Dvar Torah Parshat Devarim 5775 2015

Moshe says he instructed the judges and said to them: שָׁמֹעַ בֵּין אֲחֵיכֶם

וְהַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יִקְשֶׁה מִכֶּם תַּקְרִבוּן אֵלַי וּשְׁמַעְתִּיו….ושְׁפַטְתֶּם צֶדֶק : “listen among your brethren and judge righteously…any matter that is too difficult for you, you shall bring to me and I shall hear it. (Deut. 1,16-17) Moshe does not say I will judge it but I will hear it. He teaches here a very important principle. Before you can judge someone you must listen attentively and hear what he has to say. Only then can you judge righteously.

Often we see something in our friends or neighbors, or perhaps, something in Shul that we dislike. We immediately jump to conclusions and condemn the person. What Moshe is teaching us is that we must not judge a person’s actions before we listen to him and hear how he explains what he did.

If we follow this wise directive of Moshe we can avoid many arguments and many break-ups in friendships. We must learn to listen and then judge.

Dvar Torah Parshat Dvarim 5773 2013

Moshe is recounting the history of the journey of the Jewish people through the wilderness. He reminds them how to set up a system of courts and the directives that he gave the judges. He had said to them: שָׁמֹעַ בֵּין אֲחֵיכֶם וּשְׁפַטְתֶּם צֶדֶק, “…listen among your brethren and judge righteously…”. “…any matter that is too difficult for you…” תַּקְרִבוּן אֵלַי וּשְׁמַעְתִּיו, “…you shall bring to me and I shall hear it.” (Deut. 1,16-17)

In order to render a true judgment one must listen attentively to the viewpoints of the litigants and only then can one render an honest decision. This is what Moshe is saying to the judges. Listen carefully to the arguments being presented. If you do not know how to solve the dispute it is because you haven’t listened thoroughly to the two sides. Bring the matter to me and “I shall hear it”.

We often hear people complaining about the actions of others. This is a normal occurrence and happens often. Before we pass judgment in our minds, we must be prepared to hear both sides thoroughly. Only then can we rightfully know who is justified.

Dvar Torah Parshat Dvarim 5772 2012

Moshe blesses Bnei Israel and says to them: יֹסֵף עֲלֵיכֶם כָּכֶם אֶלֶף פְּעָמִים, “… may Hashem add to you a thousand times more than you are…”. (Deut. 1,11) Rashi quotes the Sifre: They said to him, “Moshe, you are setting a limit to our blessings (only a thousand times). The Holy One, blessed be He, has already made a boundless promise to Avraham that we will number וְכַחוֹל אֲשֶׁר עַל שְׂפַת הַיָּם, ‘…like the sand on the seashore…’.” (Gen. 22,17) Moshe replied, “This is from me. Hashem will bless you as He has spoken.”

Moshe’s answer is very interesting. All the Mitzvot have a definite measure and a limit. Tzitzit, for example, have a specific number of threads; a Succah, how high it should be and how many walls; Tefillin, how many Parshiyot must be included. This is true about all the Mitzvot. The only exception is the love of Hashem and the fear of Him which have no limits.

The reason is because all the Mitzvot the Israelites heard from Moshe. Just as he is mortal and limited, so too are his Mitzvot. However, אָנֹכִי יְקֹוָק אֱלֹקֶיךָ “I am the Lord your G-d” and, פָּנָי לֹא יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים עַל “you shall have no other god in my presence”, (Ex. 20,2-3) they heard directly from Hashem on Mt. Sinai. Those Mitzvot have no limits.

This is what Moshe answered the people. I can only give a limited blessing. Hashem’s blessing is limitless.

Dvar Torah Parshat Devarim 5771 2011

We start a new book of the Torah this week, the Book of Devarim. We read the words of Moshe to the Israelites when they were about to enter into the Promised Land and Moshe was not to go in with them. Moshe speaks concerning the places they had been to during their forty years of journeys. The locations he mentioned are not all distinguishable.

Rashi, based on the Midrash Sifra, explains that Moshe was admonishing the people for the various wrongdoings during their travels and each of these places mentioned represents another offense. The Aramaic translation of Onkelos also understands these names in a similar fashion.

Moshe was explaining to the people that when they cross the Jordan River and reach their destination they will have to act differently. The Land of Israel will not tolerate these acts.

This portion is read every year before the tragic day of Tisha B’Av. On that day we recall the destruction of the two Temples that stood in Yerushalayim. The Temples were destroyed because the people forgot the Torah and its teachings and the rebuke of Moshe. The Land of Israel cannot tolerate wrongdoing. The Torah tells us that if we follow the actions of many of the other countries and not the Jewish laws the land will cast us out.

This is what Moshe was trying to emphasize to the Israelites. This is the lesson that we must heed even today.

Dvar Torah Parshat Devarim 5770 2010

Moshe in his parting speech is relating to the Israelites what happened to them during the long journey through the Wilderness. He tells them that they approached the land of Seir where the descendents of Esav lived. Moshe then says that Hashem instructed him to tell the people that you shall buy food from them for money VA’ACHALTEM, “…so you may eat…”, also water you shall buy from them with money USHETITEM, “…so that you may drink.”. (Deut. 2,6)

The words “so you may eat” and the words “so that you may drink” are superfluous. What else would they do with the food and water they purchase if not eat and drink them? But the Torah is teaching us a very important lesson. We must not eat or drink what we purchase until we actually pay for it. This may not be an obvious means of conduct but this is how the verse is explained.

The message, however, is clear. Before we assume that something is ours we must ascertain that we are the rightful owners. Too often we overlook technicalities and bypass technical steps needed to justify our actions.

Dvar Torah Parshat Devarim 2009 5769

In his discourse to Bnei Israel before they entered into the Land of Israel Moshe relates the incident of the spies and how they spoke negatively about the land. Then he relates that they admitted their fault and they did Vidui, they asked for forgiveness. Moshe says: VATOMRU ELAI CHATANU, “…and you said to me ‘we have sinned’… ” (Deut. 1,41) They were then prepared to go forward and to enter the land but Hashem told Moshe to prevent this action. He did not accept their confession.

We know that Teshuvah has to be done with a full heart. If it is said verbally but not truly felt it is not only meaningless and not acceptable but is really an additional transgression. That is why on Yom Kippur there is a special AL CHET in which we say: …SHECHATANU LEFANECHA BEVIDUI HAPEH, “…for having transgressed by verbal confession or insincere confession.”

This is what Moshe said to the spies, you confessed ELAI, to me but not to Hashem. Your Vidui was only in your speech but not in your heart. It was not a true one and hence it was not acceptable.

Dvar Torah Parshat Devarim 2008 2768 דבר תורה פרשת דברים

Moshe opens his discourse with Bnei Israel and tells them that Hashem: BERACHACHA BECHOL MA’ASEH YADECHA, “Hashem has blessed you in all the works of your hand”. (Deut. 3,7) The Midrash says, “Perhaps you will think that you will sit by idly and Hashem will bless you. Therefore the Torah says ‘in all the works of your hand’. If one works, he is blessed. If one does not work, there is no blessing.” Mid. Yalk. (808)

A person is obligated to be a productive member of society. Sitting back safely and hoping for miracles is not an acceptable lifestyle. The Halacha tells us that a gambler is disqualified from giving testimony in court. Such a person is not a contributor to society. He gambles and expects to gain, not through his efforts, but through chance or a miracle from Hashem.

Moshe promises the blessings of Hashem on the work of our hands. If we do, we will be helped. If we expect things to fall our way on a silver platter it will not happen. We all know the expression: “G-d helps those who help themselves.”