Parashas Devarim

Sefer Devarim begins with the following statement: “These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael on the other [east] side of the Jordan ….” The Midrash expounds (Devarim Rabbah 1:7):
What is this like? Let us give a parable. A dyed wool merchant was outside calling out: “Here is dyed wool!” The king was peering outside and he heard the announcement, and he called the merchant over to him. He asked: “What are you selling?” The merchant replied: “Nothing.” The king exclaimed: “I heard you calling out, ‘Here is dyed wool,’ and you tell me you’re not selling anything?” The merchant responded: “My master, it is true that I’m selling dyed wool, but for someone in your high position it is like nothing.” Thus it was with Moshe and Hashem. When Moshe spoke to Hashem [at the burning bush, Shemos 4:10] he said, “I am not a man of words.” But in relation to the People of Yisrael, it is written: “These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael.”
The Maggid sets out to explain this Midrash. He relates that he once asked the Vilna Gaon what the difference is between the first four books of the Torah and Sefer Devarim. The Gaon replied as follows. The words in the first four books were spoken by Hashem Himself, channeling His speech through Moshe’s throat. But the words in Sefer Devarim were like those spoken by the prophets who came after Moshe. With these other prophets, Hashem communicated His message to the prophet in a vision, and afterward the prophet conveyed the message to the people. Thus, at the time the prophet spoke to the people, Hashem was no longer speaking to him. Similarly, Moshe conveyed Sefer Devarim to the Jewish People on his own.
The Midrash expounds earlier (Devarim Rabbah 1:1):
It is written (Mishlei 15:4, homiletically): “The tree of life heals the tongue.” And the “tree of life” is none other than the Torah, as it is written (ibid. 3:18): “It [the Torah] is a tree of life to those who grasp it.” … Before Moshe acquired Torah, he declared: “I am not a man of words.” But after he acquired Torah his tongue was healed and he began to speak out words, as it is written: “These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael.”
Initially, the Maggid says, it was necessary for Moshe to have a speech impairment. In this way, when Moshe spoke words of Torah, and the words came out smoothly and clearly, the Jewish People would know that it was Hashem speaking. They could tell that it was not Moshe speaking, for the rest of the time Moshe was unable to speak smoothly. This state of affairs continued throughout the period in which Moshe presented the Jewish People the Torah for the first time. The situation is reflected in the Midrash with the parable of the dyed wool merchant. Moshe was able to present words of Torah clearly during this period, but from Hashem’s standpoint, Moshe was not purveying anything, for in fact He was the One doing the speaking. Moshe viewed himself as having nothing to offer, for he was not a man of words.
But now, when Moshe set out to present the Torah a second time, it was no longer necessary for Moshe to have a speech impediment. The people had already heard the entire Torah spoken by Hashem through Moshe’s throat, and they knew Hashem had been the speaker. Accordingly, Hashem healed Moshe’s tongue, and he was able to speak normally. And thus, when Moshe presented his review of the Torah, speaking on his own, the words came out smoothly.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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