Hebraic Studies - Parashat Davarim-Words

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Parashat Davarim

These are the Words

Davarim - Deuteronomy chapters 1:1 to 3:22.


With Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

- These are the words which Moshe spoke unto all Israel … ” Davarim - Deuteronomy 1:1 (JPS version of the Torah).

Amazingly, it took an entire book to contain Moshe’s great discourse it would be a sermon that continued for a whole week. There is a distinct difference between the Moshe of this passage and the Moshe who Elohim approaches for the purpose of sending him to speak with Pharaoh back in Mitzrayim. At that time Moshe said:

“‘Oh Lord, I am not a man of words, neither heretofore, nor since Thou hast spoken unto Thy servant; for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue’” Shemot - Exodus 4:10 (JPS).

How did Moshe go from “not a man of words,” to a mighty author of “These are the words … ”?

I heard an old rabbinic analogy that went as follows. “There was a man walking down the street selling dye. ‘Dye for sale! Dye for sale!’ he shouted. When the king heard his call, he called him aside and asked him, ‘What are you selling?’ ‘Nothing,’ said the man. ‘But I heard you clearly calling out, “Dye for sale! Dye for sale!” How is it that you now tell, ‘Nothing,’” asked the surprised king? The man said, ‘True, I do sell dye, but for you it is as if I sell nothing.” And sad fact is that those rabbis believe that this was the case with Moshe who stood before Elohim, the very Creator of the mouth and speech, and he said, “I am not a man of words”. Yet now being experienced and standing before His people he was able to say, “These are the words.”

I have to be honest, for I do not agree with these rabbis in any shape or form, the truth is if you read the details very carefully at that time, Moshe tried five times to get out of the massive task that was being handed to him, thus Elohim turned his rod into a snake, and when he picked it up by the tail, it became a rod again. He had to place his hand in his cloak and when he took it out it had leprosy, after placing it in his cloak again, and taking it out it was whole once more and so the list goes on. The point was this, Elohim was showing Moshe that He knew that he was not capable of the job, but Elohim was able to do all, and that was all that mattered! Then we will realise it took a great deal to get Moshe to do what was required of him, but even then he still needed his brother to assist him!

Thus in this Torah portion, Moshe has gone a very long way and has done well and has long taken upon himself the mission assigned him by Elohim, the One who, “Gave man a mouth.” Now he knows that he is without a doubt a “man of words” not by virtue of his own qualities, but by virtue of what Elohim has given him. Therefore the opening words of his “These are the words” speech, are:

our Elohim spoke unto us in Horeb, saying … ” Davarim - Deuteronomy 1:6 (JPS).

Words of Peace:

“And I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth unto Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying. ‘Let me pass through thy land; I will go along by the highway, I will neither turn unto the right hand nor to the left’” Davarim - Deuteronomy 2:26-27 (JPS).

Why did Moshe behave as he did? “Midbar Kedemoth” could be understood to mean: “In accordance with Elohim's behaviour,” Thus, Moshe was really implying that his sending emissaries were an emulation of the behaviour of Elohim Himself. From this aspect, we learn that one should offer peace before embarking on a war - even an obligatory one. “Elohim's behaviour” was being revealed via the Egyptian Exodus. Though Elohim knew perfectly well that Pharaoh would not agree to set the Children of Israel free, he first sent Moshe to negotiate with him. The same principal held true with the Giving of the Torah: Though Elohim was aware that none of the nations would agree to accept the Torah, He approached each nation in an attempt to negotiate their receiving it.

Thus here in a way Moshe followed Elohim’s lead. Not only was the obligation of the divine commandment unmistakable here, but it did not even leave room for doubt that things would proceed according to Elohim’s desire. For this reason Moshe turns to Sihon and offers the most generous terms for peace that he possibly can. Yet, somehow he knew beyond all doubt that Elohim would harden the king’s heart and cause him to be stubborn. It was for this reason that he had no reservations about proposing a peace agreement that ran counter to the explicit commandment of Elohim. And then, only after receiving a negative response, accompanied by a concentration of forces and a declaration of war, did Moshe have to go to battle.

For us there is a very important moral to be learned here and it can be applied to many areas in our lives. Many of us may well face many struggles in life. There are all sorts of evil and unjust people out there. And there is no doubt at times we feel we would like to wage a little war on these ones who have wronged us. But, before engaging in a struggle, it would be much better to begin with words of peace, even if there is no chance that it will make a difference what-so-ever!

But in our situation a fight will do nothing either, and believe me prayer is the better result. If it is a legal matter then legal means can be made available in a correct matter, and let the battle be done in a correct manner, and keep on praying that Elohim is on your side!

Always remember our motto seen on the logo at the top of this page: “The More Torah, the More Life”, for Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is the one who gave us our Life!”

Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.


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