Parashas Nitzavim-Vayeilech

In the second half of parashas Vayeilech, Hashem informs Moshe that he is about to die, and tells him to come to the Tent of Meeting, along with Yehoshua, for some final instructions. Hashem says to Moshe (Devarim 31:14-21):
Behold, you will lie with your forefathers, but this people will rise up and stray … My anger will flare against it [the nation] … So now, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Yisrael, … so this song will be for Me as a witness concerning the Children of Yisrael. … And it shall be, that when many evils and troubles come upon it, that this song shall speak up before it as a witness ….
Rashi tells us that the song Hashem is referring to is the song recorded in parashas Haazinu.
The Maggid explains this passage with a parable. A wealthy man’s only son fell sick, and all the doctors whom the father consulted said that the case was hopeless. Just at that time, the local baron visited the city, with his doctor as part of his entourage. The father ran to the doctor and pleaded with him for help, and the so the doctor examined the boy. The doctor said that there was a cure, but only he could administer the treatment, and the baron was soon going to leave the city. The father pleaded with the baron to let the doctor stay a bit longer so that he could treat his son, and the baron assented and went on his way. The doctor applied various medicinal salves and bandaged the boy so that the salves would remain in place until he was cured.
A short time later, a messenger came and told the doctor that there was a medical emergency in the baron’s family and he had to return immediately. The doctor was very upset: He feared that the boy would get worse rather than better, and no one would be able to help. He told the father: “I was afraid that I would be called away, so I hesitated to take this case. Now I must go, so I will tell you how to care for your son.” The doctor then proceeded to describe all the changes that the boy would undergo during his recovery, and told the father what he should do as each change occurred. Finally, he gave the father a sign indicating when the medications had finished the job, and cautioned him to wash off all the salves immediately after the sign emerged, so that the medications would not do him harm.
The parallel is as follows. Hashem wanted to give the Jewish People the Torah. But doing so involved some risk; the Torah, as the Gemara tells us, acts as a drug that brings life to those who are worthy, but death to those who are unworthy (Yoma 72b). So Hashem asked Moshe to take the Torah, bring it to the people, and teach them to implement it properly. Moshe hesitated over taking this mission. He feared that he might die in the middle, leaving the people without a suitable teacher, and that the people would then misuse the Torah and perish. Hashem strongly urged Moshe to accept the mission, and in the end he was forced to accept. The plan was predicated on the assumption that Moshe would bring the people into Eretz Yisrael and would then continue as their leader, conveying Hashem’s commands to them. But afterward Hashem decreed that Moshe and his associates had to die while the people were still in the wilderness. Moshe was very upset at this turn of events. He told the people (Devarim 11:26): “Behold, I set before you today blessing and curse.” Speaking out of love and compassion for the people, Moshe lamented that now, today, given the new state of affairs, it appeared uncertain whether his conveying the Torah to the people had brought them a blessing or a curse.
Moshe anticipated that the people would stray and have to suffer afflictions (Devarim 31:29): “I know that after my death you will act corruptly, and you will stray from the path that I have commanded you, and evil will befall you in the end of days, if you do what is evil in Hashem’s eyes, to anger Him through the work of your hands.” Moshe therefore conveyed to the people, in the song Haazinu, a prophetic description from Hashem of all the misfortunes and exiles that they would undergo over the course of time. It is like the doctor in our parable, who described to the sick boy’s father all the changes the boy would undergo over the course of his treatment. Moshe had previously described to the people how they would stray, and suffer misfortune, and then repent (Devarim 4:25-30): “You will do evil in the eyes of Hashem, your God, to anger him. … When you are in distress and all these things have befallen you, in the end of days, you will return to Hashem your God and harken to His voice.” Moshe told the people that after they experienced all the suffering described in the song Haazinu, it will be a clear sign that they will have been purged of the evil influences of their ancestors’ sinning, and he urged them not to cause themselves further misfortune by straying into new paths of evildoing. Rather, we should strive to arouse Hashem’s love and compassion, so as to lead Him to judge us as being cured. He will then no longer find it necessary to administer suffering to us as a remedy.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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