Parashas Devarim

In this week’s parashah, Moshe tells the Jewish People (Devarim 1:10-11): “Hashem your God has multiplied you, and, behold, today you are like the stars of the heavens in number. May Hashem, the God of your forefathers, magnify you a thousandfold, and bless you as He told you.” The Midrash relates (Devarim Rabbah 1:13):
[Said the Jewish People to Moshe:] “Moshe, our teacher! The Holy One Blessed Be He set no limit on our blessings, yet you say ‘a thousandfold’?” He replied: “I have blessed you with what is mine. When the Holy One Blessed Be He comes, He will bless you as He told you.”
Three questions arise regarding this Midrash. First, if Hashem was going to bless the people without limit, what need was there for Moshe’s blessing? Second, what did Moshe mean when he said he was giving them from what is his? It seems he was saying that he owned the blessing he was giving them. How could this be? Third, why did Moshe say specifically “a thousandfold”?
The Maggid explains that Moshe’s intent was to bless the Jewish People in terms of quality. He was telling them: “Now you match the stars of the heaven in number, but not in eminence. May Hashem magnify each of you a thousandfold in eminence, so that each of you will attain the spiritual excellence of Avraham Avinu.”The Jewish People, however, understood the blessing as relating to quantity. They therefore said: “The Holy One Blessed Be He set no limit to our blessings, yet you say ‘a thousandfold’?” Moshe replied: “I have blessed you with what is mine.” Here Moshe was saying: “You did not understand what I meant. My blessing was in terms of quality. I was blessing you with what is mine. I was saying that each of you should be blessed as I was blessed.”
Moshe chose the term “thousand” to express the idea that each Jew should be like a multitude. Our Sages say that Moshe was equivalent to the entire Jewish People (Mechilta, Yisro 1, quoted in Rashi on Shemos 18:1). In other words, he embodied their entire ensemble of virtue. Moreover, the our Sages say that everything is in the hands of Heaven except fear of Heaven (Berachos 33b). Among everything in this world, the only thing man has a hold on is fear of Heaven. When Moshe told the people that he was blessing them with what was his, he was telling them that he was blessing them with what was in his hands but not in Hashem’s: fear of Heaven. And then Moshe added that Hashem would bless them as He had told them: a blessing in terms of quantity, which is in His hands – so that they would multiply and become numerous beyond measure.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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