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Shabbat Parashat Devarim| 5764

The Old, the New, and the Revisited

Harav Moshe Ehrenreich

 In several places (including Berachot 21b) Chazal refer to Sefer Devarim as “Mishneh Torah.” Tosafot (Gittin 2a) uses this name to help explain an interesting detail in the writing of a get. Rasag says that a get has twelve lines to correspond to the blank lines between the various sefarim of the Torah. There are actually sixteen lines (4 lines X 4 breaks). However, says Tosafot, the break between Bamidbar and Devarim does not count, because Mishneh Torah is just a repetition of the rest. According to Tosafot, Mishneh Torah means a repetition. This is also how the Metzudot explains the phrase in Yehoshua 8:33. One can also bring support for this approach from the pasuk: “Moshe spoke to Bnei Yisrael everything that Hashem had commanded him to tell them” (Devarim 1:3), which is an introduction to the sefer as a whole.
 However, when we examine the contents of Devarim, we will find that it far more than a repetition. It contains more than 100 mitzvot, of which 70 are new ones. Regarding its role of summarizing, we should note that there is little reference to the mitzvot of sacrifices and purity, which are the mainstays of Sefer Vayikra. Therefore, the Netziv (introduction to Devarim) explains that “Mishneh”comes from the root of sharpening and intensifying, as our sefer puts great stress on the intensive study of Torah. The Ramban in several places tries to connect apparently new mitzvot in Devarim to previously mentioned mitzvot in other sefarim, thus connecting it more strongly to previous sefarim.
 If we want to reconcile Tosafot’s approach with what appears to be a different reality, we need to explain as follows. Moshe was indeed commanded before his death to review all of the precepts of the Torah, as cited above. However, not everything that he related at that time, was incorporated into Sefer Devarim. Rather, some, which had not been previously written, were included, along with additional “old” mitzvot, which were revisited in a manner that justified being written again (see Rav Hirsch on 1:3).
 Looking more deeply into that which was specifically chosen for inclusion at this point, we will see that there is a stress on the guidance of the new leadership, which would arise and would be entrusted with the task of bringing Bnei Yisrael from the desert to Eretz Yisrael. The leadership after Moshe would need to grapple with assembling a Sanhedrin, appointing a king, and running a legal system.   They would also have to deal with the nations who inhabited Eretz Yisrael, raising questions about treatment of idolatry and the laws of war. In their new land, with a more normal economy than that which existed in the desert, stress on the various forms of charity, on Shemitta, and the laws of workers would be crucial. Even in regard to the holidays, only the three regalim, when Bnei Yisrael were to go up to Yerushalayim were repeated, and their agricultural element is that which is stressed.
In summary, Sefer Devarim highlights those mitzvot that deal with the upcoming challenge, initiating a state with an army and an economy according to the Divine ideal, even before the Beit Hamikdash was erected.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
 R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.

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