This week’s parsha begins the seven week period of consolation and
condolence that bridges the time space between Tisha b’Av and Rosh
Hashana. In order to properly prepare for the oncoming year and its
challenges one must first be comforted by the vision of better times ahead
and the belief in one’s ability to somehow overcome those omnipresent
challenges. Healing occurs when one believes that there is yet a future
All medical doctors agree that hope and optimism on the part of the
patient are great aids in the process of recovering from illness or
injury. If we would not have time and vision to recover from the sadness
before the advent of the High Holy Days then those most meaningful days of
our year would clearly be diminished measurably in our minds and hearts.
Throughout the book of Dvarim, Moshe’s pain at not being allowed to enter
the Land of Israel is manifestably present. But Moshe is strengthened and
even somewhat consoled by his vision of his student and loyal disciple,
Yehoushua, succeeding him in the leadership of Israel, and in his firm
conviction that the people of Israel will successfully conquer and settle
the Land of Israel.
Comfort and consolation come in varying forms. What comforts one
individual may not be effective for another individual. But again, all
agree that such consolation is a necessary ingredient in the restoration
and rehabilitation of those who were so depressed and saddened. There is
no substitute for consolation and healing. Otherwise it is impossible to
continue in life.
The parsha also deals with the Ten Commandments of Sinai. I have often
thought that the repetition of this subject, which seemed to be adequately
covered once in the Book of Shemot, teaches us an important lesson, which
again may serve to be a source of consolation to us.
The “first” Ten Commandments was given at the beginning of the Jewish
sojourn in the desert of Sinai. There was no Golden calf, no complaints
about the manna, no spies, no Korach, no plagues of snakes – nothing had
yet occurred to diminish the light and aura of Sinai. Well, in such a
perfect society there is no reason not to recognize the values and laws of
the Ten Commandments as being valid and even necessary in practice.
But now Moshe stands forty years later, after all of the disappointments
and rebellions, the backsliding and the pettiness, the death of an entire
generation, and reassures us in the “second” Ten Commandments that all of
those values and rules have not changed at all. The lesson of the
immutability of Torah and Halacha is thereby engraved upon the Jewish
heart and mind.
Many things have happened to the Jewish people since Moshe’s speech before
his death. Many have mistakenly thought that all of the changes in
technology, economies, world orders, etc. have made the Ten Commandments,
Torah and Halacha somehow less relevant.
Moshe stands and speaks to us to remind us that the basic anchor of Jewish
life and in fact of all world civilization lies in those words of Sinai.
Everything has changed but human beings have not changed. And neither then
has God’s instructions for us.
Rabbi Berel Wein