Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • D'varim
קטגוריה משנית
To dedicate this lesson
People who attain blessed advanced age and many years tend to look back in time and concentrate less on the future. Old rabbis write autobiographies. Past events, which were previously sublimated and hardly ever recalled, suddenly become vivid memories worthy of meaningful contemplation. An example of this is to be found in the words of our father Jacob to his children in his final days when he recalls for them the tragic incident of the sudden death of his beloved wife Rachel. Many decades had passed since that event and the Torah does not record for us his ever mentioning that bitter event during that long period of time. But now at the end of his days this painful and tragic occurrence in his life comes to dominate his memory and his conversation. This natural tendency of humans to bring forth memory as one’s last testament, so to speak, of a life's achievement helps to explain to us this final book of Dvarim – the ultimate conclusion of the written Torah. Our teacher, Moshe, delivers a long oration in which he recalls the events of his career, the triumphs and shortcomings of his leadership and the accomplishments and failings of his beloved people. He attempts to relate to a new generation the experiences and lessons of the past generation of Israel that left Egypt and perished in the desert of Sinai. Every generation has a different take on past events. It is impossible to truly describe the past – its nuances, shadings, feelings and emotions – to those who did not actually live at that past time and were not therefore actual witnesses to those events. Nevertheless, Moshe feels impelled to make this attempt, for a generation that knows nothing of its past can hardly expect to create much of a future for itself.

So the words of Moshe are tinged with nostalgia and even a note of sadness. Nevertheless, the book of Dvarim on the whole is one of optimistic spirit, faith and unending wonder regarding the experiences of Moshe’s life and the destiny of the Jewish people. The rabbis tell us that no human being departs this world attaining even half of what one desired to own, achieve or accomplish. Such is the nature of our mortality and lives. Moshe’s main sadness in his words to the Jewish people is in his realization that his great hope and dream of entering the land of Israel will never be fulfilled. This disappointment weighs on all of his words in the book of Dvarim. In his recounting of the sins and rebellions of the Jewish people over the forty years that he has led them, there is little bitterness in his voice and tone. However, one feels his pain and anguish at the fate that has befallen him of being excluded from entering the promised Land of Israel. As such, the book of Dvarim is a deeply personal work reflecting the feelings and memory patterns of the greatest leader of the Jewish people. Its recollections of events, review of the Torah and listing of specific commandments, makes this book, like all of the works of the Torah, a required object of study, reflection, analysis and ultimate faith
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