spoke (1:1) – Rashi explains that Moshe accounted for the rebuke he wanted to give to the people by identifying the places that they angered Hashem in hints out of respect he had for the people.  The Midrash explains that the people would’ve passed out in embarrassment had he spoken to them directly. Rav Shalom Schwadron ztl. noted that the hints didn’t take the people away from the central message that was being presented. Our times too, contain many opportunities for rebuke but the ideal rebuke  is one that recognizes that there is a purpose and a hope in the eyes of the rebuked for the future.

See (singular) I gave you the land go together and inherit (plural) the land (1:8) – Why does the Possuk begin with a singular “see” and end with the plural (go & inherit)? Rav Gifter Shlita explained that when it comes to inheriting the land it requires a group but when it begins – it begins as an idea on themind of each and every individual because Hisbonenus is a Mitzva on every individual by himself.

How will I be able to carry on my own (1:12)-  Although the word משאis normally translated as “burden,” in this case the Ramban writes that it is a language of prayer that Moshe was expressing his inability to be solely responsible to pray for the entire nation and all of its needs. Why is Tefillah described as a burden, especially when there are many other mitzvos that are more difficult and physically taxing than prayer? Rav Simcha Zisel Broide ztl. explains that when we pray for another Jew who is suffering and in pain, it isn’t sufficient to merely petition Hashem on his behalf. We are expected to actually feel his hurt, and to call out to Hashem to alleviate not only his agony, but ours as well. Accordingly, Moshe complained that when he prayed on behalf of the nation, he felt their collective pain, and he described it as a משא – heavy burden to be carried.

And I took the leaders of your tribes (1:15)  - Rashi notes that Moshe encouraged them with praise about how great it was to be a leader of the Jewish people. But how could he who complained so bitterly about the job praise it to others? Rav Yakov Neuberger Shlita quoted Rav Kook ztl. who explained that the way to handle irreverence is to challenge it with increased righteousness. Moshe hoped that by increasing the ranks he would be able to encourage the people to join him and the Tzidkus would outweigh the Rishus.

Like small like large you shall judge (1:17) – The Gemara (Sanhedrin 8a) explains that small cases (of small disputed amounts) are treated the same way as larger ones. The Gemara explains that this teaches us that a judge should not push up the larger case. Why is this not obvious? Rav Schachter Shlita explained that there are rules and regulations for Mitzva fulfillment. The gemara spells these out in a number of places. Lest a Dayan think that a bigger case is a bigger Mitzva, the Gemara explains that this is not so. For this process of “Din” we have a rule within called Ein Maavirin Al HaMitzvos. Rav Schachter added that Rav Kook ztl. would often reshuffle his waiting room based on the Talmidei Chachamim waiting in it to speak to him but this is not allowed when it comes to Din Torah.


Hashem also got angry at me because of you (1:37) – Why does Moshe think that the reason he did not go into Eretz Yisrael was because of the Miraglim – wasn’t it because of Mei Merivah? Rav Shimon Schwab ztl. notes that at multiple points in the Midbar when the Jews complained, they always asked why he took them out of Egypt – including at the time of the Miraglim. At that time it led to 40 years of wandering – and continued complaining. It is no surprise that at the end another round of complaining brought on by 40 years of blame led him to snap. The Cheit HaMiraglim caused it.

And tell the nation that you are passing the border of the land of your brother Eisav (2:4) – The Ramban wonders why brotherhood is mentioned specifically by Eisav and not by Yishmael or the children of Keturah? The Brisker Rav ztl. explained that biologically Eisav was a complete Ach – he shared both parents. It was in the choice to act with brotherhood that this familial relation was strained but it certainly existed. Thus, it is stressed.

Haftorah: An ox knows it owner and a donkey, the bridle of its owner but the Jewish nation did not know me and my nation did not contemplate (Isaiah 1:3) – What kind of Kal VaChomer is this? After all, animals instinctually know their owners – what is the comparison to the human? Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi Shlita explains that this is precisely the problem. Even if we have lost our way, we should still be able to turn to the instinctually knowledge of He who runs the entire world or the Torah which feeds and sustains it. The inability to see and know Hashem is our problem and makes us lower nor merely different than the animals.