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Parshas Devorim - Vol. 10, Issue 40
Compiled by Oizer Alport
There are 5 books in the written Torah, and 6 sections of the Mishnah - the Oral Torah. The Paneiach Raza writes that there are 6 portions in the written Torah which correspond to the Mishnah, each of which begins with the letter aleph - eileh toledos Noach, eileh Pekudei, im Bechukosai, eileh masei, eileh ha'devorim, atem nitzavim. This is because the spelling of the letter aleph comes from the root meeting to study, and the word Mishnah also means to learn.
Of the 6 portions, four begin with the word eileh, which alludes to the four sections of the Mishnah on which we also have Talmudic commentary, as the gematria (numerical value) of the word eileh is 36, which is also the number of tractates in the Babylonian Talmud! The last book of the Torah, Devorim, begins with one of these four parshios in order to teach that in reviewing the Torah and its laws with the nation before his death, Moshe reviewed not only the written Torah but the entire Talmud and Oral Law as well.
Similarly, there are 5 tractates in the Mishnah which begin with the letter aleph - eilu Devorim she'ein lahem shiur (Peah), ohr l'arba'ah asar (Pesachim), arba'ah roshei shanim heim (Rosh Hashana), arba'ah avos nezikin (Bava Kamma), avos hatumah (Keilim), which hint to the 5 books of the written Torah and teach that every component of Torah is deeply intertwined. The Torah itself represents the Will of Hashem, and just as He and His Will are one, so too all parts of the Torah are interconnected, and the components which may seem the most disparate and unrelated are full of deep and powerful wisdom waiting to be unlocked by one who toils to uncover it.
The book of Devorim begins with Moshe's review of the 40-year national history from the time of the Exodus until the present. Much of Parshas Devorim revolves around Moshe's rebuke of the Jewish nation for sins they committed during this period, in an attempt to ensure that they wouldn't continue in these mistaken ways. The Torah introduces this section by relating that Moshe spoke these words between Paran, Tofel, Lavan, Chatzeiros, and Di Zahav. Each of these refers to a place in which the Jewish people sinned. However, Rashi notes that there is no place named Lavan. Rather, this was a veiled criticism of the complaints of the Jewish people about the Manna, which was white (the meaning of the Hebrew word "Lavan").
During their travels in the wilderness, a group of complainers began to protest the Manna that they were forced to eat day after day. They wailed that they missed the succulent tastes of the meat, fish, and vegetables that they ate in Egypt, and now they had nothing to look forward to except Manna (Bamidbar 11:7). Rashi writes that in response to their complaint, Hashem wrote in the Torah a description of how wonderful the Manna was as if to say, "Look, inhabitants of the world, at what my children are complaining about."
Rav Pam notes that although we don't merit hearing it, a Bas Kol (Heavenly voice) still frequently expresses similar frustration over the things that we complain about. We live in a time of unprecedented freedom and material bounty. We are surrounded by a society which influences us to believe that we are entitled to immediate gratification and to have everything we want exactly how we want it. If we would only step back and view our lives with the proper perspective, we would be so overwhelmed by the blessings we enjoy that there would be no room to complain about trivialities.
Although we don't normally hear Hashem's direct communication on this point, sometimes He sends us the message about priorities and values through a human agent, as illustrated in the following story. A group of yeshiva students were once complaining about the quality and selection of the meals they were served. Each boy heaped more and more criticism on every aspect of the food, until they were jolted to their senses by one of the elderly teachers in the yeshiva. The Rabbi couldn't help but overhear their loud complaints in the dining hall and walked over to teach a succinct lesson: "In Auschwitz we would have done anything to have gotten such food."
Every time that a husband comes home to a messy house, filled with children's toys and dirty clothes, and berates his wife over her inability to keep their house clean, a Heavenly voice challenges, "How many families would do anything to have children and would gladly clean up the mess that accompanies them, and here is somebody who has been blessed with healthy children and is upset that they make his house disorderly? Where are his priorities!?"
When a husband or a child complains about eating the same supper for the third consecutive night, Hashem can't help but point out how many poverty-stricken families would do anything to eat this dinner every night for a year, if only to enjoy a nutritional and filling meal. Every time that the parents of the bride and groom quarrel over petty wedding-related issues, a Bas Kol wonders how many parents will cry themselves to sleep that evening over their inability to find a proper match for their aging son or daughter, and who would gladly accede to any terms the other side would set … if only there would be another side.
The next time that we find ourselves upset about issues which are objectively nothing more than nuisances and minor inconveniences, we should remember the lesson of the Manna and open our ears to hear Hashem's response to our complaints.
The book of Devorim begins with Moshe's review of the Torah and the national history from the time of the Exodus until the present. Rashi comments that in addressing the nation prior to his death, Moshe also translated the Torah into all 70 languages, which is difficult to understand. At this point in time, all of the Jewish people were gathered together in the same place, and all of them spoke the same language. What was Moshe's purpose in translating the Torah for them into so many other languages?
The K'Sav Sofer explains that Moshe's intention in translating the Torah into every language was to teach them a critical lesson: No matter where a Jew finds himself, and no matter what language he may speak, the Torah is still relevant and applicable to him. The Torah's laws and messages are universal and apply in every situation, independent of the passage of time or the changing of languages and customs.
Rabbi Chaim Zvi Senter adds that Parshas Devorim is always read during the summer, at a time when this concept is particularly relevant, as many families are already on vacation or about to embark upon one, and yeshiva students begin their 3-week intersession after Tisha B'av. While we are away from our homes and our familiar routines, it is essential to bear in mind the K'sav Sofer's message, that the Torah's laws and guidelines are applicable no matter where life may take us.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) In the middle of his rebuke of the Jewish people, Moshe blessed them (1:11) that Hashem should increase their population 1000-fold. Rashi writes that they responded by questioning why Moshe gave a limit to their blessing, as Hashem had blessed Avrohom that his descendants should be so numerous that they could not be counted. Moshe responded that Hashem's blessing still stood, and he was merely giving his own blessing. If Hashem gave them a greater blessing, what was the purpose in Moshe giving a more limited blessing? (Sifsei Chochomim, Ayeles HaShachar)
2) In his rebuke for the sin of the spies, Moshe mentions (1:37) that as a result of this incident, Hashem became angry with him and decreed that he may not enter the land of Israel. Where is this mentioned in Parshas Shelach, where the episode of the spies is recounted, and how can this be reconciled with the verse (Bamidbar 20:12) which states that it was only at the (later) time of Moshe's sin in bringing forth the water at Mei Merivah that it was decreed that he couldn't enter the land of Israel? (Ramban, Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh here and Bamidbar 20:5, Maharil Diskin)
3) Moshe sent messengers to the king of Cheshbon to ask permission for the Jews to pass through his land and offering to buy food and drink along the way (2:26-28). Why did they need to obtain food and drink when the Manna and well provided all of their needs? (Paneiach Raza)
4) There are four blessings which - in the Diaspora, where Yom Tov is observed for two days - are recited exactly once annually, one of which is associated with this time of the year. How many of them can you identify?
Shema Yisrael Torah Network