This week’s dvar Torah is dedicated in honor of
Sol and Clara Kest of blessed memory
Who were pillars of chesed and were instrumental in building many Torah institutions in Los Angeles and the world over
Dedicated by Dr. Ezra and Mrs. Lauren KestPrint All Devarim Articles
This week's parsha, Devarim, is always read the Shabbos before Tisha B'Av, and sometimes on Tisha B'Av itself, when it falls on Shabbos. What is the significance of Devarim? And why is it connected to Tisha B'Av?
The Talmud tells us that the book of Devarim, was said by Moshe, "from his own mouth." In other words, Hashem didn't dictate it word for word, as He did for the first four books of the Torah, rather, Moshe said it in his own words. Not that he said his own ideas, Tosafos explains, that he said it with "divine inspiration," which is prophecy.
The Rambam says, that if someone says about even one word of the Torah, that Moshe said it from his own thoughts, he is considered a heretic. In other words, the book of Devarim was also said by Hashem, just the transmission was in a different way. Whereas the first four books were dictated by Hashem, the book of Devarim entered the mind of Moshe as prophecy, and the word of Hashem came "through Moshe's throat."
There are many levels of prophecy, and Moshe had the highest possible level. About his prophecy, it says, "There never arose another prophet in Israel like Moshe, whom Hashem knew face to face." His prophecy had another advantage over others, in that others saw their visions as a metaphor, on the other hand, Moshe had clear and direct visions, he saw exactly what he was meant to convey, or what was going to happen, not a metaphor.
With the book of Devarim, a new system of transmission of Hashem's word began. Until this point Moshe was a messenger, relaying Hashem's words, but now His word would enter Moshe's mind and it would come out of "his own mouth." And this is the way the word of Hashem came through the ages ever since, first through the prophets, then the sages of the Mishnah, Talmud, and the sages of every generation. And this is the way it continues to come to us to this very day. As our sages say, "Everything that a seasoned scholar will innovate in Torah in the future, was all given to Moshe from Sinai." Meaning, that even today, the innovations and enactments of our great Torah scholars, are Torah from Sinai, the word of Hashem.
In the book of Devarim, there are new teachings as well as teachings that give clarity to things that are taught in the first four books of the Torah, and without them, we wouldn't understand the first four books. We may gather from this, that the whole Torah hinges on Moshe's words in the book of Devarim. By extension, the same may be said for the sages of every generation, "The part of Moshe that was spread into every generation," who innovate and explain the Torah. If we don't believe in them, and if we don't follow their edicts, we question the validity of the Torah. This is what the Midrash says on the verse, "They believed in Hashem, and in Moshe his servant." That one who believes in the faithful shepherd (Moshe), it is as if he believes in Hashem, and one who speaks against the faithful shepherd, it is as if he speaks against Hashem.
The book of Devarim, was said to the generation that was to enter the Holy Land. This will help us understand why it had to be said through Moshe. The first four books of the Torah, were said to the generation of the desert, who were totally separate from worldly matters, they lived a spiritual life and didn't have to be invested in the physical world. Therefore, they were able to receive the direct words of Hashem, Moshe was just the messenger to convey His exact words. However, the generation entering the land, would have to contend and struggle with the physical world, they wouldn't be able to handle the direct words of Hashem. Being in the physical, they would need the Torah to come to them through the physical. By the word of Hashem entering Moshe's mind, and being expressed "from his own mouth," it was coming through the physical.
As the generations got further and further away from that point, they became more and more enwrapped in the physical world, and the more the word of Hashem garbed itself in the physical, through the words and enactments of our Torah scholars. Not just any Torah scholars, but those who are accepted by the Jewish people as Torah leaders.
There is a positive aspect of the generation entering the land, over the generation of the desert. Even though they experienced the revelation of Hashem regularly, the generation of the desert were not privy to His essence. The essence of Hashem is drawn into the world specifically through the physical, because it is in the physical that He desires to be. Through our Torah study and performance of mitzvahs in the physical world, we draw the essence of Hashem. The further the generation, the more we are in the physical and the more of His essence we can draw. Until the final generation before the coming of Moshiach, us, who will draw the completeness of His essence, and Moshiach will come.
In a way, the book of Devarim is the greatest of the five. Because it enables us to bring the first four, that were said to the lofty and spiritual generation of the desert, into the physical world, and accomplish their purpose.
It is the innovations in Torah and the enactments of the Torah scholars of the last generation, that makes Moshiach come. Because it is those last enactments, the words of Hashem to the final generation, that completes the Torah of Moshe from Sinai, and they are the specific actions necessary, to strike the last blow, and bring the exile to an end.
The Three Weeks are the darkest time on the Jewish calendar. Within the Three Weeks, Tisha B'Av is the darkest day, the day that we were thrown into the exile.
The Shabbosim in the Three Weeks are Hashem's "preemption of the cure before the infliction." As they are an oasis, a taste of Moshiach, in this dark time. Shabbos is so holy, that we are not allowed to show any sign of mourning on it, instead, we have to be happy and take pleasure in the day. On the Shabbosim of the Three Weeks, we add in joy, so as to not be seen as mourning in any way.
This idea is also found in Jewish law. The Rebbe's father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, was the chief rabbi of Yekaterinoslav, modern day Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. There was a man who regularly wore slippers on Shabbos. In the week that he was sitting shiva, Reb Levik instructed him to wear shoes on Shabbos, so that it won't look as if he was mourning.
On Shabbos there is no exile, it reminds us that the whole exile is merely a preparation for the time of Moshiach. And because these Shabbosim are contrasted against the darkness of the Three Weeks, their light shines brighter than the Shabbosim of the rest of the year.
Understandably, the last Shabbos of the Three Weeks, which falls before Tisha B'Av or on Tisha B'Av itself, is the Shabbos in the darkest possible time. Therefore it shines brighter than any other Shabbos, it is the ultimate "preemption of the cure before the infliction." Therefore, the parsha of Devarim, the beginning of the book of Devarim, which makes it possible for us to draw Hashem's essence into the physical world and bring Moshiach, is read on this Shabbos. Because it is in essence, the cure to the exile.
We are the last generation, we will merit to bring Moshiach. May the merit of our Torah and mitzvahs, hasten his coming. And may we soon see these dark days of the Three Weeks, turn into days of joy, and Tisha B'Av into the most festive holiday. May it happen now, before Tisha B'Av. The time has come.