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Tuesday, Menachem Av 5, 5782 / August 2, 2022


This Shabbat we begin the last Book of the Torah, the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy). 


Devarim begins, "These are the words which Moshe spoke to all of Israel." The entire Book of Devarim are the words which Moshe spoke to the Jewish people before his passing.  He began on Rosh Chodesh Shevat and finished 36 days later, when he passed away on the seventh of Adar.


In Devarim, Moshe reprimands the Jewish people for all their past mistakes, reminding them that when they enter The Promised Land, they shouldn’t make the same mistakes as their parents, which resulted in their staying in the desert for forty years and not being able to come into the land of Israel.


The difference between the Book of Devarim and the rest of the Torah is that previously Moshe spoke to them whatever G-d told him to say.  However, now he spoke, “his own words.” As a true shepherd, he wanted to make sure that when he is gone, they should continue following the ways of the Torah.


The Midrash asks, "How is it that here the Torah says, "These are the words that Moshe spoke," yet, in the Book of Exodus, when G-d tells Moshe to go speak to Pharaoh and to the Jewish people in Egypt, Moshe replies, "Oh G-d, I am not a man of words..." Moshe claims that he cannot speak!


The Midrash replies: "Rabbi Tanchuma said, this is compared to a peddler who was going around selling material.  Wherever he went he would call out, ‘I have special wool to sell.’"


Once he passed by the palace.  The king asked him, "What are you selling?" The peddler replied, "I have nothing to sell."  "But I just heard you announce that you have special wool to sell," asked the king.


The peddler replied: "It is true that I announced I have good wool to sell.  But this is for the ordinary person.  For you, my king, who is so mighty and who has the most expensive materials that can be found,  I have nothing to sell and nothing that you would buy!"


The same says Rabbi Tanchuma was with Moshe.  At The Burning Bush, in the presence of G-d, Moshe claimed that he was not a man of words.  However, now in front of the Jewish people, he was indeed a man of words.  Thus, the Torah says, "These are the words which Moshe spoke to all of Israel."


Parshat Devarim is read on the Shabbat before the fast of the 9th of Av, when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temples.  The very first words of the Parsha, "These are the words which Moshe spoke to all of Israel," also emphasize an important point, which is very appropriate for this time.


The destruction of the Second Temple came as a result of strife amongst Jews; thus, it is important at this time to correct this and strive for unity amongst us.  The words, "to all of Israel," allude to this point.  It reminds us that especially at this time we  need to remember the importance of Jewish unity.