Shabbat Parashat Devarim| 5763
Summary of a Summary
The sefer of Devarim is unique in several ways, some of which we will at least mention. We hope our discussion serves as a springboard for thought and future study.
Chazal refer to Devarim as “Mishneh Torah,” based on the pasuk (Devarim 17:18), which, paradoxically, refers to the entire Torah (see Sifrei, ad loc.) This term hints at the nature of the content of the sefer, which is primarily a review. As R. Akiva (Chagiga 6b) said: “The principles of the Torah and its details were said at Har Sinai, were repeated at Ohel Moed, and were said a third time at Arvot Moav (Bnei Yisrael’s location during Sefer Devarim- see 1:5).” The first Tosafot in Gittin goes as far as to say that the break of 4 lines between sefer and sefer is qualitatively different for the break between Bamidbar and Devarim because the latter is a review of the whole Torah.
Much of Devarim is written as a personal address by Moshe Rabbeinu, as opposed to the Torah’s own narrative or texts dictated by Hashem to Moshe. The beloved phrase, “åéãáø ã' àì îùä ìàîø”, which is found 89 times between Shemot, Vayikra, and Bamidbar, appears only once in Devarim. Lest we come to the heretical conclusion that Devarim is a man-written sefer (see the harsh words of Sanhedrin 99a), the first five p’sukim put the historical and bibliographical framework in perspective. As pasuk 3 says, although Moshe speaks in first person through much of the sefer, it is all as Hashem commanded him to tell Bnei Yisrael and record in the Torah. In deciphering the riddle-laden first two psukim, the mepharshim argue deeply as to whether these speeches were originally made earlier by Moshe and were repeated and incorporated into the Torah before Moshe’s death, or whether Moshe was sharing these words with them for the first time (see Rashi, Ramban, Abarbanel, Mallbim,…)
The Mallbim explains that the opening passages of Devarim contain a double introduction. “These are the words” (1:1) refers to the words of encouragement and mussar in the first section of the sefer (until ch. 12). “Moshe began to explain this Torah” (1:5) refers to the halachic section (12:1-26:19). The final few parshiyot revert back to the relatively standard style of Torah narrative, describing the last day of Moshe’s life.
Certainly, the very end of the Torah leaves us with one of the most disputed questions about the Torah. There are differing opinions in Chazal on whether Moshe or Yehoshua recorded these eight p’sukim, beginning with “And Moshe…died” (see Bava Batra 15a).
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