Volume 30 Issue 20 16 Jul 2021 7 Av 5781

From the Head of Jewish Life

Rabbi Daniel Siegel – Head of Jewish Life

“Trust is Earned When Actions Meet Words” Chris Butler

This week’s parashah, Devarim, gives its name to the final book of our Bible. It opens the Fifth book of the Torah with the words:

אלא הדברים אשר דיבר משה אל כל בני ישראל
These are the words (devarim) that Moshe spoke (dibeir) to all of Israel.

The entire Book of Devarim consists of retrospective discourses and poems that Moshe addresses to his people. When we first meet Moshe (in Shemot/Exodus), he makes clear to God and us:

לא איש דברים אנכי.                          
I am not a man of words (devarim)

Yet, the final testimony and portrait given of Moshe is an extended soliloquy constituting the closing chapter of his life. At the conclusion of the Book of Devarim, we read:

ויכל משה לדבר את כל הדברים האלה אל כל ישראל
And, Moshe finished speaking (dibeir) all these words (devarim) to all Israel.

Moshe then enjoins the people to pay heed to all his words/devarim, for:

לא דבר רק הוא מכם כי הוא חייכם ובדבר הזה תאריכו ימים
This matter/word (davar) is not inconsequential, it is your very life, and by means of this matter/word (davar) you will prolong your days.

George Bernard Shaw, in Man and Superman, writes: ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach’. Devarim is replete with the teachings of Moshe, yet this book is also known as Mishnei Torah-Repetition of the Torah (teaching). For, in our Jewish tradition, one cannot teach what one cannot do.

Significantly, the final words of the Torah, concluding Devarim, are “never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moshe…for all the great actions that he had done before all Israel.

Moshe is called Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our Teacher) as it was his actions that gave voice to his words, by virtue of which he became our people’s greatest teacher.