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These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisroel (Devarim 1:1).
Rashi explains that Moshe wished to begin his address with words of rebuke. However, due to Moshe’s sensitivity for the honor of the Jewish people he did not rebuke them openly but only hinted to their transgressions by mentioning the places were they sinned against Hashem.
In the sefer Tosefes Berachah, Rav Baruch Epstein takes note that later in chumash Devarim, Moshe openly rebukes the Jewish people in great detail for the sins committed in these very places. Why was Moshe concerned here with the honor of the Jewish people and chose only to hint to their sins, when later he was prompted to openly rebuke the Jewish people? Furthermore, why was it necessary to rebuke them twice, once here and later again in detail?
Rav Yitzchak Zev Halaivi Soloveitick takes note of what seems to be an unnecessary repetition of the Torah’s description of Moshe’s address to the Jewish people. First, the posuk says that “Moshe spoke to the children of Yisroel according to everything that Hashem commanded him to them” (Devarim 1:3). The next posuk continues “On the other side of the Jordan in the land of Moav, Moshe began clarifying this Torah saying.” Why this double description of Moshe? Rav Soloveitick explains that the Torah is alluding to the two different roles Moshe served in leading the Jewish people. Moshe was both a prophet and a teacher. When the posuk first says that Moshe spoke to the Jewish people, this refers to Moshe’s role as prophet. Here, the Torah records that Moshe faithfully transmitted the word of Hashem to the Jewish people. When the posuk continues to describe Moshe as clarifying the Torah it refers to Moshe in his role as teacher. A teacher is not satisfied with an oral recital of the teaching. A teacher elaborates and clarifies until his teaching is fully absorbed by the students.
With this in mind we can answer Rav Epstein’s question. We may suggest that the reason Moshe rebuked the Jewish people twice in sefer Devarim was once for each role that he served, namely, as prophet and teacher. The first rebuke was in his role as a prophet. Here Moshe merely hinted to their sins out of sensitivity for the honor of the Jewish people. The rebuke was not personal. Moshe relayed Hashem’s dissatisfaction with the Jewish people. A mere hint was enough to achieve this goal. Later, however, Moshe rebuked them in his role of teacher. The close relationship of teacher and student demands that the teacher elaborate and clarify not just intellectual insights but ethical behavior as well.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5762/2002