Points to Ponder

Devarim 5774


Moshe explained the Torah as follows (1:5) – Rav Schachter Shlita explained that this is a reference to Moshe’s handing over of the Torah here refers to the Torah She’Baal Peh. However, in the end, the original conquering of the land was with the power of Torah Sh’B Ksav which has the ability to be destroyed like the klaf of the Sefer Torah itself. Ultimately in the times of Esther and Achashveirosh the Jews will unite under Torah She’Baal Peh, a gift that will be with them forever more.


Behold I have given you the land, go and inherit the land – Rav Menashe Klein, Ungvarer Rav ztl. notes that the possuk contains an inherent contradiction – if the land was given, how does it need to be acquired via inheritance? That’s why he notes that originally people thought the same significance given to Eretz Yisrael would be accorded to eiver HaYarden. Not so, declares Hashem – one is the land promised to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov and the other is a gift of lower status.


Hashem your God made you as prosperous  and made you as large as the stars in the heavens (1:10) –  We find two different descriptions of the multiplicity of Bnei  Yisrael . They are compared to the stars and to the sand.  On the one hand while stars are respected in the heavens, the sand is tread upon in the streets. But, adds Rav Asher Weiss Shlita, while the stars are in heaven, they are far apart. The sand stays very close together. In fact, that is where it gets its strength. The dual Beracha is to reach the great heights but to do so by being close together at the same time.


Eicha – how can I alone carry the load of your arguments, appoint judges (1:12-13) – Why is the section of appointing judges in the opening of the book of Devarim? What is to be gained ? Sforno explains that despite being promised a major land with riches whose abundance far overshadowed the wealth of the desert, the people still fought with one another to the point that there needed to be a judge for every 10 people.  Rav Sabato Shlita notes the irony in the use of Eicha here as the word Badad which Yirmiyahu associates with Eicha is exactly the ideal that Moshe sought. Had the people not argued, then Moshe would have been able to judge them by himself. That they needed more Dayanim indicated a more systemic problem  --- which would lead to Yirushalayim becoming Badad.


Behold we are going up, our brethren weakened our hearts saying the nation is  greater than we…and we even saw giants (1:28) – Rav Eliyahu Shlessinger Shlita notes that this argument is the one that ultimately leads to the Churban. Quoting Rav Elyashiv ztl., Rav Schlessinger explains that the Talmud’s castigation of the fact that the destruction happened because the people didn’t make Birchos HaTorah is out of sync with the eyewitness accounts of Yeshaya and Yirmiyahu who seem to note so much more that was wrong with the people. True, says Rav Elyashiv, but the reliance on foreign treaties and false Gods came about because the Jews did not believe in themselves at the time of the sending of the Miraglim. Our salvation comes because we believe in the Torah and our unique status because we live it and learn it and make it Techilah in our lives.


Enough going around this mountain, turn northward (2:1) -    Rav Efrayim Greenblatt ztl  notes that we all too often look left or right for Yeshua- salvation. The ultimate salvation comes from stopping to walk in circles. Rather, we must turn northward and look into our Torah – and our relationship with Hashem in order to experience real salvation.


Hashem also got angry at me on your behalf saying I too shall not go there (1:37) – Isn’t that a bit not true? Didn’t Moshe lose his right to enter the land because of the sin at Mei Mirivah? Rav Shmuel Alter (Likutei Basar Likutei) opines that perhaps the message is one of hope for the generation that died in the midbar. In the same way that Hashem would not forget Moshe who was not allowed into the land, he would not forget the other members of the generation too – like the Shifcha whose bucket breaks off into the well whose mistress loses her pitcher there too. The Shifcha can take solace that in the same way that her mistress won’t be forgotten, her bucktet too, will be ultimately returned.



Haftorah: And the daughter of Tzion was left as a hut in a vineyard…as a besieged city (Yeshaya 1:8) – Rav Hirsch notes that in general, the word Mikdash comes from the concept not as a place where Kedusha is regulated but rather, a place where the Shechina flows outward. However, adds Rav Schwab ztl. in the time leading to the Churban, the people feared the mikdash and its officers. They did not want it interfering with their lives. As a result, they made the mikdash a besieged city.