Sefer Devarim is Moshe’s farewell address to Bnei Yisrael. In it he reviews everything that happened to the nation from after they left Mitzrayim until this point as well as most of the mitzvos. In this week’s parshah, Parshas Va’eschanan, we have several famous passages such as the parshah of Ve’ahavta from the daily Shema, the Aseres Hadibros (with a few changes from the original in Parshas Yisro) and Ve’haya Ki Yiveacha, one of the parshiyos contained in Tefillin, which highlight key mitzvos and events. Even without these important and famous parshiyos we could easily deduce that whatever is contained in Sefer Devarim must be extremely important as this is what Moshe chose to give over right before he died. However, sometimes it’s not only what we see from Moshe’s words, but from his actions that we learn the greatest lessons from.
At the beginning of Shlishi, the pasuk says, “אָז יַבְדִּיל מֹשֶׁה שָׁלֹשׁ עָרִים בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן” “Then Moshe separated three cities on the side of the Jordan” (Devarim 4:41). These cities are in connection to the Arei Miklat (Cities of Refuge), the collection of cities where someone who killed accidently would run to and live until the death of the Kohen Gadol. There were three of these cities in Eretz Yisrael and three on the other side of the Yarden, the Jordan River, where the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half of Menashe lived. The pasuk says that Moshe set aside the three cities outside of Eretz Yisrael before he died. Rashi adds something which makes this seemingly side detail unbelievable. The Gemarah in Makkos (10a) says that the three Arei Miklat outside of Eretz Yisrael had no significance at all until the three cities in Eretz Yisrael were set up. If someone killed accidently in the meantime, they did not go to those three cities. This means that Moshe’s efforts at this time were wholly unnecessary from a practical point of view. We learn from here that when you have the opportunity to participate in a mitzvah, or even just the planning of a mitzvah, you should do as much of it as you can.
We see this same idea by Dovid Hamelech, even after Hashem told him that he would not be the one to build the Beis Hamikdash, he still collected many of the materials needed for its construction to give to his son Shlomo. Another example would be an old man planting an esrog tree. Since esrog trees take a few years to mature, by the time the fruit would be ready to use for the mitzvah, the old man may have already passed away. However, his planting the tree for other people to use is his contribution to the mitzvah even if planting the tree is not a mitzvah.
The Kli Yakar uses this to explain the language of the pasuk immediately before ours. It says, “וְשָׁמַרְתָּ אֶת חֻקָּיו וְאֶת מִצְוֹתָיו אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִיטַב לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ” “And you shall observe his laws and his commandments, which I command you this day, that it may be well with you and your children after you…” (4:40). The word “אַחֲרֶיךָ” “after you” seems to be extra, why can’t the pasuk just say “and your children”? He explains that the mitzvos that you do are not only for you and your children, they are potentially for your children many generations later! This is why the pasuk used the words “אָז יַבְדִּיל מֹשֶׁה”, it connects it directly to the pasuk before where we discussed doing mitzvos for even after your lifetime. We see in the very next pasuk Moshe doing this very thing.
The Kli Yakar explains further that in Pasuk 44 when it says, “וְזֹאת הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר שָׂם מֹשֶׁה לִפְנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל” “And this is the teaching which Moshe set before the children of Yisrael” (4:44), it is referring to this very idea. We should preform every mitzvah in this way, in preparation not only for ourselves but for future generations of Jews.
With all the lessons that we learn from Moshe in Sefer Devarim, this one resonates the most. We always prepare for later in life in order to be set up for when we can no longer take care of things. Perhaps we should do the same with mitzvos. Let’s start to look around and see what steps we can take in order that we will always have mitzvos ready and waiting for us. And if it doesn’t end up being for us, then let’s make sure that someone else will be able to produce a mitzvah from our efforts. As we see from Moshe Rabbeinu and Dovid Hamelech, we must always strive to do mitzvos even if we know that we won’t be the ones fulfilling them. With that attitude, the performance of mitzvos in Bnei Yisrael will only increase bringing mashiach closer and closer.
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