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1) Why Didn’t Moshe Review Toras Kohanim? Ramban opens with an introduction to each sefer. We will discuss some opening comments here. Devarim is called Mishna Torah, Deutoronomy in English, which means the repeat of the Torah. Moshe Rabbeinu went over all the laws of the Torah, but not all of them.  The Ramban points out that Moshe did not go through Toras Kohanim.  He did not talk about the laws of Sefer Vayikra which are the korbanos that the Kohanim are in charge of bringing, and the Ramban questions why this is. Why are these laws not reviewed, and only other laws, throughout the entire Torah are found here? Kohanim Zerizim Heim Ramban gives a simple answer, based on Chazal, which is that Kohanim zerizim heim.  Kohanim are always steadfast to do their work, and...
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Parsha Hashavua
Parshas Devarim - Moshe’s Lessons of Life and Leadership

1) Why Didn’t Moshe Review Toras Kohanim?

Ramban opens with an introduction to each sefer. We will discuss some opening comments here. Devarim is called Mishna Torah, Deutoronomy in English, which means the repeat of the Torah. Moshe Rabbeinu went over all the laws of the Torah, but not all of them.  The Ramban points out that Moshe did not go through Toras Kohanim.  He did not talk about the laws of Sefer Vayikra which are the korbanos that the Kohanim are in charge of bringing, and the Ramban questions why this is. Why are these laws not reviewed, and only other laws, throughout the entire Torah are found here?

Kohanim Zerizim Heim

Ramban gives a simple answer, based on Chazal, which is that Kohanim zerizim heim.  Kohanim are always steadfast to do their work, and, therefore, no rebuke or repeat was necessary. The entire purpose is for Moshe to give rebuke and remind the Jews of all their responsibilities before he passes away, and, so, therefore, they need to hear the different ethics and laws and ideas behind what Hashem is expects of the Jewish people. The more review, the better, but when it comes to the cohanim, they were given a nod by way of omission because of the fact that they were zariz, they were very meticulous in their work, and therefore it was just sufficient that in Sefer Vayikra their laws are there and they’ll review that and they’ll know it.

Review and Repetition

We learn an important principle when it comes to learning middos and how to act, the general populace, (and even Kohanim too, for ethics) need review! There is very fascinating gemara in Pesachim which contains has a whole different discussion about how to move different animals.  The gemara says that you say certain words to animals. Da, da, zeh, zeh. Mekubalim including the Ben Yehoyada and other mefarshim have different explanations as to what this means.

Meshech Chochmah says a very simple idea, and it’s based on other Chazals as well that in all the ma’amarei Chazal that are telling us how to move the animals, so what is being hinted to is that each of us has an animal inside. We have a yetzer harah that pushes us away from serving Hashem, and the only way to overcome that animal and to move us forward to do avodas Hashem is repetition: da, da and zeh, zeh and ha, ha, and all these different double-enunciated sounds that propel a person to do what’s right, and the Meshech Chochmah has an entire shtikel on this which is just fascinating on that gemara, and look at the Ben Yehoyada as well if you want more depth.

Repetition Promotes Learning

The idea is for us that we need repetition.  And, that’s the idea of mussar, like Rav Yisrael Salanter says that there’s two parts.  One of them is to just know the material and understand it, but the other one is to just bring it home, and in all the olden day yeshivas mussar seder was about repeating one maamar or a few maamarei Chazal usually one, and just bringing it home until it made an impact on a person.  And, as we go through sefer Devarim, let’s understand that one of the lessons here is that Moshe is repeating things as he’s teaching the Jewish people mussar, he’s teaching them how to live their lives.

Techeiles Mordechai: The Leviim Lived to Enter Eretz Yisrael

There’s an alternate p’shat by the Techeiles Mordechai (he’s a mefareish on the Ramban). He has another p’shat as to nothing from Toras Kohanim is repeated here, and only the laws found throughout other places of the Torah are repeated, and he brings down, there’s a very famous Chazal, and it’s a machlokes how to interpret this Chazal. We know that the Jewish people died out in the Midbar.  All the people that went out of Egypt died.  However, Rashi in Bamidbar and later in Devarim (1:23) states that the Bnei Levi did not die because they did not get punished with the meraglim. 

There is a big dispute exactly whether it’s true or not.  But, if we say that this is true, then what comes out is that Bnei Levi, of which descended the Kohanim. We know that Aharon and Moshe and Miriam died in the Midbar, but that was for other reasons. The other Leviim all lived, and, therefore, when Moshe was coming to repeat the Torah so that the Jewish people would remember it and carry it on forever, and pass it on to all their children to make sure that they knew all the laws, the Bnei Levi didn’t need a review because they were going to be living and going into Eretz Yisrael and they would teach their children all the halachos there later on, but they didn’t need a refresher because they were going to be around for a lot longer.  So, according to that p’shat that would be another explanation.

2) Moshe’s Gathering Lesson

Ramban opens Sefer Devarim (1:1) asking why is it that Moshe called together all the Jewish people here? Would it not make sense for him to talk to them one shevet at a time or, perhaps, to divide them up? Ramban explains that Moshe wanted them all to be at one mamad, one standing. The entire Torah and mitzvos are fulfilled with Klal Yisrael. Just as in Matan Torah when they stood together k’ish echad b’leiv echad, Moshe was stressing to them his last message of unity that the way that the Torah is learned and fulfilled is when there’s unity.  And the Jewish people are a cohesive and powerful nation when they stay together.  That is their power, and that’s what Moshe was trying to tell that “kol Yisrael” the entire Jewish people, he was trying to bring them together to teach them that lesson.

3) Moshe’s Role and Challengers

Ramban (1:12) brings down this pasuk and he gives his own explanation.  The pasuk says that Moshe reminds the Jewish people that I carried you and I was with you through your most difficult times, and he says, “tarchachem”, the troubles that you brought me, “maasachem”, my carrying you, “v’rivchem”, and all of your fights.

Three Aspects

Ramban says, al derech hap’shat, how do you translate these words? What are they referring to? Moshe was hinting to three distinct things. When Yisro came he asked Moshe to appoint judges, Yisro explained that there was a need for judges and Moshe agreed and got the order from Hashem. There are three distinct categories of judgment that the judges need to care for.

“Tarrchachem” – The Laws

It says “v’hodati es chukei Elokim v’es Toraso,” the purpose of the judges was to teach the laws of Hashem. This refers to “tarrchichem”, your trouble.  Why?  Because it’s a very big trouble to teach all the yotzei Mitzrayim the chukim and the Torah and the explanations and all their secrets.  So, that was Moshe’s first goal, and that’s “tarrchichem”.  The trouble that I put myself through to be able to teach you the laws.

“Maasachem” – Prayer

“Maasachem”, your travels.  That refers to the second aspect of what the Jewish people were doing in the Midbar when Yisro saw them in line by Moshe.  They were coming lidrosh Elokim.  They were coming to find G-d.  And, what does that mean. Moshe was asked to pray on their behalf. Here Moshe is saying “maasachem”, I carried you with my prayers.  We know that Moshe davened so many prayers in order to save the Jewish people.  So, “tarrchichem” is my troubles that I went through to be your teacher.  “Maasachem” is that I carried you with my prayers.  That’s what it’s referring to.

“V’rivchem” – Disagreement

Finally, “v’rivchem”, means that I helped you settle your arguments.

Three Aspects of Rebbe

I think that if we zoom out we see a beautiful idea that in parshas Yisro and here  that Moshe is teaching us that if you want to be a rebbe of Klal Yisrael and you want to be a rebbe, then you’re going to have to do these three things.  

A) Push yourself to teach the students, and, like Rabbi Avika said, more than the calf wants to drink, the mother wants to give.  That a rebbe, a Torahdika rebbe is one that wants to give more and more and is willing to be toreiach himself in order to teach the talmidim.  

B) The second aspect is “maasachem” to carry me with my tefillah.  A rebbe is someone who davens for you. 

C) The third component is “rivchem”.  A rebbe is someone who helps you make shalom in your life.  That tries to prevent fights if he needs to laid down a law with mishpatim, civil law, he’ll help you with that.  But, he tries to help your life go smoothly and teach you to have the middos, derech eretz, and the proper Torah halachos when it comes to navigating your life b’shalom as much as possible.

A Rebbe’s Focus

Now, a couple of points on this.  First of all, as far as teaching Torah we know that there’s a very famous gemara.  The gemara says that “im domeh harav l’malach Hashem Tzevakos”.  If your rebbe is like an angel then “az yevakeish Torah mipihu”.  Then, you should request and learn Torah from him.  So, there’s a chassidish p’shat and litvish p’shat.  The Vilna Gaon says this p’shat and so does Rav Pinchus HaLevi Horowitz, the Haphla’ah, says the same p’shat as well.  That is that what’s a malach?  A malach is someone that is called an omeid.  He’s standing.  Why is a rebbe considered a malach? 

A malach has no ability to go up in ruchnius.  He has no free will.  He is a messenger of G-d and he does not have his own free will on his own.  And, so, says the Gra and says the Haphla’ah a beautiful thing: That when a rebbe is teaching his talmidim, he needs to be so focused on his talmidim that he’s not even focusing on his own ruchnius.  Yes, it’s true that a rebbe grows in ruchniyus by dedicating himself to the kahal, and yes a rebbe needs to focus on his ruchniyus at other times, and a rebbe needs to be on the ball and working on himself and he can’t be a hypocrite in what he preaches and he needs to be working on himself to have the siyata d’Shmaya to do what’s right, but there’s an element of a rebbe focusing fully on a talmid to nurture that talmid just like the angel does not focus on his own nurturance, but rather on the will of G-d and has no free will at that moment and is not growing.  So, too, a rebbe needs to focus at times when dealing with his students, he needs to put his own growth aside and focus on his talmidim’s needs.  That is a very important thing.

Tefillah For Talmidim

The second aspect of tefillah, we find this throughout Chazal, but we know that rabbanim have always said that their tafkid in being a rav and in being a magid shiur or rosh yeshiva is to always be davening for the success of their talmidim, and we know many, many great gedolim that have always davened for their talmidim.


And, the last thing, “rivchem”, is to teach them how to stay away from fights.  That’s the entire purpose.  “Deracheha darchei noam v’chol nisivoseha shalom,” that the rabbanim teach us how to live life b’shalom, and be successful that way.

4) Yisro Omitted

Ramban (1:18) is bothered by a question there.  Ramban was just tying back these pesukim to parshas Yisro, but what’s very fascinating is that in this pasuk it mentions that Hashem commanded Moshe to appoint judges to help out as well in order that the Jewish people should be able to flourish, and Moshe alone should not be the leader to see every single case because it was just not feasible for the nation. Ramban says: Why doesn’t it say anything about Yisro?  So, there’s many different p’shatim.  The Ramban brings a few p’shatim there, and the mefarshim actually dispute what exactly the Ramban means.

Defining The Issue

However, one p’shat is that Moshe did not want to imply that if not for Yisro’s eitza and telling him to appoint judges, perhaps, Moshe would have just remained the judge by himself, and Moshe was actually capable of doing that.  Meaning that the problem was not in Moshe’s capabilities.  He was capable of sitting day and night and judging, which is “naaseh shutaf l’HaKadosh Baruch Hu b’ma’aseh Bereishis,” someone who judges properly.  But, Moshe, therefore did not want to get involved in that.

Hashem’s Approval

Ramban says something even more important, and that is that because Hashem commanded it, yes, it’s true that the Torah itself in parshas Yisro gives credit to Yisro for coming up with the idea, and that’s okay, but, however, the main reason that it was done is because Hashem approved.  And, therefore, Moshe was actually teaching them another lesson which is that in life it is very important to think no our own and to come up with different eitzas.  However, everything needs to be revolving around da’as Torah.  And, had Hashem not approved of that idea, then it wouldn’t have been done.  And, therefore, Yisro is not even mentioned here because the whole point that Moshe is trying to teach them is that the Rebono Shel Olam saw fit that there should be more shoftim that should be appointed, and, therefore, that is why they’re appointed.

Ratzon Hashem

Everything in the Torah is a lesson for us l’doros that, yes we listen to people’s eitzos and we do give credit to people that come up with different ideas, but if it’s something that is ratzon Hashem, then that’s why we grab onto it and do it, but if it’s something that is not ratzon Hashem then we throw it away and we’re not interested in it.

5) “Vayomru” – Who Said “The Land Was Good”?

Ramban (1:25) here has a dispute with Rashi.  Very interesting dispute.  So, Moshe is mentioning the meraglim, and he says that there was a defense, and that was, “Vayomru,” they said.  Now, that’s important words because it doesn’t say who says.  “Tova ha’aretz she’Hashem Elokeinu nosein lanu.”  The land that Hashem is giving us is very good.

Rashi: Kaleiv and Yehoshua Only

Rashi brings down that “vayomru” refers to Yehoshua and Kaleiv.  They’re the ones that said that the land is good.  That’s Rashi from the Sifri.  However, the Ramban says: If that’s the case, then what did the Jewish people do wrong when it comes to the meraglim.  Ten people came back and said only bad things about the land, and two people said good.  So, you listen to the rov; you listen to the majority.  Now, of course, the Ramban doesn’t really mean this as a full fledged question because there’s many answers as to what they did wrong, but the Ramban just means to say that “Vayomru” means all them came back, and they all had nice things to say about Eretz Yisrael.  However, the meraglim also stated some of the negative, and also tried to explaint that Hashem was not going to be able to, al pi derecho hatevah, take over the land.  And, that was the issue.  And, that’s how the Ramban reads it.

Ramban: Meraglim’s Role

Ramban’s explanation is very interesting.  All twelve of the meraglim came back, and they all went to Moshe and Aharon, and in front of the eidah, and they said: The land is very good.  It’s zavas chalav u’devash, and here’s it’s fruit of course.  And, they all agreed that it was good.  However, then when it came time to talk about the strength of the people in the land and to try to make the Jewish people give up, that’s when the meraglim started pushing for their agenda and destroyed the Jewish nation, and brought a bechiya l’doros through their behavior.

6) Why No Peace With Og?

The pasuk (2:34) tells us that they made a cheirem that when the Jewish people went into Eretz Yisrael there were times that they asked for peace first. However, Ramban says that for Og Melech HaBashan, why did they not call him for peace?  Why not? 

The answer is because he came to them trying to fight.  He came out ready for war before they even came close to his city, and, therefore, we call for peace for people that show that they are interested in making peace.  We know that the Chivi ran away, and they ended up living because they ran away.  They were coward in the sense that they ran, but the bottom line is that they did not fight.  But, Og came and he came to fight, and that is a very negative trait.

Show Your Offer

If you’re trying to make peace, then you don’t come out to fight.  You come out with peace.  And, that is an important thing if we’re trying to make peace then we need to present that peace first and that is how the Torah is teaching us that yes, we’re allowed to call for peace.  However, if you see that someone is greeting you, “ani shalom, v’chi adabeir heima l’milchama,” then you need to act appropriately.

Rabbi Yosef Tropper is a rav and psychotherapist. Learn more and subscribe at

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