(1:1)“Ayleh Ha’Devorim-These are the words.” This is the only Sefer that begins with “Kol Yisroel” and ends with “Kol Yisroel” We begin the fifth Sefer of the Torah in the fifth month of the year. This corresponds to the fifth level of the Neshama. There are five levels of the soul. Nefesh Ruach, Neshama, Chaye & Yichidah. Yichidah, the final level, is oneness with Hashem. It is the most hidden of all the five levels and is the level that will be revealed in the future. After each of the four exiles another level was revealed. We are now in the final exile, that of Yishmael, and what will be revealed, will be revealed to Kol Yisrael-To all of Israel. Every member of Israel will experience his own redemption. The long exile of Edom that we have endured, was only endured in the merit of Torah. However the final exile will require Tefillah-Prayer to combat the strength of Yishmael’s prayers. Perhaps this is why the Sefer is called Devarim-words. Because in the final days it is the words of our Tefillos that will be most desired by Hashem.
With this we might explain Moshe Rabeinu’s sin, that of the missed opportunity to sanctify Hashem’s name by speaking to the rock to draw water. Before entering the land of Israel, Hashem wanted a display of the power of words. Thirty-Eight years earlier it was negative words that prevented them from entering the land. Now Hashem gave Moshe the opportunity to correct the sin of the spies with words. “Shehakol Nihiye B’devoroh-All exists through His word.” would have new meaning upon entering the Holy Land. But that revelation was never made.
Sefer Devarim is usually read in the fifth month of Av the Shabbos before Tisha B’av called Shabbos Chazon-The Shabbos of Vision. The entire Sefer is one of Moshe’s vision. Concealed in his words, the future is veiled. Scattered throughout, the secrets of the final redemption await us.
(1:1)“Ayleh Ha’Devorim-These are the words.” The first words of the sefer Devarim infer that “these” words are different from those that came before. What the Torah wished to stress was that only these words were said by Moshe without having to be commanded by Hashem. Whereas the first four books were said by Hashem himself including every single letter and detail.(Ohr Hachaim)
The question is how can the Ohr Hachaim say this? The Gemarrah in Sanhedin says that if a person believes that the entire Torah is from heaven except one posuk he is considered to have dishonored the word of Hashem. How can he say that Moshe said the entire sefer of Devarim? The Kli Chemdah say's that Hashem gave the first four books to Moshe just as Hashem said them. But in the sefer Devarim Moshe expanded on the explanations of some of the mitzvos himself. Afterwards Hashem commanded him to write the entire Torah down including Moshe's direct words.
Now if Moshe said these words why are they not in chronological order? The reason is because all of the sins that Moshe recounts are all alluded to and not mentioned directly. The order was another attempt to spare the honor of Benei Yisroel.
This sefer was said on the last days of Moshe’s life. He began to speak to Klal Yisroel on the first day of Shevat and we know that he died on the seventh day of Adar. This means that this was the last thirty-six days of Moshe’s life. The Ohr Hachaim writes that this is alluded to in the word “Ayleh” which has the numerical value of thirty-six.
The question arises as to why the Sefer Devarim is Moshe’s own words? What lesson are we meant to extract from this? We know that these were the last days of Moshe’s life. As such he had elevated himself to become the most complete human being that ever lived. Moshe Rabeinu was the model of what man can achieve. He went from a Kevad Peh-a heavy mouth, an inability to speak, to an orator whose words became part of the Torah. These words, according to the Abarbanel, are actually the oldest source of the Oral Torah extant. Moshe was on his last days, doing the Mitzvah of expounding on the written Torah.
Sefer Devarim is called Mishneh Torah-The repetition of the Torah. Mainly because most of the laws contained in it have already been said or hinted at in the first four books. But according to what we have just said perhaps we can see a deeper understanding. When a person is nifter the relatives left behind learn Mishnayos for the sake of that departed soul. The reason for this is that the letters of the words Mishneh are the same as that of the word Neshama. This highest form of gematria is when the letters of two words are actually the same but just rearranged It would then come out that calling Sefer Devarim - Mishneh Torah, means that this Sefer is the Neshama of the Torah, the soul of the Torah. How do we understand this?
The soul is what gives life, what animates the physical body. The first four books are the body of the Torah. Sefer Devarim is the soul. It is the repetition of the written Torah expounded by man. The Torah unread and unlearned has no life of its own. However what Moshe accomplished in his final days was to set the example for us to follow. This is our mission, to give Torah life. By taking the written Torah and expounding upon it, by bringing out the depth buried in each and every letter, the Torah comes alive.
We always read this Parsha on the Shabbos before Tisha B'av. The Gemarrah in Brachos says that since the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh the Shechina is only found in the Daled Amos Shel Halacah-The four cubits of law. May we be worthy and able, through Torah study, to restore Hashem’s presence to the Mokom Hamikdosh speedily in our time.
(1:5) “B’Ever H’Yardain B’Eretz Moav Hoyel Moshe B’aer es H’Torah-Across the Jordan in the land of Moav Moshe began to expound the Torah.” Why did Moshe wait until now to clarify the Torah? The Torah was received 38 years prior? The Chasam Sofer explains that Moshe knew that he was standing upon land that was elevated in Kiddusha equal to that of the Holy Land. The air of the Holy Land makes one wiser, he therefore felt it was an opportune time.
(1:11) “Yosef Aleichem Kochem Eleph Pamim-May Hashem add to you one thousand times.” Why did Moshe need to add to Hashem’s blessings? One answer is that Moshe’s blessings were unconditional wear as Hashem’s was dependent on merit. Another answer is that Hashem’s blessings were for the future while Moshe’s were for this world.
(1:14) “Vatomru Tov Hadovor Asher Debartah Lasos-You said it was good that which you proposed.” When Moshe recounts the advise he received from his father in law Yisro regarding the appointment of judges, he said; “You decided the matter for your benefit.” Rashi says they should have said “ Our teacher Moshe! From whom is it better to learn, from you or from your student?” Moshe was aware of their thoughts. They knew Moshe was beyond reproach. If they would get an unfavorable judgement they could not bribe Moshe. So they were pleased with the plan suggested by Yisro. But it wasn’t just a matter of respect for Moshe Rabeinu, The teaching they would have received from Moshe was on a level that no other could come near. His light came from the Ohr Haganuz He was the spiritual conduit to connect the Torah to this world. This is why, in parshas Mattos, Moshe did not teach the laws of purifying vessels to the returning Jews after the war with Midyan. After seeing the soldiers bringing back Midianite women, who had been the source of the problem in the first place, Moshe became very angry. This anger cost him his prophecy and resulted in the laws being taught by Elozar Hakohein instead. We know that the difference between Moshe and Yehoshua was compared to the difference between the sun and the moon.
By not learning the laws of Kashrus from Moshe, we lost vital information about the exile and how to survive it. Just as heat causes the taste to become absorbed in the walls of a vessel, requiring heat to remove it, likewise the heat of anger and the heat of passion cause a Jew to become more absorbed in exile, necessitating heat, or difficulties to extract him from exile. The greater the heat, the greater the absorption and the more severe the process of kashering.
Taught by anyone else all that would get through would be the basic laws of kashrus, not the message of the exile and how to avoid it. Hence for more than 3,000 years we have been absorbed into exile, into our host societies, and in need of kashering. With Tisha B’av coming we need to recall all of the kashering we have undergone in exile until this point and contemplate the importance of Moshe Rabeinu even now. After all it will be his neshama that will be reincarnated into the Moshiach to guide us towards the end of days.
(1:15) “V’Ekach es Roshai Shivtaichem-So I took the heads of your tribes.”When Yisro gave his advise he gave Moshe seven qualifications. Here Moshe only mentions three? To teach us that a person does not need all of the qualifications to be accepted as judge.
(1:22) “Vayachperu- Lanu es-Ha’aretz-Let them spy out the land.” The term “Vayachperu” is an unusual term. To spy out the land is usually said using the word “L’sur” However the word “Vayachperu” has the connotation of seeing negatively. The spies went to seek out the negativity of the land. This is the lesson Moshe was teaching as he admonished the nation.
The Benei Yisroel was commanded not to do battle with the descendants of Essau because of the tremendous Kibud Av that Essau had for his father. Hashem was paying Essau his due in this world in order not to have to pay him in Olam Haboh. The question is if Essau really paid his father such respect why was he being paid only in this world? The Tiferes Tzion answers that the reward for a mitzvah depends on the motives of the person fulfilling it. If he is only doing it to satisfy his moral feeling of what is right instead of for the mitzvah, Hashem rewards such an act in this world. Since Essav honored his father only for this reason and not for the mitzvah, his descendants were only rewarded in this world.
(1:22) “Es H’derech Asher Naalehu Bah-The road on which we should ascend.” Why did they need to determine which route to take if they had the clouds leading them? They heard Moshe say “Go up” excluding himself! Plus after the prophecy of Eldad and Medad saying Moshe would not be bringing them into the land, they lost faith.
(1:36) “Zulasi Kalev Ben Yefuneh Hu Yirenah-Save for Calev Ben Yefuneh he shall see the land.” We find that once again Yehoshua is not mentioned together with Calev as being the only one’s permitted to enter Ertez Yisroel. Rather two posukim later the Torah writes (1:38) “Yehoshua bin Nun H’Omaid Lifanecha Hu Yavo Shama-Yehoshu bin Nun who stands before you, he shall come there.” In Parshas Shelach, as well, we find Yehoshua not mentioned the first time that Hashem reveals who will escape punishment from the incident of the spies. (Bamidbar 14:24) Only the second time the Torah mentions the exclusion from punishment does it say “except for Calev ... and Yehoshua.” (Bamidbar 14:30)
Yehoshua was treated Midah Keneged Midah (measure for measure) because at first when the Meraglim spoke against Eretz Yisroel he did not speak up. He let Calev refute what the spies were saying. He assumed they would not listen to him because he was Moshe’s disciple. Only later did they both rent their clothing and say “The land is very good.” This is why he is mentioned separately. Another reason could be because he was the one who was destined to replace Moshe in leading the nation into the land. Therefore he thought they would assume he was biased when it came to speaking about Eretz Yisroel. Actually it was his appointment as leader that facilitated his being forgiven for his sin of not joining Calev at first in “following Hashem wholeheartedly.” The Talmud Yerushalmi explains “three are forgiven for their sins, one who becomes a bridegroom, one who converts and one who is appointed to a position of leadership. (Bikurim 3:3) R.Zalman Sorotzkin
(1:45) “Vyorad es Ho’mori-And the Amorim came down.” After the Meraglim return with their negative report about the land of Israel many Jews decided to attempt to go up into the land to conquer it even though they were told that Hashem would not be with them. Moshe is saying here, that the Amorim came down and battled them. The question is that if we look in parshas Shelach (14:44) we find that it was Amalek and Canaan that battled them not Amorim? The Sharei Aahron answers this question by saying the following. Amalek and Canaan were at the bottom of the mountain the Amorim were above. When the posuk says they went out it means that they informed the Amalekim of the fact that Klal Yisroel’s approach was imminent. Amalek therefore went to do battle with them. The reason why Amalek was mentioned in parshas Shelach was because they were the ones who actually fought. What Moshe is telling us here is the real reason behind that. It was the Amorim who instigated the battle.
(2:3) “Penu Lochem Tzfonah-Turn your faces north” The Kol Torah explains this to mean advise for surviving Golus. Keep yourselves hidden. The word Tzafune can also mean Kabbalah. The advise being to survive the long exile we must keep the Torah fresh therefore turn to that which has richness and depth. Kabbalah.
(2:6) “Ochel Tishbru M’itom B’Kesef V’Ochaltem V’Gam Mayim Tichru M’item B’Kesef U’Shsisem- You shall purchase food from them for money and eat it, also water shall you buy from them for money and drink it.” It would seem somewhat redundant to say that the food and water purchased should be consumed? Why else would it be purchased if not for consumption? The Sefer Ka’aras Kesef writes that Yisroel did not need to buy food or water from them. But Hashem commanded this in order for them to realize that they lacked nothing. All of the years that they were in the Midbar being sustained by the well of Miriam and the Munn from heaven, nothing was lacking. They tasted the water that they purchased and the food they bought, and found that what Hashem provided was superior to it. Hashem wanted them to appreciate what they had.
(2:25) “Hayom Hazeh Achel Tais Pachdecha V'yirasecha al-Penei Ho'amim Tachas Kol-hashmayim-This day I will begin to put the dread and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the heaven.” What is the meaning of “This Day” and “under the heaven” Hashem had been performing miracles for Yisroel all along? What makes this day exceptional? Rashi says that Hashem caused the sun to stand still at noon for 36 hours. This was because they had just encountered Moav and Edom and left them unscathed. They had requested permission to cross their lands but were denied. It could have appeared as if they were incapable of conquering them. If they were now to face the seven nations of the land of Canaan that had 31 kings surely they would not succeed? Hashem therefore made this miracle now. The stopping of the sun signaled that their deity was under Hashem's rule and that Hashem was willing and able to battle on Klal Yisroel's behalf.
(3:21) “Ves-Yehoshua Tzivisi B’ase Ha’he- I commanded Yehoshua at that time.”Out of the 31 times the name Yehoshua appears in the Torah, this is the only time it is spelled with an extra letter. The letter "Vav". R. Dovid Feinstein explains the extra letter to refer to prayer. Yehoshua had exceptional powers of prayer. Had he harnessed that power at the time he led the nation into the land he would have been able to do what the members of the great assembly did hundreds of years later, eradicate idolatry. For this reason he authored the second half of "Aleinu" which speaks of exactly that. A supplication for the abolishment of idolatry from the world.
Sefer Devorim is the only book since Bereishis that does not begin with the letter “Vav”. This is the only place in the Torah where the name of Yehoshua is spelled with an extra “Vav””perhaps the “Vav” that was missing from the beginning of the Sefer. Moshe is telling Yehoshua “Your eyes have seen everything Hashem has done to these two kings, so will Hashem do to all of the kings where you cross over. Do not fear them for Hashem, your G-d will wage war for you.” Hashem, will wage war for you, but you must remain connected to Hashem. That is the Vav H’chibor - the letter of attachment. If you remain connected to Hashem He will do battle for you. Perhaps we can suggest that at this point Moshe was commanding Yehoshua to become his replacement and just as he had added a letter of Hashem's name, the "Yud", to his name when he sent out the spies, changing Hoshea to Yehoshua, so too here he is adding another letter of Hashem's name to strengthen him for his new role. As the Parsha ends "Ki Hashem Elokeichem Hu H'Nilcham Lochem-Hashem your G-d He shall wage war for you.
The Gematria of the name Yehoshua equals 391 in its normal spelling. The same as the phrase Gadol V’Atzum Mimenu-Great and stronger than us. This follows the world of Tevah, the laws of nature. By the laws of nature the 31 kings were bigger and stronger than us. But the name Yehoshua spelled with the extra “Vav” equals 397 in Gematria. The same as the phrase “Ki Hashem Elokeychem Hu H’Nilcham Lochem-Hashem your G-d will wage war for you.”