The book of Deuteronomy has been called the “Mishneh Torah” in later Jewish literature. The name Mishneh Torah, a second Torah, refers to the fact that Devarim restates many of the most essential teachings and principles of Jewish life. Rather than being repetitive, however, Deuteronomy gives new depth and meaning to many of the teachings that have already been stated in the first four books of the Torah. As the book opens, Moses summarizes the forty-year history of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness.
For 38 years, God did not communicate with Moshe in a loving manner because of the strained relationship that Hashem had with B’nei Yisrael. After the sin of the spies, God felt it necessary to allow the natural death of the generation that left Egypt. Now that they died, He would resume speaking to Moshe in a loving fashion. Moshe felt the need to admonish the people in the final 5 weeks of his life, which is the timespan of the Chumash of Devarim.
“These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel…” (1:1) Rashi comments that Moshe admonished all of Israel but decided not to identify all the places and sins Bnei Yisrael committed during their travels through the desert. Specifically, Moshe did not mention the places by their actual names. He hinted at them so as not to embarrass the people; instead he chose to honor the people by not specifically mentioning each sin (and in that manner) each sinner. Moshe was teaching us the better way to rebuke sinners: in a softer tone. Only with a sweet and softer tone will anyone succeed in influencing another Jew to better appreciate Torah and its Mitzvot. We see that in our own interactions with others: the more we can relate compassionately, the better our chances for a true dialogue and real change.
Shabbat Shalom שבת שלום.
Rabbi David Grossman