INSIGHT: Sefer Devarim: Brand-New Mitzvos

Mishneh Torah – What’s it all about?

Mishneh Torah – What’s it all about?

To understand the need for this repetition, a.k.a. Mishneh Torah, let’s put ourselves in the shoes (or sandals) of our forefathers in the desert.

Bnei Yisrael had been traveling in the desert for almost 40 years. The older generation, all men 20 years and older at the time of the Spies Episode, had passed away. Now their children were all grown up, ready and anxious to enter the holy land of Eretz Yisrael – at last!

Moshe, the wise, experienced and loving leader, is there to give them just the right lessons to help them in their mission.

True to his name, Moshe Rabbeinu – our teacher, was an excellent educator. At the end of every lesson, a skilled teacher reviews key points with the class, making sure that they get the most important parts down pat. At the end of the entire school year, this capable teacher will give them a general review of everything they learned, but certainly not all the details – he or she will focus on the main points, whatever is most important for the next year’s challenging grade.

Back to our Parsha. Bnei Yisrael were about to “graduate” from the “desert classroom,” and Moshe Rabbeinu was making sure that they were ready for their grand entrance into Eretz Yisrael, focusing on whatever he thinks is important:

  • Moshe will spend the next days recounting their adventures in the desert, peppered with a bit of tender-loving scolding, and reminding them of all the ups and downs along the way – sometimes more downs than ups!
  •  And let’s not forget, he’ll also give them plenty of pep-talks, telling them to learn from past history, trust in HaShem, and everything will work out for the best… better than the best!
  • In Sefer Devarim, Moshe will review many, many Mitzvos they already learned – such as keeping Kosher and Shabbos. He will add some important points to Mitzvos they know about and even teach a lot of brand-new Mitzvos.
  • Now that they will be entering Eretz Yisrael, a.k.a. Eretz Canaan, among non-Jews whose entire lives revolve around idol worship, Moshe warns them time and again of its dangers. He guides them with some helpful ways to make sure they don’t get caught up in that big idol-worshipping mess.
  • We’ll hear from Moshe some wonderful blessings for doing Mitzvos and harsh punishments for not doing them.
  • And believe it or not, towards the end of Devarim, we’ll be treated to a beautiful poetic song, called Shiras Ha’azinu, coming from Moshe Rabbeinu!

So, the Book of Devarim is sort of a book of opposites. It contains sad stories of past mistakes and words of encouragement for a new time and new place. It contains many Mitzvos – some old and some new. Devarim was inspired by HaShem but it’s also Moshe’s personal message to Bnei Yisrael…

Devarim has everything the Jewish nation will need to help them “graduate.”


Shazak insight

Sefer Devarim: Brand-New Mitzvos

There’s an ancient holy book called Sefer HaChinuch (“Book of Education”), which does a great job educating us. The author lists all 613 Mitzvos in the order of their appearance in the Torah and offers amazing explanations on each of them.

According to his list, 200 of the 613 Mitzvos are right here in Devarim. That’s 200 NEW MITZVOS! Now there are five books in total, so the average Chumash has 122.6 Mitzvos. This means that Devarim has 87.4 Mitzvos more than the average Chumash.

Does this sound like a repetition of the same old things we already read in the previous 4 books? No way!

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