A Lecture of Love

A Lecture of Love

Devarim

Rabbi Shaul Wertheimer

The final book of the Torah is compared to an Esrog: Just as the Esrog (citron) needs to be accompanied by the Lulav, Hadassim and Aravos – yet is not bound together with them, and remains separate – so too, the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) is distinct from the other four books that accompany it (Rabbeinu Bechaye).

Devarim is essentially a long “fare thee well” speech by Moshe (Moses) before his passing. Moshe delivered his speech to the generation that was about to enter Israel; Moshe was not destined to step foot in Israel, and passed away in the desert.

So I find it curious that Moshe opens his speech with a list of sins committed by the Jewish people.

Well, to be more specific, it doesn’t actually mention the transgressions themselves, but the locations where they took place. Nevertheless, a curious beginning.

Yet despite being words of rebuke, if we take a deeper look, they are actually words of encouragement. Moshe is telling us how fortunate we are, for despite our failings, G-d deals with us – and will continue to deal with us – compassionately. We should never have thought that we would not be able to inherit the Land. On the contrary, despite the stumbling G-d will always forgive us, just as he forgave us in the desert and ushered us into the Land (see introduction of Nachmanides to Devarim).

Additionally, it is crucial to note that the sins themselves are not actually mentioned, only the location where they took place. This is as if to say that it was not us, per se, who sinned; rather it was our challenging circumstances that led us to sin. Again, words of encouragement.

As he approaches the end of his life, Moshe is offering a powerful lesson in how far we must go to encourage even the most downtrodden, and to endeavor to uplift everyone we encounter. No one—no matter their circumstance or mistakes—is too far gone.

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