Moishe’s last 36 days
OMG! As we go to press with a shtikel review of Parshas Devorim, we have come to the end of year three of the Oisvorfer’s weekly parsha reviews. It all started four years ago next shabbis with but one reader, wow! Is it time for new horizons, ver veyst? In any event, welcome avada to Sefer and Parshas Devorim or, as the goyim call it, the Book of Deuteronomy.
Let’s begin with something most of you didn’t know. Though we are supposed to be happy on the heylige shabbis, seemingly, during the three weeks and also on the three shabosim in between Shiva Asar Be’Tamuz and Tisha Be’av, we are to be less happy. These shabosim are called “Telasa De’puranuta” – “the three of calamity.” What are these you ask? They reflect the mood of national mourning for the destruction of both Battei Hamikdash (holy Temples). And this shabbis, immediately preceding Tisha Be’av, is also known as Shabbos Chazone, named after the first words of the Haftorah where we read the first prophecy in the Book of Yeshayohu (1:1-27). He correctly prophesied the destruction and the Yiddin’s exile that resulted from their betrayal of the RBSO. Are you depressed yet?
So here we are: Moishe Rabaynu has five weeks to live and he’s got lots on his mind and on his lips; he’s in a talking mood. Beginning with this week’s parsha and continuing throughout the entire Sefer, Moishe pontificates in the form of several speeches during which, much like the eishes chayil, he becomes historical and recounts kimat every sin the Yiddin committed during the past 39+ years. Ring familiar? Doesn’t your eishes chayil, in a flash of anger mamish, recall every sin you (may have) committed since the day you met? And taka there was lots to talk about nebech; the Yiddin, with few exceptions, were out of control mamish throughout their entire 40 year midbar sojourn. We are a tough bunch. As proof mamish, Moishe addressed the Yiddin as ‘you’ in his historical review (Devorim. 1:19) and not ‘they’, even though the generation he was referring to was all dead and buried. Moishe will also remind them, though in a veiled manner, about the Eygel (golden calf) incident. Who needs to be reminded so many years later about their past misdeeds?
Let’s set the scene and review the gantze Parsha bikitzur (in short): Moishe is seemingly at the end of his life, down to his last thirty-six days, so says the Chizkuni (1:3). Forty years have passed since he helped lead the Yiddin out of Mitzrayim (Egypt). Since he too was condemned along with most of the male adults of his generation and wasn’t going to make it over to the Promised Land, it’s time to part ways with the people who are on the brink of fulfilling their national destiny of occupying the Promised Land under the leadership of Yehoishua. He’s got five weeks to go and lots to say. Veyter.
Ober Efsher you already know or should, that Sefer Devorim has yet another name: In rabbinic literature it’s known as Mishneh Toirah (Repetition of the Toirah), so called, because many of its laws are similar to those found in the other four books. Some of the mitzvois taught contradict earlier versions given. We will, however, be introduced to 100 new ones. Says the RambaN azoy: “And in this Sefer a few mitzvois are added which have not been mentioned previously at all, such as Yibum (the obligation of a man to marry his deceased brother’s wife if he died childless), the law concerning defamation of character, divorcing a woman, conspiring witnesses (a special category of false witnesses who claim to have witnessed an event when neither of them was in the vicinity at all) and others… And they were all conveyed to Moishe at Sinai, or in the Tent of Meeting some time during the first year, prior to the spies being sent, since on the Plains of Moi’av (just prior to the entry into the Land) Moshe received no new messages except for the formulation of the covenant… But these mitzvois were not recorded in the earlier Books, to be conveyed to the generation which had left Egypt, for perhaps these mitzvois were to be fulfilled only in Israel, despite the fact that they are an obligation to be physically fulfilled, as in the case of the libations, or otherwise they were mentioned only to the later generation which was to enter the land because they are mitzvois which do not frequently occur.”
More god news: In Sefer Devorim, we will also learn how the RBSO made sure that when it came time for war, everyone enlisted and make believe yeshiva boys weren’t seeking deferments: we will be introduced to the laws governing the male soldier and the hot shiksa he may chap, if you chap, during war and many more. He may chap a hot shiksa during war? Seemingly yes but you’ll have to wait a few weeks until we cover that topic and other givaldige Mitzvois. What’s Yibbum you ask? Nu- that’s for another day, ober divorce law you zicher know. And who doesn’t know a chaver or two that hasn’t been divorced at least once? Mistama, many of you have chaverim that have done it multiple times and will continue to do so until they get it right. Ober is it necessary to hear the other 500+ again? Maybe they should cut out laining during the summer weeks so that we can vacation without having to worry about missing kriyas Hatoirah?
Ober Raboyseyee we have to learn Devorim because it’s mashma (appears) that even some of the old laws have come back with new twists. Also a close reading of this parsha seems to indicate that some history is being revised, say it’s not so…but it is. Lemoshol (by way of example) Moishe recounts the story of the Meraglim (spies) this week but the facts seem to be not what they were way back in Parshas Shelach. In fact, had there been a trial, it’s likely that a mistrial would have been declared.
The entire Sefer Devorim is basically three separate sermons delivered by Moishe to the Yiddin just before he died. According to tradition, the three speeches took 36 days to deliver – beginning on the first of Shevat and ending on the sixth of Adar. On the 7th, he passed away and for you oisvorfs who know mamish nothing and less, Moishe was alas born on the 7th of Adar. Three speeches over a 36 days period sounds quite serious and these sermons stress the RBSO’s special relationship with the BNY. The Yiddin are reminded that they are not more virtuous than the other nations of earth; it is only through their loyalty to the heylige Toirah that their unique role in history will come about. Why Moishe was scolding this generation when the sinners of the previous generation had all died out, nu, this is taka an excellent kasha? Ver veyst?
As we say hello to book number five of the Chamishay Chumshay Toirah (five books) a centuries old debate rages: who wrote this Sefer, also known as Deuteronomy and Mishna Toirah? Had you even a clue that for centuries a debate has been raging over who wrote this fifth book? Did anyone ever teach you that there’s a machloikes (argument), what else is new about its authorship? Mistama not! Altz kint (as a child), no one in yeshiva ever mentioned that this is even a question. It was a given that the RBSO wrote Devorim just like He wrote the others. Though the Oisvorfer had the special zechus, if you chap, of attending myriad Yeshivas, not one uttered a word about this controversy. Ober gevald (omg), it exists and many square off about this topic, even the goyim.
In order to chap all this or at least some of it, we will need to learn a shtikel of the heylige Gemora- so halt kup (pay attention): Here we go, but first some more background. Ershtens (firstly), let’s taka learn what all the noise is about and let’s try to answer the first question first- namely, who wrote this sefer? Did the RBSO, as we were taught to believe as kinderlach (children,) also write Sefer Devorim or did Moishe, feeling epes(somewhat) empowered, think he was no longer but a messenger and decide late in life, to write his own book? What’s p’shat here? Is it even shayich (even thinkable) that the RBSO only wrote four books and that Moishe authored the fifth? Avada some of you heard of taking the fifth, but authoring it? Let’s explore but before we do, is it even permissible to discuss this topic without being ostracized, considered apikorsim, excommunicated and worse?
Veyst tzich ois (apparently) it’s ok to talk about this subject, many before the Oisvorfer have, but zicher (surely) we must be politically correct lest giferliche things start happening to us. Says the Rambam (Hilchois Teshuva 3:8), a topic we might consider dusting off this time of year, “Three fall into the category of heretics who deny the Toirah and two of those three are: Someone who says that the Toirah is not from the RBSO; if he says of even one possik or even one letter, that Moishe composed it himself, then he is a heretic.” It does appear that the Rambam had a definite opinion on the matter, you think? So why would we even kler (think) differently?
Seemingly, the first person wording of Devorim coupled with stylistic and other differences, has given rise to this question and has, over the years, caused many to believe that Devorim was written, or may have been written, by Moishe himself. Mamish from its opening sentence and throughout the entire Sefer, we will see that Devorim is different from the first four. Instead of the usual introductory statement, “God spoke to Moishe, saying,” we read:
|“These are the words that Moishe spoke to all of Israel on the far side of the Jordan River …” (Deut. 1:1)|
Unlike the other four books, Deuteronomy is largely a record of speeches that Moishe delivered to the people before his death. The heylige Gemora (Megillah 31b) confirms that the prophetic nature of this sefer (book) is qualitatively different than the others. While the other books of the Toirah are a direct transmission of the RBSO’s word, seemingly Moishe said Deuteronomy mipi atzmoy (“on his own.“). Was he out of line? Did all this talking to the RBSO get to his head, chas v’sholom? It’s also clear that Devorim is written in a different voice than the rest of the heylige Toirah. Devorim is written in the first person, from Moishe’s perspective, and the RBSO is spoken of in the third. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the Toirah, in which Moishe is spoken of in third person.
On the other hand, the heylige Gemora treats the many Mitzvois (commandments) that appear for the very first time and exclusively in Sefer Devorim, as completely Biblical commandments. Did Moishe have authority to promulgate his own mitzvois and laws? And the Gemora accepted them as if they came directly from above?
Wait, there’s more. The debate over Devorim’s authorship continued through to the Rishonim (early Sages). The heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 99a) tells us clearly that the claim that even one sentence in the Five Books that was not written literally, word for word by Moishe from the mouth of the RBSO, is heresy mamish! Are we confused yet?
On the other hand, the Gemora in Megillah (31b) states that the Toichocho (curses) of Devorim are not as strict as those in Vayikra, and therefore, the curses of Devorim may be broken into different Aliyos , while those of Vayikra must be read without pause. The reason given is that the Vayikra curses are recorded by Moishe directly from the mouth of the RBSO, while the Devorim curses represent Moishe’s own re-iteration of them. Says Rashi: that in Vayikra, Moishe was made a messenger to say, ‘thus said God,’ for behold, [the curses are written in the language of the first person, while in Devorim, it states “Moishe spoke these on his own”, as if to say if you break His commandments, He will repay you. Was one Gemora contradicting another? Why not? It keeps the mind sharp; isn’t that what Gemora is mostly about?
Other opinions: The Ohr Hachayim hold that the first possik (verse) of this fifth book serves to clarify that only this book was written by Moishe, but the rest of the Toirah was dictated by the RBSO.
The heylige Gemora (Bava Basra 15a) considers who wrote the final 8 pisukim of the Toirah which describe events after Moishe’s death. Said Rebbe Yehudah: Moishe wrote them under the RBSO’s guidance, the gantze (entire) Toirah except for the last 8 pisukim, which were written by Yehoishua. Avada this makes sense given that Moishe is seemingly dead. Ober said Rebbe Shimon a givaldige chidush (breakthrough): being dead is not necessarily a deterrent to writing. Hey- haven’t we seen wills written after the person died without one? Rather, until the last 8 verses, the RBSO spoke and Moishe wrote; thereafter, He spoke and Moishe wrote it in tears (bedema). Rambam seems to rule in his famous introduction to the Mishnah (Perek Chelek) in support of Rebbe Shimon: “The 8th principle is that Toirah is from Heaven, i.e. we should believe that THIS ENTIRE TOIRAH WHICH WE HAVE TODAY IS THE ONE GIVEN BY MOISHE OUR TEACHER(dead or alive), MAY HE REST IN PEACE, DICTATED ENTIRELY BY GOD. Moishe was like a scribe to whom one dictates and he writes.”
And how do we reconcile these two views? Says The Vilna Gaon: the statements of Rebbe Yehudah and Rebbe Shimon may taka be reconciled, why not? Says the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 1:1) azoy: the Toirah was all written even before the world was created, so our inquiry should not be restricted to the final 8 verses but to the entire Toirah! How then could Moishe write “And Moishe died …” (Devorim 34:5), and how could the whole Toirah have been written prior to the occurrence of the events described? Says the Gaon, that the text of the Toirah is formulated by combinations of the RBSO’s names. Before creation, the Toirah existed in its hidden, primordial (good scrabble word) state. As world history unfolded, the RBSO revealed to Moishe how to write the words of our Toirah but only up to the final 8 verses. The remainder, He taught to Moishe in a concealed form (word jumble). Therefore, we can now chap that Moishe taka wrote the text of the last 8 verses, but without being made aware of the spaces between words so it all looked like one long string of letters! Shortly afterward, the RBSO disclosed to Yehoishua where to insert the spacing in order to make sense of these final words. And you finally chap why he was the Vilna Gaon and you’re nothing but a bum and an Oisvorf. Got all that? Case closed.
And says the heylige Zoihar: we needn’t worry about others who maintain that Moishe is its author, despite such support from the first-person wording of the Sefer which contradicts the very basis of our faith in the Divine origin of the entire Toirah; it’s all narishkeyt (BS). How many times have you been told you not to mess with the Zoihar? It’s mamish dangerous! Moreover, how could Moishe have taken this project upon himself, for didn’t we learn in the heylige Gemora (Shabbis 104a) that a Novee (prophet) is not allowed to say in the RBSO’s name what he did not hear directly from above? Was Moishe out of control? Ok-what’s the big deal? Let’s just all agree that the RBSO wrote it and all is good; do you really care who wrote it? It’s here so we try to keep a few mitzvois here and there and say I’m sorry on Yoim Kippur for those we couldn’t, didn’t or otherwise ignored. Isn’t that what the holiday is for anyway? Case closed? Not so fast, as many commentators insist that Sefer Devorim was written by Moishe in his own words; are they all just rabble rousers? How are we to understand this? Ver veyst?
Says Abarbanel azoy: At first Moishe taka (indeed) said these words of his own initiative, ober (but) the RBSO had his back. After he (Moishe) expressed himself, the RBSO agreed and commanded Moishe to reduce his words to writing. The RBSO then dictated the same words in exactly the same way as He had dictated the previous books. Is it good to have friends in High places or what? Beautiful! According to this p’shat, there is nothing unique about the nature of this Sefer, since we have found similar instances in the other Books as well: Lemoshol (by way of example), various personalities who appear in the Toirah (Paroy the minuvil, Bilem, his ass, and others) uttered their own words, and eventually the RBSO dictated their words back to Moishe, and they have been included ever since as an integral part of the RBSO’s heylige Toirah. This too sounds good to me.
And while your head is mistama spinning trying to figure all this out, let’s taka take a quick look at Moishe’s oratory skills. Here in Sefer Devorim, he is depicted as a stirring orator. Not too long ago, it was this same Moishe (Shemois 4:10), who, when asked by the RBSO himself at the burning bush, and who can say no to a burning bush, if you chap, at first rebuffed the RBSO claiming that he was the wrong man for the job- not a man of words. Was Dale Carnegie giving classes in the Midbar?
Shoin: It’s settled! The bottom line is that we have five books and that’s what we have to learn. This doesn’t, of course, satisfy many goyim who have differing views on who wrote it but that’s for another day. Mistama (likely) you’re not aware that kimat (nearly) all liberal scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, deny the authorship of Moishe and among their reasons is that he could not have written the last Pisukim (following his death). I mean he was good, but writing Toirah after dying? Nu, that’s for another day. And, of course you wouldn’t know that, and why should you? You barely know anything about your own religion, are you expected to know what the goyim are thinking? And who cares? Ginig shoin (enough already), we’re kimat (almost) 4 pages in and we haven’t looked at the parsha yet.
And for the record: The Oisvorfer, despite his other shortcomings, is avada mamish a believer that the RBSO is behind the gantze Toirah kulah (the entire enchilada) especially during these nine days when he’s mamish spooked about everything.
A gitten shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv