Parshas Devarim

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By Rabbi Shimmy Sternfield

הבו לכם אנשים
(פרק א’, פסוק י”ג)
“Prepare for yourself men…”

R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky, זצ”ל, points out that although the Hebrew word for “man”, singular, is איש, the word for “men”, plural, is אנשים. Based on the usual rules of Hebrew grammar, the word for “men” should be אישים. Interestingly, many languages seem to follow this pattern, pluralizing the word for “man” differently than the other words in the language. R’ Yaakov writes that this is because a group of men is not just a cluster of individuals. It is a new entity, a single unit called a חבורה, or אנשים. It is not the plural of איש at all. Although every individual has their own unique role, each is a part of a larger picture, with a group role to fill.

ויצא עוג מלך הבשן לקראתנו וגו’ ויאמר ד’ אלי אל תירא אתו
(פרק ג’, פסוקים א’-ב’)
Og the king of Bashan went out toward us… Hashem said to me, “Do not fear him…”

רש”י explains that משה was afraid to fight with עוג because he feared that עוג had a מצוה that would protect him. Therefore, Hashem had to reassure משה that there was no reason to be afraid. The מצוה that עוג had performed was that when לוט was taken captive, עוג ran to inform אברהם about what had happened. משה feared that, since עוג had been of service to אברהם, the Jews would not be able to defeat עוג. R’ Reuvain Grozovsky, זצ”ל, asks, why would this have been sufficient protection for עוג? The מדרש says that עוג had only bad intentions! He hoped that אברהם would be killed so that he, עוג, would be able to marry שרה. In fact, אברהם would, indeed, have been killed if not for the miracle that Hashem performed to save him. Why, then, was משה afraid to fight with עוג? R’ Reuvain writes that we must learn from this the power of a good deed, even one that was not done with pure intention. Even a small מצוה can be enough to protect a רשע like עוג from the entire Jewish nation with all their combined merits. We must learn to appreciate the power of our מצות, no matter how insignificant they may appear.

חטא חטאה ירושלם
(איכה פרק א’, פסוק ח’)
“Yerushalayim has sinned a sin…”

The מדרש says, “The Jews sinned doubly, as it says חטא חטאה, therefore they were punished doubly. In the future, as well, they will be comforted doubly, as it says נחמו נחמו עמי.” What does the מדרש mean that the Jews sinned doubly, and that they were punished doubly? The כלי יקר explains this based on the פסוק in ירמיה, where it says, כי שתים רעות עשה עמי אתי עזבו מקור מים חיים לחצב להם בארות בארת נשברים אשר לא יכלו המים. The פסוק mentions two sins. Firstly, the Jews abandoned Hashem and the ways of His Torah. Secondly, they instead put their faith and trust in “empty cisterns”, עבודה זרה. Had they served Hashem and an עבודה זרה equally, there would have only been the sin of treating something as an equal partner with Hashem. But since they abandoned Hashem completely, they were now guilty of two crimes: abandoning Hashem and idol worship. In response to this, Hashem punished them in a way that corresponded to their sins. Not only did Hashem abandon the Jews completely, but He also allowed their enemies to thrive and be successful while the Jews suffered their bitter fate. In the future, as well, we will have a double נחמה. Not only will Hashem redeem us and return our glory, He will also bring about the downfall and destruction of our enemies. May we merit Hashem’s salvation speedily and in our days.

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