Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Title: Is Devarim rebuke? Or a pep talk?
Parshas Devarim opens with the statement (Devarim 1:1) "These are the words which Moshe spoke unto all Israel beyond the Jordan; in the wilderness, in the Arabah, over against Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab."
The Sifrei asks about the words "Eileh HaDevarim," "these are the words that Moshe spoke." Did Moshe only speak those words? He wrote the whole Torah? Rather, when we see this pattern, it means that he spoke words of rebuke. The Sifrei shows where there is rebuke, by quoting a pasuk from MUCH later, Devarim 36:15, "vayishman yeshurun vayiv'at...," "But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked--thou didst wax fat, thou didst grow thick, thou didst become gross--and he forsook God who made him, and contemned the Rock of his salvation." It seems clear that Sifrei regards the opening pasuk as addressing the entire sefer Devarim, not just (for example) the first parsha, and the problem is that Moshe also wrote the rest of the Torah as well.
The Sifrei demonstrates this pattern for several other prophets as well. Amos, Yirmiyahu, David, and Kohelet all have similar "divrei" statements, and the Sifrei asks that they spoke other things, and concludes by citing a pasuk within the prophecy which is rebuke.
The Sifrei continues with R Yehuda and others darshaning the place names as references to specific wrongdoings the benei yisrael did. Thus, we have the rebuke immediately following, even though the original Sifrei was referencing the sefer as a whole.
My own general impression of parshat (not sefer) Devarim is that is a pep talk. Moshe is turning over leadership to Yehoshua, and the Jews have suffered defeats, disappointments, and delays for the last 40 years. He wants to encourage them regarding the change of leadership and the capture of the land of Israel.
As a result, he tells them how they failed and were discouraged in the past, how they were afraid of the giants who lived in the land and would not be able to conquer, and how their previous effort to capture the land failed because Hashem was not with them. Now that Hashem was with them, they would be able to succeed. Thus, in the the second perek, Moshe stresses how they should not attack Esav or Moab, because they got the inheritance that Hashem had given them, and also detailed how those nations had won battles against the previous inhabitants of the land, who were giants. The parsha ends with exhortations to bnei Gad and Benei Reuven to help capture the land.
More about that Sifrei (you should look inside the Sifrei for this):
There seems to be a constant emendation of all the psukim cited to make it fit better (in other words, in my mikraos gedolos, the original psukim or statements are placed in parentheses and a better pasuk or statement in placed in brackets). I do not know who is doing this emendation, but it seems like before the change, "eileh hadevarim" or the like refer to an entire book, and that is contrasted with other prophesies the prophet is known to have made. After the change, a specific prophecy is the intent of "eileh hadevarim" or the like, which raises issues with other prophecies in the same book. For example, a quote from the first pasuk of Amos ("divrei Amos...") is changed to a later citation with the DBR root later in the sefer, and this is contrasted with the first pasuk. I claim the original intent is to contrast the ""divrei Amos..." in the first pasuk with the fact that he was known, from that same first pasuk, to have made prophesies elsewhere ("asher chaza al," and lists where else he prophesied). Similarly, a "divrei" statement from Yirmiyahu 30, proved by a rebuke in Yirmiyahu 30, and strangely contrasted with a statement from the second to last perek of Yirmiyahu which says Ad Kaan are the words of Yirmiyahu, showing he prophesied other things. This seems to imply that we are contrasting Yirmiyahu 30 with the rest of the book. But, the original text asks, "but didn't Yirmiyahu write two sefarim?" Those two sefarim would be Yirmiyahu and Echa, the latter written as a song of mourning for the death of King Yoshiahu. This is somewhat problematic in terms of how the quote demonstrates it, but our editor emends the text to "but didn't Yirmiyahu write the entire sefer?" Koheles is left intact, with first the quote "Divrei Koheles...," "The words of Koheleth, the son of David, king in Jerusalem." This is followed by the question that Shlomo HaMelech wrote 3 books, not just Koheles. The answer is that this is denoting rebuke, followed by a quote demonstrating it. I think it is possible to justify the original text over the emendations, and the difference again is: are we contrasting a specific prophecy to the whole sefer, or the sefer to other prophecies?