Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Devarim

Since there are no Rabbi Frand shiurim on the Parsha until Elul, I would like to substitute a vort from other Rabbanim each week, rather than leaving the blog without a vort for shabbos. This week, I am attempting to repeat a vort heard from R' Eli Mansour as recorded on Same rules as usual apply - I have attempted to reproduce the vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to the maggid shiur.

R' Mansour observed that Sefer Devarim is called Mishne Torah and is essentially a repetition by Moshe of events which occurred previously. The gemara brings this point home when it asks why the parsha begins - Eleh Hadevarim "these are the things that Moshe said..." The gemara asks -- are these the only words of Moshe, hasn't Moshe been speaking for the last three seforim? The gemara answers that the previous speech was Moshe repeating what Hashem had told him to say. From this point on, Moshe was giving his own thoughts.

The first set of statements made by Moshe to the Jews was a rebuke. Moshe learned this from Ya'akov who waited until he was on his deathbed in Parshas Vayechi to tell his sons what they had been doing wrong. While a person is still alive and well, such statements could engender harsh feelings. Ya'akov's lesson which Moshe learned, is that when a person gives tochacha at the end of his life, it will generally be much better received.

R' Mansour noted that Moshe's rebuke to the Jews was very "pareve", meaning that it was mild and not meant to embarrass anyone in particular. The first pasuk of the parsha contains numerous places or landmarks which on the surface are meant to identify where the speech took place. However, if one were to review Parshas Matos, it would become evident that none of these places exist. The pasuk identifies places such as Lavan, Chatzeiros, Di Zahav and Mul Soof, but these locations are not found elsewhere in Chumash.

R' Mansour explained that Lavan was meant to remind the Jews about their complaints about the manna which was white. Rather than lacing into the Jews and telling them in detail about how wrong they were to complain about the manna, Moshe just says "white."

The use of the term Di Zahav (enough gold) was also meant to be a subtle reminder of sin. The Jews had enough gold, but they did not save it for a positive purpose. Instead, the Jews used the gold to construct the egel - the golden calf.

Another term used by Moshe was Mul Soof - you were by the splitting of the sea. However, this was meant to remind the Jews that they cried and complained and wanted to go back to Egypt before the sea was split.

R' Mansour then hypothesized that Moshe's oblique and respectful manner of rebuking the Jews might be the reason that Devarim is read before Tisha B'Av. The second temple was destroyed for not treating fellow Jews with respect. Moshe's lesson to the Jews is to not publicly rebuke others in a way that will embarrass them (unlike the Kamtza/Bar Kamtza story).

R' Mansour then made reference to two stories from Chumash which demonstrate the respect required in rebuking. When the Torah tells the story of Bilaam, the donkey who embarrassed Bilaam plays a central role in exposing to Bilaam the error of his ways. However, when the Bilaam story ends, the meforshim explain that Hashem commands that the donkey be killed. Why should the donkey be killed if it showed how evil Bilaam was? It should be put on a pedestal or in a museum! R' Mansour answered that the donkey had to be killed because everyone who looked at the donkey would remember the story and Bilaam's image will be tarnished. To avoid this embarrassment, the donkey had to be killed.

R' Mansour also related this concept to the story of Korach. After Korach and his followers challenged Aharon with their own attempts at offering Ketores, two hundred and fifty people were killed. After the story ended, Hashem commanded Elazar to clean up the mess. R' Mansour asked - why Elazar and not Aharon? R' Mansour answered that if Aharon had cleaned up the mess, it would have looked like he was gloating - I lived and you died! Therefore, Elazar was commanded to clean up after the others were killed.

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