סדר דברים

אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה  

These are the words which Moses spoke

Deuteronomy 1:1

The Midrash (Devarim Rabbah 1:1) teaches:

Before Moses was privileged to receive the Torah, the Scripture writes about him (Exodus 4:10): “לא איש דברים אנכי” (I am not a man of words), a reference to his speech impediment. But upon acquiring the Torah, he was cured of his speech defect and began to speak “דברים” (words) without difficulty. How do we know this? From this verse: “אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה” (these are the words which Moses spoke).

It may be asked: weren’t all the Israelites cured of their ailments when the Torah was given?  What, then, was noteworthy about Moses?  Our master explained that, owing to his extreme modesty, Moses, our teacher, peace be upon him, never wanted to be a ruler and leader of the Israelites. Nor did he ever aspire to become one who would give reproof to the people. That is why he said “I am not a man of words,” a man who could, using his own words, speak harshly to the multitudes and scold his people about their iniquities and reproach the House of Jacob about their transgressions.

However, after Moses received the Torah, he could admonish the people without affronting them, for he could say: “This is what is written in the Torah.  This is what you should do and this is what you should not do.” As the Rabbis said in the Talmud, “if one’s father or teacher transgresses a commandment in the Torah” [so that reprimanding them directly would be disrespectful] “one should say, ‘so has our master taught us’ or ‘Father, this is what is written in the Torah.’” Speaking in this way would not be disrespectful of them.

So it was with Moses. Before receiving the Torah, its laws and statutes, Moses could reprove the people only with words of his own choosing. In his modesty, Moses said “I am not a man of words capable of raising his voice to rebuke others.” But after receiving the Torah, he could raise his voice like a shofar, telling them, “this is what God has commanded.” It is therefore appropriately written: “אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה” (these are the words which Moses spoke).” (שביבי אש)

ה’ אלוקי אבותיכם יוסף אליכם אלף פעמים ויברך אתכם כאשר דבר לכם

May the Eternal, God of your fathers, make you a thousand times so many more as you are, and bless you, as he has promised you!

Deuteronomy 1:11

Rashi comments:

They said to him: Moses, are you setting a limit upon our blessings? Has the Holy One Blessed Be He not already promised us (Genesis 13:16) “אשד אם יוכל איש למנות את עפר הארץ גם זרעך ימנה” (if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered(? He replied: “This (i.e., a thousand times) is my own blessing. But He will bless you as He has promised.”

It may be asked: Was the thousand-fold blessing that Moses gave them insufficient? Does this not imply a prodigious number of people (six billion) that has never been observed, before or since?

Our master suggested the following explanation. We know that everything that lives and grows in this world cannot remain stationary, but rather goes from one extreme to the other, and its course proceeds either upward (growth) or downward (decline). Thus, whatever reaches its maximum point must necessarily then turn downward, diminishing until it vanishes entirely.  Because Moses said “a thousand times thus,” the people said to him: “Have you set a limit upon our blessings, having placed a bound beyond which we cannot ascend?” And should they reach their limit, they must fall backwards, descending into oblivion as has happened to many nations that became great and successful, so that they reached the heights, but having reached their peak, they began a descent to the deepest valley, becoming lost or annihilated without a trace. Isn’t that why, when the Eternal blessed the Children of Israel, He said (Genesis 32:13): “כחול הים אשר לא יספר מרוב” (as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude), an unlimited blessing? This was a hint that Israel would survive forever, would live everlastingly, and would never see destruction, because they would never reach the maximum point of the blessing that the Eternal had given them.

That was why they complained that Moses had placed a limit upon their blessing. His response to their complaint was “this (a thousand times) is my own blessing,” meaning a thousand times is a prodigious number that they will never approach, thus never reaching the maximum point from which must decline and destruction must follow. However, as a finite being, Moses could speak only in finite terms, while the Holy One Blessed Be He, the transcendent God of the universe, may speak in infinite terms, even though both shared the same intention: that destruction never befall Israel and that they always see light. (שביבי אש)

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