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Words of Rebuke

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“These are the words that Moses spoke to all of Israel on the [eastern] bank of the Jordan, in the desert, on the plain, opposite Suf, between Paran, Tofel, Lavan, Chatzeirot and Di Zahav.”

Thus opens the book of Deuteronomy, which relates Moses’ final message to the people of Israel, delivered in the thirty-seven days that preceded his passing. Here Moses recounts the events of the past forty years and restates Israel’s covenant with G-d at Mount Sinai, where G-d chose them as His people and they committed themselves to His Torah.

Moses’ address also includes words of rebuke to Israel, in which he reminds them of the occasions when their behavior was wanting. Indeed, our sages explain that all the “landmarks” referred to in the opening verse (“the desert,” “the plain,” “Suf,” “Paran,” etc.) are actually allusions to various sins committed by Israel during their forty-year journey from Egypt to the Holy Land.

Said one of the chassidic masters: “This is why the Torah emphasizes that ‘These are the words that Moses spoke to all of Israel.’ It was only to the people of Israel that Moses spoke of their iniquities and failings. To G-d, Moses spoke only of the virtues of Israel, and justified them no matter what they did.”

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber

 

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