Parshat Devarim – R’ Naftali Kassorla

Parshat  Devarim

This week’s parsha marks the beginning  of the preparation for the nation to go into the land of Israel. With the people about to enter, Moshe Rabbeinu stands before them,  leading them for the last time. Through veiled and even explicit references to  past infractions, Moshe severely scolds the nation and prepares them for their  journey ahead.

In his speech, Moshe alludes to the sin  of the Meraglim. Within this allusion, he also mentions his fate from the  episode of Mei Meriva – the Waters of Strife – where Moshe, instead of speaking  to the rock to bring forth water, chose to hit the rock. Moshe was penalized  very sternly for this, and was prohibited from entering the land of Israel.

Yet we see something very peculiar at  first glance: Moshe, when referencing his own punishment, rebukes the nation  saying, “With me as well, HaShem became angry because of you.” This seems uncalled for – why would Moshe blame the nation for his own  infraction? Is this the behavior fitting for a man of Moshe’s stature? To blame  others for ones own mistakes? We know that Moshe Rabbeinu did not rebuke the  people for his own benefit or personal anger towards them. No, if he “blamed” them, it must have been because he had a message for them. What is that  message?

To answer this, we must first understand  that there is a concept of cause and effect in the spiritual spheres. There is a famous  saying in the name of R’ Yisrael Salanter, “When we here in Lithuania  are learning and acting the way we should, there is a Jew in Germany who will decide not to smoke on Shabbat”. The effect that Torah learning  has on this world cannot be measured – it can bring health and happiness as well  as peace and serenity, as Chazal say, “Talmidei chachamim marbim shalom b’olam- Torah scholars increase peace in the World”; this is explained in  the sefer Nefesh HaChaim by Rav Chaim Volozhin (‘שער  ג), that the world runs solely on the merit of Talmud Torah – without the Torah the world would cease to exist. We see that spiritual actions  have an incredible effect, even if we can not physically see the  impact.

However, the flip side is that when we  are not doing our job, it has detrimental consequences in the world. It can  cause Jews to give up observance and bring pain and hate to this world. Our  actions have tremendous power, and with this power come tremendous  responsibility.

Perhaps Moshe was trying to relay this  message of collective responsibility to the nation. By saying that his own  infraction was their fault, he was teaching them that when the communal service  of HaShem is low, it has an affect on the entire nation, even the greatest among  them.

This idea can be a source of great  chizzuk to us this Tisha B’av, and should steer us from negative thinking that  ones actions will accomplish very little, because we see from here the opposite.  If each one of us takes upon ourselves to love another Jew just a little more,  it will have a germinating effect on the entire nation. If we just do a little  better in our daily actions and personally cry out to HaShem to rebuild the Beit  Hamikdash, it can be the catalyst to overarching change in our world. This  little bit goes a long way.

Shabbat Shalom


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