The Torah Portion of Devorim - Shabbat Chazon
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
A good beginning -- we are beginning Chumash Devorim. Chumash Devorim is also called "Mishneh Torah" (in English: "a review or repetition of the Torah") . Every Chumash has an additional name. The Chumash Breisheet is also called "Sefer HaYashar" (in English: "the Book of the Straight" ), because it speaks about the Avot (Patriarchs) who are called Straight Ones. We see this in the Book of Yehoshua, that when the sun was made to stand still there is a verse which says, "Is it not written in the Sefer HaYashar" (Yehoshua 10:13), and that verse is referring to the Chumash Breisheet within the Torah Portion of Vayechi, when Yaakov said to Yosef, "However his younger brother will be greater than he" (Breisheet 48:19) -- and the intention was that Yehoshua would descend from him (that is, from Ephraim), and that in his merit the sun would stand still. From here we see that Chumash Breisheet is called "Sefer HaYashar" ("The Book of the Straight" ).
The Names of the "Chamisha Chumshai Torah" ("The Five Books of the Torah") :
1.Breisheet -- Sefer HaYashar ("The Book of the Straight" )
2. Shemot -- Sefer HaGeula ("The Book of Redemption" , and and there are those that add also, "Sefer Milchamot Hashem" ("The Book of the Wars of Hashem" )
3. Vayikra -- Torat Kohanim ("The Torah of the Priests" )
4. Bamidbar -- Chumash HaPekudim ("The Chumash of The Countings" )
5. Devorim -- Mishneh Torah ("Review or Repetition of the Torah")
Why is the Torah called Chumash?
Because it has within it five books. [Note: the Hebrew word "Chumash" , which refers to the five books of the Torah, has the same root as the Hebrew word for "five", "Chamisha".] The Mabi"t adds that there is another reason, and that is because the Torah was given in five places: 1) in Mitzrayim (Egypt) -- the Korban Pesach (Passover Offering) and the laws regarding the firstborn offspring were given, 2) at Mara -- Shabbat, and the Parah Aduma (Red Heifer) and its laws were given, 3) at Har Sinai, 4) in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the Tent of Meeting, and 5) in the Plains of Moab.
"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael..." (Devorim 1:1)
The Sages say: "The majority [stumble in the sin of] robbery, the minority in the sin of illicit relations, and everyone in the sin of Avak Lashon Hara (the dust of forbidden speech)" . The first word of Chumash Devorim in Hebrew is "Aileh" (in English: "These are") -- and the verse continues that "Moshe spoke to ALL Israel" (that is to say, this is a hint that everyone stumbles in the sin of Avak Lashon Hara). The letters of Aileh are Aleph, Lamed, Hey, and these are the initial letters of the words "Avak Lashon Hara" (in English: "the dust of forbidden speech" ). The Ohr HaChama brings in the Siddur (prayer book), that the Sages say that the Ketoret (incense offering) atones for Lashon Hara (forbidden speech). There should come something in secret, that is to say, quietly, because it is forbidden for any man to enter at the time of the incense offering except for one Kohen. And that thing (the incense offering) should atone for something which occurs secretly, for usually people speak Lashon Hara quietly. And in the case of the Ketoret, it is written that "you should grind some of it very finely" (Shemot 30:36) -- that you need to break down the components of the incense very finely, like dust. And this is a hint about Avak Lashon Hara (the dust of forbidden speech).
The Gr"a says, that Chumash Devorim is divided into three parts:
1) Words of Mussar (Ethics) and rebuke, from the beginning up until the Torah Portion of Va'etchanan Chapter 5.
2) Mitzvot of the Torah, from the fourth Aliyah of the Torah Portion of Va'etchanan, until the Torah Portion of Ki Tavo Chapter 27 Verse 9.
3) Blessings and Curses, from Chapter 27 Verse 9, till the end of the Chumash.
And this is hinted at within the first five verses of Devorim:
"These are the words that Moshe spoke..." (Devorim 1:1) -- this refers to the part about Mussar (Ethics) and rebuke.
"...Moshe spoke to the Children of Israel according to everything that Hashem commanded... " (Devorim 1:3) -- this refers to the part about the Mitzvot.
"...Moshe began clarifying this Torah..." (Devorim 1:3) -- this refers to the part about the Blessings and Curses. (from Mayana Shel Torah)
"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel, across the Jordan, in the desert, in the Plain, opposite (the Sea of) Reeds, between Paran and Tophel and Lavan, and Chatzerot and Di-Zahav." (Devorim 1:1)
Moshe spoke to Israel in hints:
"in the desert" -- on what they did in the desert, when they said "Who will grant that our death will be at the hand of Hashem." (Shemot 16:3)
"in the Plain" -- on what they did in the Plains of Moab, in the sin of Ba'al Peor.
"opposite (the Sea of) Reeds" -- on what they did at the Sea of Reeds, when they said "Are there no graves in Egypt, etc." (Shemot 14:11)
"between Paran" -- the sin of the spies.
"Tophel and Lavan" -- when they spoke about the Manna saying "And our souls are disgusted with this light bread." (Bamidbar 21:5)
"and Chatzerot" -- this is the Machloket (dispute) of Korach.
"and Di-Zahav" -- this is the deed of the Golden Calf.
And why did Moshe speak in hints?
Because of the honor of Israel. And it has been asked, if so, why did he go on at length afterwards? The explanation is that, since Moshe spoke to Israel in hints they immediately did Teshuva (repented) out of love -- for when words come from the heart they enter into the heart (of the listener). Then Moshe began to go on at length and explain the details of the sins, because when someone does Teshuva out of love, the sins are turned into merits, and therefore Moshe went on at length, so that they would have many merits. (from Mayana Shel Torah)
Another explanation for why Moshe shortened the rebuke at the beginning, is because that needs to be the way of Mussar (ethics). When someone is brought close to the Torah it needs to be done in stages, in the beginning by means of hints, and after that when we see that he accepts it then we need to expand upon the Mussar. (from Torat HaParsha)
"There are eleven days from Chorev..." (Devorim 1:2)
The Kli Yakar says that there is a hint here about the eleven days that we mourn on the Churban Bait HaMikdash (Destruction of the Temple) in the year: the Nine Days of the Month of Av, the 17th of Tammuz, and the 10th of Tevet.
"How can I alone carry your difficulty and your burden and your quarrels?" (Devorim 1:12)
The Ramban says, that Moshe Rabbeinu hinted to them about the three things that he told Yitro he was doing for the people. "Your difficulty" corresponds to "And I make known the statutes of Hashem and His laws" (Shemot 18:16), because it was very difficult to teach those who went out of Egypt the statutes, the laws, and their explanations, clarifications, and secrets. "Your burden" corresponds with "to inquire of Hashem" (Shemot 18:15), which refers to the prayers that he would pray about them, because the Hebrew word for "burden" is linguistically related to the Hebrew word "to lift up", which is used in several places in connection with prayer, such as the phrase "to lift up prayer" (Melachim Beit 19:4), and the phrase "do not lift up for them song and prayer" (Yirmiyahu 7:16). And "your quarrels" is understood in its simple sense, to refer to matters of judicial decisions. Thus we see from this that the role of a leader of Israel is to teach the Torah to the people, to explain to them and clarify to them very well by making a big effort, to pray for every individual who is suffering, and to judge their legal decisions and disagreements.
"And they said 'Good is the land which Hashem Our G-d gives us'...Yet in this matter you do not believe in Hashem your G-d." (Devorim 1:25, Devorim1:32)
Who were those who spoke of its goodness? Rashi explains that it was Yehoshua and Caleb. And the Ramban asked, if so, what is the complaint against Klal Yisrael (the entire congregation of Israel) that they didn't believe in Hashem? Look, isn't it appropriate that they should believe in ten men moreso than in two? And he explains that it's possible, that since the Holy One Blessed Be He announced to them that it is a good land, and the greatest and most righteous of those who had been sent on the mission (Yehoshua and Caleb) had testified that this was so, they should have believed in the greatest and most righteous ones among them, because the others said what they said because of cowardice.
"And they said 'Good is the land which Hashem Our G-d gives us'...Yet in this matter you do not believe in Hashem your G-d." (Devorim 1:25, Devorim 1:32)
It is also written regarding the above verses, that all of them acknowledged and agreed before Moshe and Aharon and all the congregation, that the land is good, for we see that they said "We came to the land that you sent us to and it is indeed flowing with milk and honey and this is its fruit" (Bamidbar 13:27), but because of the strength of the people who were there, their hearts melted. And afterwards when they saw that Yehoshua and Caleb would strengthen the hearts of the people for war, the rest of the spies came to the children of Israel -- not in the presence of Moshe -- and spoke slanderously about the land, saying that it it is a land which eats up its people, and this is what is referred to by the verse "and you slandered in your tents" (Devorim 1:27). And they didn't say this slander in front of Moshe, because he would be able to argue with them that they didn't say that when they first spoke. Rather, they said to Moshe, "To where can we go up? our brothers melted our hearts by saying that the people is greater and taller than we are" (Devorim 1:28) And in response to this Moshe told them, it's true what you are saying, that the people is great and tall, but Hashem will fight for you just as He has done for you from Egypt until here. And that is what is Moshe meant when he said to them "Yet in this matter you do not believe in Hashem your G-d", (Devorim 1:32) that you delayed yourselves from going up only because of your lack of faith.
The Sages say that three said "Eicha" (in English: "How") , Moshe, Yeshayahu, and Yirmiyahu.
Moshe said: "How can I alone carry your difficulty and your burden and your quarrels?" (Devorim 1:12). Yeshayuhu (in the Haftorah for Shabbat Chazon) said: "How has she become a harlot..." (Yeshayahu 1:21). Yirmiyahu said: "How she sat alone.." (Eicha 1:1). An analogy can be made to an important lady (i.e., Israel) who had three bridesmaids (i.e., Moshe, Yeshayahu, and Yirmiyahu); one saw her at the time of tranquility (that refers to Moshe), one saw her at the time of her downfall (that refers to Yeshayahu), and one saw her at the time of her punishment (that refers to Yirmiyahu). (from Midrash Eicha) And it has been written in Seforim (Holy Books) that in truth the start was with Adam HaRishon (Bereisheet 3:9) because it is written "Ayeka" (in English: "Where are you?") which is linguistically related to the word "Eicha" (in English; "How") -- in the future your children will say "Eicha" because of the sin which you did.
Yermiyahu wrote the Megillat Eicha according to the order of the Aleph - Beit (the Hebrew alphabet), because they transgressed the Torah which was given with the Aleph - Bet. But the letter Pei (which hints at the Hebrew word for "mouth" , "Peh" ) comes before the letter Ayin (which hints at the Hebrew word for "eye" , "Ayin" ). (And that is not in its usual sequence.) This is because they spoke with their mouth what that they didn't see with their eye. But in the first chapter the Ayin comes before the Pei -- because that chapter hints about the spies who spoke also a little bit truth. (from Taamei Minhagim)
The Sages say: "Every generation that the Bait HaMikdash (Temple) is not built in its days, it's as if it was destroyed in its days."
A story is written in one of the books of the Rama: After the destruction of the First Temple, the sages of the world's nations came to see the Temple when it was burnt. And one of them came who was the greatest sage of the nations of the world and his name was Appleton. And he saw how Yirmiyahu was sitting there and crying and crying without stopping. He said to him: "I can see about you, that you are a wise person. How is it suitable for you to cry about stones that are burnt?" Yirmiyahu answered him: "They say about you that you are the wisest person of all the non-Jews. Certainly you have questions that you haven't solved." Appleton answered him: "Yes, I have questions, but no human being in the world is able to solve them." Yirmiyahu said to him: "Try to ask me. Perhaps I will succeed to solve them for you." And Appleton began with his questions, and Yirmiyahu answered him immediately on everything. Appleton said to him: "If so, the puzzle is even greater. If you are so wise, why are you crying about a building which is burnt?" Yirmiyahu answered him: "All of my wisdom comes from this House (i.e. the First Temple), and how will I not cry?"
"My soul well remembers and is bowed down within me" (Eicha 3:20)
The Tzaddik R' Avraham Bardaki ztz"l would always repeat the verse in Eicha (3:20) "My soul well remembers and is bowed down within me". Rashi says, I know that in the end You will remember us, but we don't have strength to wait so much time. He (Rav Avraham Bardaki ztz"l) also would repeat the last verse (Eicha 5:22): "For if You have utterly rejected us, You have [already] been exceedingly wroth against us." Rashi explains, that in response to our sinnning You didn't need to increase your anger against us as much as You did". If it weren't the case that this verse had stated it, it would be forbidden for us to make such an interpretation on our own.
"Why do you forget us forever, abandon us for lengthy days? Return to us Hashem and we will return. Renew our days as of old." (Eicha 5:20-21)
At the end of Eichah (that is, in the verses right before the last verse, which we repeat at the end of the reading of Eichah) it is stated (Eicha 5:20-21): "Why do you forget us forever, abandon us for lengthy days? Return us ... renew our days as of old". The Chatam Sofer explains, that it is written "Make us rejoice like the days in which You afflicted us" (Tehillim 90:15). And if so, after a lengthy exile like this there won't remain many days left until the end of 6,000 years to "make us rejoice" . But the answer is that the Holy One Blessed Be He will make the days long in order to compensate us. And upon this we say "Why do you forget us forever" , and therefore "abandon us for lengthy days" -- that is to say, that the days will be lengthy days. "Return us Hashem and we will return" , and then "Renew our days as of old" -- regular days will suffice to be like the ancient days.
The Torah Portion of Devorim has 105 verses. 2 negative commandments.Haftora: "Chazon Yishayahu" (Yishayahu 1).
We don't read Pirkei Avot.
Everyone who mourns about Jerusalem merits and sees her happiness.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772