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הבו לכם אנשים חכמים ונבונים וידעים לשבטיכם ואשימם בראשיכם

Provide for yourselves distinguished men, who are wise, understanding and well-known to your tribes, and I shall appoint them as your heads. (1:13)

Rashi notes that the word v’asimeim; and I shall appoint, is spelled missing a yud; thus, it reads v’ashmam, their guilt.  This teaches that the moral and ethical failings of the people are the fault of their judges, who should have reproved them when they sinned.  If the “class” is unruly due to a lack of discipline, the first address for blame is the teacher.  First and foremost, a leader must realize that he is not a private person.  He is held responsible not only for his sins, but also for the sins of the people that he leads.  While…

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איכה אשא לבדי טרחכם ומשאכם וריבכם

How can I carry alone your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels? (1:12)

Rashi derives from the word masaachem, your burdens, that the people were apikorsim, heretics.  They were skeptics who did not believe in their leaders.  Thus, they questioned the motives of everything that Moshe Rabbeinu did.  If he left his home early, they asserted that there was trouble at home.  If he left late, they claimed that he was busy seeking ways to take advantage or hurt them.  They were bogged down with suspicion.  Nothing was good enough for them.  They had jaundiced misgivings and perspective about everyone who helped them.  This is a masa, burden.  Apparently, Rashi feels that an…

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איכה אשא לבדי טרחכם ומשאכם וריבכם

How can I alone carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels? (1:12)

Moshe Rabbeinu laments the nation’s behavior.  In describing his leadership, he uses the word, essa, carry. This teaches that a leader leads by carrying his flock on his shoulders.  They are not a separate entity removed from him, following him wherever he leads them.  The leader carries them upon his shoulders.  They go where he goes, because he is taking them.  Sometimes, the “weight” becomes too heavy.  Carrying one on his shoulder is a metaphor for accepting responsibility.  A leader does not dole out the blame for something gone wrong on others.  The leader steps up to the plate and…

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ויפנו ויעלו ההרה ויבאו עד נחל אשכל

They turned and ascended the mountain and came until the valley of Eshkol. (1:24)

“Never allow the sadness of the past and your anxiety concerning the future to cloud the happiness of the present moment.” Chazal teach that Eshkol was the name of one of Avraham Avinu’s three friends, whom he consulted when he was commanded to have a Bris Milah. Anar advised against the procedure, claiming that it was too dangerous to chance at his advanced age. Mamreh told him to follow Hashem’s command. Eshkol concurred with Anar and added his own negativity, suggesting that Avraham’s enemies would take advantage of his weakened state. Horav Elie Munk, zl, sees an analogy in the…

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ד' אלקינו דבר אלינו בחרב לאמר רב לכם שבת בהר הזה

Hashem, our G-d, spoke to us in Chorev, saying: Enough of your dwelling by this mountain. (1:6)

Rashi quotes the Midrash which defines rav, enough, as abundance. This refers to the abundance of reward and achievement that Klal Yisrael gained during their one-year layover at Sinai. At Sinai, they received the Torah, built the Mishkan with its accoutrements, and Hashem designated the Zekeinim, Elders, as the leaders of the nation. Now, it was time to move on. The Nesivos Shalom offers an alternate exposition, with a homiletic twist. Chorev may be translated as destruction, referring to the churban, destruction of the Bais Hamikdash. Does this mean that we as a nation in exile are finished? Do we…

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אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה אל כל ישראל

These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael. (1:1)

Moshe Rabbeinu’s “words” were words of reproof, in which he lectured the nation for their past indiscretions. He did not censure; rather, he subtly alluded to their sins by mentioning places which intimated their sin: Why did he refer to the sins via the medium of place, rather than period/time during which the sin occurred? The Mei HaShiloach implies that since the place where they were encamped at the time of the sin’s occurrence was not their decision, they had some sort of excuse to mitigate their behavior by blaming the effects of the environment in which they were located,…

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אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה אל כל ישראל... בין פארן ובין תופל ולבן וחצרות ודי זהב

These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael… between Paran and Tophel, and Lavan, and Chatzeiros, and Di Zahav. (1:1)

Eileh ha’devarim is reference to Moshe Rabbeinu’s rebuke of Klal Yisrael for their past insurrections. In his attempt not to embarrass and offend his listeners, Moshe did not mention the sins in detail; rather, he made veiled references to the sins by using place names which alluded to the sins. Chazal (Tamid 28a) teach that one who rebukes his fellow l’shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven (solely to help and guide his fellow back to a path of appropriate behavior), will merit to dwell in the portion of Hashem… Moreover, the Heavenly Court extends over him a cord of…

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אנה אנחנו עלים. אחינו המסו את לבבינו... ואמר אליכם לא תערצון ולא תיראון מהם

To where shall we ascend? Our brothers have melted our hearts… then I said to you, “Do not be broken and do not fear them.” (1:28,29)

Fear can do terrible things to a person. Fear is the antithesis of hope. Hope is the cure for fear. Chazal (Berachos 10a) teach, “Even if a sharp sword is resting on the neck of a person, he should not despair of Heavenly mercy.” One can chas v’shalom, Heaven forbid, be at the threshold of death – he should still hope; he should not throw in the towel and give up hope. Indeed, we experience every moment of life because Hashem wants us to experience it. We are alive during our present fearful state because Hashem wants us to live….

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ותקרבון אלי כלכם ותאמרו נשלחה אנשים לפנינו ויחפרו לנו את הארץ

All of you approached me and said, “Let us send men ahead of us, and let them spy out the land.” (1:22)

The chet ha’meraglim, sin of the spies, is recorded in the annals of our nation’s history as one of its most egregious sins. It was the precursor of what became our national day of mourning, Tishah B’Av. The ring leaders received their due punishment immediately. The rest of the nation, which capitulated to their self-imposed anxiety, saw their punishment carried out over the next thirty-eight years as they perished in the wilderness. What aggravates the sin most is that the spies were all men of repute, distinguished Torah leaders and princes of their individual tribes. How did such spiritual giants…

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ויהי בארבעים שנה... דבר משה אל בני ישראל

It was in the fortieth year… when Moshe spoke to Bnei Yisrael. (1:3)

Rashi comments, “This teaches us that Moshe Rabbeinu did not rebuke them until immediately before his death.” Rashi continues that Moshe derived this from Yaakov Avinu, who also waited until he was on his deathbed to rebuke his sons. Yaakov said, “Reuven, my son, why did I not rebuke you earlier? It was so that you should not leave me and join up with Eisav, my brother.” This comment begs elucidation. Reuven was a holy person who, for the slightest vestige of sin, sat in sackcloth and fasted for a lengthy period of time. To say that rebuke would drive…

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