The Savannah Kollel
Insights Vol. 8 # 39
The Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy)
The fifth, final book of the
Torah is clearly much different than the other four books, as Ramban
(Nachmanides) points out in his introduction to the Torah. Throughout the
Torah, Moshe speaks in the third person; even when mentioning his own birth
and events, he does not use the first person: "I." However, the final book
is largely expressed in first person: "I commanded the judges at that time..."
(Chap.1 verse 16).
Devarim is the record of an oral
discussion. Shortly before he passed away, Moshe repeated the Torah to the
new generation. Thus, its content is entirely different. "These are the words
which Moshe spoke to the children of Israel..." (Chap.1 verse 1) is the
beginning, rather than "G-d spoke to Moshe saying..." (found throughout the
first four books). These were Moshe's words. See the Ohr Hachayim.
The Malbim explains that Moshe
chose the words to speak; G-d later commanded him to say the same words in
the order which G-d chose, and then to write these words exactly -- again,
in the order in which G-d chose. Thus, every word of the Torah is G-d's word,
although Moshe originally said the last book on his own.
Moshe Was Not Forgiven -- On Account of the People
We know that Moshe was not allowed
to enter the Land, because of the incident that occurred at Mei Merivah.
Why could he not atone for the error?
In chapter 1, verse 37, Moshe indicates
that G-d was angry at him because of the people. In next week's parsha,
V'eschanan 3:23-26, Moshe relates that he prayed vigorously, but G-d refused
to pardon him -- again, due to the people. Why could Moshe not be forgiven?
No Atonement for Chilul Hashem
There are a variety of explanations
regarding the actual error which Moshe made. Regardless of the explanation,
the Torah insists that it entailed a "Chilul Hashem," (profaning G-d's name,
see Bamidbar 20:12). The general rule is that atonement for Chilul Hashem
can only be achieved with one's death. See tractate Yoma and the Laws of
Nonetheless, the Talmud in tractate
Rosh Hashanah maintains that even the "Chilul Hashem" can be forgiven in
one's lifetime. Torah study and acts of kindness are examples of special
mitzvos which can obtain atonement even for extreme cases.
The Power of Prayer
The Jerusalem Talmud includes tefilah
-- prayer -- as a mitzva with the ability to procure atonement for Chilul
Hashem. (The Asarah Ma'amoros claims that the prayer referred to is specifically
the "tachanun" tefilah.) In this case, our question returns. Moshe
prayed hundreds of special tefilos to be forgiven, as is related in the beginning
of next week's parsha. (The "tachanun" prayer, too, is actually derived from
Moshe's actions in parshas Korach.)
In Devarim 4:21, it is mentioned
that G-d swore that Moshe would not enter the Land. A decree enjoined with
an oath is not to be relinquished (Talmud). Why was G-d so angered so as
to guarantee that Moshe could not be forgiven? Every "Chilul Hashem" is not
accompanied by such an oath!
See the entire discussion there,
in verses 21-23: "G-d was angry with me because of your words, and He swore
that I not cross the Jordan... I am to die... be careful lest you forget
the covenant with G-d... and make an image..." Rav Chavel quotes a commentary
that Moshe could not be allowed into the Land under any circumstance -- for
there was sufficient reason to believe that Moshe would become so honored
that the people would worship him!
(c) Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Genesis, '97