Moshe's Personal Assessment
This week’s parsha, Dvarim, is in reality a continuation of last week’s
parsha of Maasei. This is because it also forms a narrative review of events
that occurred to the Jewish people during their forty years of life in the
desert of Sinai.
Just as last week’s parsha reviewed for us the stations where the Jews
encamped during those forty years, so does this week’s parsha review for us
key events that befell the Jewish people during those decades of
supernatural life and wanderings.
But there is a fundamental difference between these two narrative views of
past events. The review in parshat Maasei is essentially presented in an
objective, even detached manner. It is full of facts, names and places but
it is basically an unemotional and factual report regarding a long forty
year journey of the people of Israel.
This week’s parsha contains a review of facts and events by Moshe. It is a
personal and at times emotional and painful review of those years in the
desert. Moshe bares his heart and soul and shares his frustrations and
emotions with us.
Parshat Dvarim, in fact all of Chumash Dvarim is a record of how Moshe
personally saw things and it records his impressions and feelings regarding
the events of the desert of Sinai. In many ways it is one of the most
personal and emotional books in the entire canon of the Bible. It is not
only Moshe’s words that are on display before us in the parsha. It is his
viewpoint and assessment of the Jewish people and its relationship to God
that is reflected clearly and passionately in his words.
Personal opinion and passion are key to the service of God according to
Jewish tradition. Judaism does not condone “holy rollers” in its midst but
the entire idea of the necessity of kavanah/intense intent in prayer and the
performance of mitzvoth speaks to a personal view of the relationship to God
and Torah and a necessary passion and viewpoint.
Everyone is different and therefore everyone’s view of events also is
different one from another. Thus, everyone’s service of God and Torah,
albeit within the parameters of established and recognized halacha, must
contain nuances of personal difference.
The importance of the Torah emphasizing to us that the book of Dvarim is
Moshe’s personal record of events is to stress to us this recognition of
individuality that exists within every human being and how that affects
one’s view of everything, spiritual and physical, in life.
Moshe’s recorded personal anguish at witnessing the sins of Israel in the
desert is a greater indictment of those sins than just the description and
listing of the sins themselves would have been. Life is personal, never
objective. Moshe’s personal view of the events of the desert makes these
events real and tangible to us.
We are also involved in the narrative because of our empathy with Moshe.
This is what makes the entire book of Dvarim so real and important to us.
People speak to people. Moshe speaks to us.
Rabbi Berel Wein