This week, we have another 'SOS' submission to AIMeMTorah. This week's Dvar Torah was written and recorded by Nussi Samuel, who is once again participating in the 'Summer of Subscribers' program. AIMeMTorah would like to thank Nussi for his Dvar Torah and his continued support for AIMeM.
Moshe Rabeinu starts off this week’s parshah with veiled mussar in order to avoid embarrassing Klal Yisroel and not besmirch their honor, by explicitly stating their past failings. However, this was risky from another standpoint. According to many Meforshim, it was Moshe’s rebuke to Klal Yisroel that caused him to lose the privilege of entering Eretz Yisroel. In the story of the Mei Meriva, in which Moshe hit the rock instead of talking to it, he rebuked Klal Yisroel by saying “שִׁמְעוּ נָא הַמֹּרִים” “Listen, you rebels” (Bamidbar 20:10). So how come Moshe was not afraid to give mussar here in Sefer Devarim to Klal Yisroel? Furthermore, not only does Moshe give mussar to Klal Yisroel at this time, he even uses the same expression, calling them rebels; he says “וַתַּמְרוּ” “and you rebelled” in Devarim 1:26 and 43, and later on he says, “מַמְרִים הֱיִיתֶם” “you have been rebelling” (9:7)!
There are many answers given, but we’ll focus on three.
The Midrash says that when Hashem told Moshe to review the Torah by writing Mishnah Torah (the nickname for Sefer Devarim), Moshe planned on omitting any mention of the Klal Yisroel’s sins, and didn’t plan on rebuking them (Devarim Rabbah 1:8). R’ Simone says that it can be compared to the following parable:
There was once a student walking with his teacher. His teacher was imparting to him the knowledge and craft of precious stones. The student saw a coal that was on fire and picked it up thinking it was a gem and got burnt. As he continued walking with his teacher, the student saw a precious stone and was afraid to touch thinking it was burning coal. The teacher explained that this stone he could pick up since it was a precious stone.
Similarly, Moshe was afraid to give any mussar to Klal Yisroel since he gotten “burnt” back in Sefer Bamidbar when he told Klal Yisroel “שִׁמְעוּ נָא הַמֹּרִים”, and subsequently lost the privilege of entering Eretz Yisroel. Therefore, Hashem told him he had nothing to fear from giving mussar at this time, and encouraged Moshe to give the mussar.
The second answer is, according to the Rambam, the sin that Moshe committed that lost him Eretz Yisrael, was not the fact that he gave mussar, but that he got angry when he exclaimed שִׁמְעוּ נָא הַמֹּרִים"”. Rashi in Parshas Matos concurs (Bamidbar 31:21) and says that each time Moshe got upset he made an error in judgement, including the instance of “שִׁמְעוּ נָא הַמֹּרִים”. His anger caused Moshe to hit the rock rather than speak to it, which cost him the privilege to enter Eretz Yisroel. So, it wasn’t the Mussar that was the cause of the punishment but how the Mussar was given.
A third possible answer is that there’s a difference in the usage of the word ‘rebels’ between Sefer Bamidbar and Sefer Devarim, When Moshe is saying “שִׁמְעוּ נָא הַמֹּרִים” in Sefer Bamidbar, he’s calling them out derogatorily and essentially saying who they are. However, by the instances in Sefer Devarim, the usage of ‘rebels’ seems more removed, as he’s speaking to Klal Yisroel’s actions as opposed to their character. Instead of attacking Klal Yisroel on a personal level, Moshe instead becomes a teacher, guiding his students towards the precious stones instead of screaming at them for picking up fire. That kind of mussar is one more easily heard and accepted, and one that Moshe wouldn’t get punished for.
We should be careful not to label a sinner a failure but rather someone who may have made a mistake. This is true especially for ourselves as we all have shortcomings; we do not let it define ourselves and we certainly shouldn’t let others define themselves by it. If we want to be able to overcome our shortcomings and help others overcome theirs, we must remember that it’s not our true essence, they are actions that are correctable and forgivable.
Nussi Samuel is originally from New York and now lives in Yerushalayim with his family, where he studies and teaches in various yeshivos. He is an annual contributor to the 'SOS' program.
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