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ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת

So now, write this song for yourselves. (31:19)

The Talmud Chagigah 15b quotes Rabbi Yochanan, who asks: “What is the meaning of that which is written (Malachi 2:7), ‘For the Kohen’s lips should keep knowledge and they should seek Torah from his mouth; for he is an angel of Hashem, Lord of Hosts’?” The pasuk is teaching: If a rebbe is similar to an angel, they should seek Torah from his mouth, but, if not, they should not seek Torah from his mouth.” Obviously, the comparison of an angel to a rebbe requires elucidation. Rambam offers a basic explanation, taking a frank approach. A rebbe must be a…

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ואמר ביום ההוא על כי אין אלקי בקרבי מצאוני הרעות האלה. ואנכי הסתר אסתר פני ביום ההוא

He will say on that day, “Is it not because my G-d is not in my midst that these evils have come upon me?” And I will surely conceal My face on that day. (31:17,18)

Hashem warns that if Klal Yisrael does not put a halt to their sinful behavior, He will have no recourse but to conceal His Countenance from them. Rashi explains hester panim, Divine concealment, as if Hashem does not see our pain. Targum Onkeles adds, “I will distance them, and remove My Shechinah from them.” Apparently, the Torah has a concept of sinful behavior which incurs punishment. If we do not sin, we will, of course, not receive any affliction or hardship which we do not deserve. It seems, however, that if one sins continuously, almost as if ignoring Hashem’s Presence,…

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וד' הוא ההלך לפניך הוא יהיה עמך

Hashem, it is He Who goes before you; He will be with you. (31:8)

Hashem never leaves us. He listens to our prayers. The reply that we receive may not be what we are seeking, we have no question that Hashem has listened. During our periods of travail, when we think that we are alone – we are not. He is there sharing in our pain. Sadly, some people have great difficulty coping with pain, to the point that they become overwhelmed with despair and give up hope. They forget that a loving Father in Heaven guides the world, and whatever occurs is by His Divine decree. While it is understandable to feel anxious,…

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ואנכי הסתר אסתיר פני ביום ההוא

But I will surely have concealed My face on that day. (31:18)

Hashem will conceal His Presence from us. Indeed, many times Jews feel that Hashem has “disappeared” from their lives. They should know that the Almighty is always present. At times, however, He conceals Himself, making it that much more difficult for us to perceive Him. This only means that we must look harder. Why does the Torah repeat itself – hasteir astir, double concealment? Concealment, by its very definition, is absolute. Something is either hidden, or it is not. If one can easily locate it, it is not really concealed. Horav Reuven Karlinstein, zl, explains that this concealment is unique…

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ויאמר ד' אל משה הנך שכב עם אבתיך יקם העם הזה וזנה אחרי אלהי נכר הארץ ... ועזבנו והפר את בריתי אשר כרתי אתו ... ואנכי הסתר אסתיר פני ביום ההוא ... ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל

Hashem said to Moshe, “Behold, you will lie with your forefathers, but this people will arise and stay after the gods of the nations of the land… and they will forsake Me and annul the covenant that I formed with them… I will distance them and make Myself oblivious to them. So now, write this song for yourselves and teach it to Bnei Yisrael. (31:16,18)

The above pasukim paint a stark picture of the spiritual deterioration that will occur in the period following Moshe Rabbeinu’s petirah, passing. While it did not happen immediately, the dynamics that led to the nation’s freefall from their igra ramah, spiritually-elevated perch, to a bira amikta, nadir of depravity, were apparent. During certain moments in history – even in the last two hundred years, leading up to the present – we have observed an acute distancing from positive spiritual activity. For many, assimilation has almost been a way of life. Within the observant camp, a spiritual tug of war has…

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ויקרא משה ליהושע ויאמר אליו... חזק ואמץ כי אתה תבוא את העם הזה אל הארץ

Moshe called to Yehoshua, and he said to him… Be strong and of good courage, for you will come with this people into the Land. (31:7)

Moshe Rabbeinu said to Yehoshua (Rashi), “Make sure that the elders of the generation are with you; act according to their opinions and advice. For you will come with (tavo), the people when they come into Eretz Yisrael.” Moshe’s idea of leadership (as implied by the word tavo) is one of consensus, in which everybody is on the same page. Such a leader must successfully navigate the various opinions of the people and establish a workable situation in which his authority is accepted. Hashem seems to have different plans for Yehoshua’s leadership, when He says (Ibid 23), “Be strong and…

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בבא כל ישראל לראות את פני ד'... תקרא את התורה הזאת... הקהל את העם... למען ישמעו ולמען ילמדו ויראו את ד'

When all Yisrael comes to appear before Hashem… you shall read this Torah… gather together all the people… so that they will hear and so that they will learn, and they shall fear Hashem. (31:11,12)

Since the purpose of the gathering of all of the Jews is for the reading of the Torah, the pasuk should have first stated Hakhel es ha’am, “Gather together all the people,” and then, Tikra es ha”torah ha’zos, “You shall read this Torah.” Reading the Torah is the purpose of Hakhel; therefore, Hakhel should precede the “reading” of the Torah. The Gerrer Rebbe, zl, the Imrei Emes, explains that the (mere) gathering of all Jews b’achdus, in unity, is – in and of itself – Torah. Therefore (now that we have a unified gathering and having achieved the essence of…

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ויאמר ד' אל משה הנך שכב עם אבותיך וקם העם הזה וזנה אחרי אלהי נכר הארץ

And Hashem then said to Moshe, “You are now going to lie with your fathers, but this people will arise and stray after the gods of the nations of the land.” (31:16)

Horav Shlomo Lorincz, zl, was the Agudath Israel representative to the Knesset. He was one of those unique individuals who had the merit to spend seventy years b’michitzasam, in the shadow of the gedolei Yisrael, Torah giants, primarily of Eretz Yisrael. As such, he was afforded the unparalleled opportunity not only to bask in their greatness, but also to learn from them and impart their lessons to others. He relates the following profound observation from the Brisker Rav, zl, which he sees as a living will, a mandate to every public activist, as well as to every Jew. Rav Lorincz…

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ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת

So now, write this song for yourselves. (31:19)

Simply, this “song” is a reference to Shiras Ha’azinu, which foreshadows Klal Yisrael’s future. Chazal, however, interpret this “song” as applying to the entire Torah, thereby redefining Torah from a book of law, ethics and way of life, to the song of the Jewish people. Horav Yosef Kahaneman, zl, the Ponevezer Rav, explains that the Torah should be the Jew’s song of life that reaches into his innermost emotions and accompanies him throughout his life’s journey. Torah celebrates with him during his moments of joy and mourns with him as he traverses periods of pain and travail. It is his…

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וילך משה ויהושע ויתיצבו באהל מועד

Moshe and Yehoshua went and stood at the Ohel Moed. (31:14)

Chazal teach that Moshe Rabbeinu asked Hashem to transfer the reins of leadership to Yehoshua, his worthy disciple. Rather than insist that Yehoshua come to Moshe’s tent to study and hear the word of G-d, Moshe went to Yehoshua. Their roles were now reversed, as the student became the leader, and the Rebbe took the place of his student. The Pillar of Cloud descended over Yehoshua, separating him from Moshe. When the Cloud ascended, Moshe asked Yehoshua, “What did the Word (Hashem’s communication) say to you?” Yehoshua responded, “When Hashem appeared to you, did I know what you were told?”…

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