Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Former Rosh Kollel in Detroit
We have merited starting Sefer Devarim, the last of the Five Books of the Torah.
Devarim opens with the phrase:
“These are the words”.
In Sefer Shmot (21:1), Rashi cites the Midrash:
“Wherever it says ‘these’, it rejects that which has been stated previously.”
How does this Midrash apply to Sefer Devarim’s opening phrase “these are the words”? Are we to understand that Sefer Devarim nullifies the other four Chumashim that precede it???
In fact, on a certain level, the word “these” does come to teach us that Sefer Devarim contains a new Torah – namely, the Torah of Eretz Yisrael!
Sefer Devarim is called “Mishneh Torah”, which indicates that it is not merely a continuation of the other Chumashim. Rather, Devarim contains a review of the previous Chumashim, but from an Eretz Yisrael-centric perspective. Each of the four Books achieves a new dimension when viewed through the lens of Eretz Yisrael.
There are entire portions of the Torah, particularly those relating to public matters, which do not apply to the galut. Instead, these issues only take effect when Am Yisrael is in our Land. Furthermore, some of the mitzvot that pertain to the individual, as opposed to society as a whole, have no bearing in chutz la’Aretz (i.e. out of Eretz Yisrael), because they are Eretz Yisrael-dependentmitzvot. Moreover, even for those mitzvot which apply to the individual and are not Eretz Yisrael-dependent, the reward for observing these mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael is many times greater than the reward for observing them in galut.
In addition to the sections of Sefer Devarim that review previously stated topics, albeit from an Eretz Yisrael-centric perspective, there are several portions of this Chumash that discuss some new matters, including the monarchy in Israel and the limitations of war against the nations dwelling in Eretz Yisrael. All these directly relate to Sefer Devarim’s central theme: preparing Am Yisrael for their life as a nation in Eretz Yisrael.
Therefore, it is essential that our generation, which has merited returning to Eretz Yisrael and building the State, study Sefer Devarim. We must use this Chumash as our guidebook. It will show us how a Jewish state must look and how to correctly and ethically fight against our enemies. (As these lines are being written, war is raging in the North and the South of our Land. How much better would the situation be if only our leaders would study Sefer Devarim and learn how to wage war according to the Torah.)
Let us daven to the Holy One Blessed Be He that He may make us worthy of building Eretz Yisrael according to the Torah of Eretz Yisrael, as instructed by Sefer Devarim.
May we merit the full redemption swiftly and in our days. Amen!