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Shabbat Parashat Vaeira 5779

Parashat Hashavua: More about Devarim

Harav Yosef Carmel

When we read our parasha carefully, we can notice an important linguistic change. Whereas throughout this section of the Torah, Hashem’s word is introduced with the word “vayomer,” in the beginning of this parasha the word “vayedaber” is mentioned eleven times for His speech. Our parasha also describes three plagues with which Hashem afflicted Egypt, the middle one being dever, which shares the same Hebrew root as vayedaber and is also sometimes written as “davar.” The common denominator between the three plagues in the parasha is that none of them included use of Moshe’s staff.

We have proven in the past that it took multiple discussions for Hashem to convince Moshe to accept upon himself the leading role in orchestrating Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. Apparently, the first encounter is presented in the beginning of our parasha, and a later encounter is actually presented earlier, in Shemot 3-4. A main difference between them is that originally Moshe was hoped to engineer the liberation based on the people’s belief based on the Divine Word. This was later replaced by their belief by means of miracles performed with Moshe’s staff. It would be only later that they would be able to change the leadership to one characterized by dibbur (see our book, Tzofnat Yeshayahu, pp. 198-209).

Prophecy is often referred to as davar (a matter) or dibbur (something which is spoken). The giving of the Torah as a whole is referred to as devarim (“These are the devarim that you will speak [tedaber] to Bnei Yisrael”- Shemot 19:6). The introduction to Moshe’s major prophetic address to Bnei Yisrael is referred to as “These are the devarim that Moshe spoke (diber)” (Devarim 1:1). We find “The davar that Yeshayahu prophesied over Yehuda and Yerushalayim” (Yeshayahu 2:1). This is then also an indication that when the Torah says that Yaakov’s reaction to Yosef’s dream of his brothers and parents bowing down to him was that he “guarded over the davar” means that he treated the dreams as a prophecy for whose fulfillment he waited (see Ramban 42:6).

We can also now better understand David’s answer to his older brother Eliav who was angry at David for coming to visit the encampment that was encountering the Plishtim. In it, David mentions the root davar several times (see Shmuel I, 17:28-30). The Midrash (Midrash Tanaim, Devarim 1:17) says that Yishai looked down on David because when he was younger he prophesied that he would grow up to destroy the places in which the Plishtim lived, kill a giant who is called Goliat, and build a Beit Hamikdash. While Yishai did not believe these were real prophecies, they actually were, and that is why David repeatedly used the word that hints at prophecy.

To return to where we began, our parasha uses the root daber to show that the upcoming liberation was intended to prepare Bnei Yisrael for the devarim at Sinai (see Shemot 19:6), which would turn our nation into “prophets and sons of prophets.”
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