Being “first” is usually a good thing. First love. First in line. First in class. The special evil of our eternal enemy Amalek, however, was not that these people always stood at-the-ready to attack the Jewish people; history proves that there is no shortage of anti-Semites. What made them super-special in the wickedness department was their willingness to “go first” at a time in history when other nations were terrified of B’nai Yisrael!
Moshe also recognized the importance of “firsts.” He knew that if he were to begin his final speech to the nation by admonishing the Jewish people, he’d lose their attention and be unable to deliver his message. Instead, he began gently in a roundabout fashion. As we bemoan our fractious peoplehood and generally disconnection with our fellow man today, we would do well to learn from Moshe Rabbeinu and assay to “rectify” our sins that resulted in the destruction of the Temple. The best way of doing so would be to speak kindly to – and of – our fellow human beings.
Throughout the life of Moshe Rabbeynu, there were many disappointments. The nation he successfully delivered from the “House of Bondage” repeatedly rebelled against him, complained continuously and blamed him at the earliest sign of hardship. Why, when previous rebukes were ignored, did Moshe believe that his words would, this time, be effective?
Moshe developed both as a human being and as a leader. He learned from previous experiences. At the beginning of his career, Moshe couldn’t stand in front of the burning bush. But he became the leader who confidently stood in God’s presence at Har Sinai and continuously in the Sanctuary. Moshe learned how to communicate his thoughts more effectively and not as “personally” as he did in his early years. While he had believed that people were attacking him when they did not listen to him or God’s messages, Moshe now communicated in a different fashion. He spoke from the heart. A powerful midrash explains that the words of a prophet (or leader) will not penetrate the hearts of men if they are uttered with rigor or in a strong manner that produces fear. The teachings and admonitions are considered as those from a father to children that carry both authority and fear. This is the language to be used by a chief of the nation to the masses, and this is how Moshe related to the new generation.
Moshe also believed that the people would listen to him now for a practical reason. He was about to depart from this world. His people were aware of this and knew that there was no personal gain or appearance of “self-interest” in what he was about to say. Thus, the people believed what he said!
This explanation is an important lesson to those who choose to practice the mitzvah of “thou shalt surely rebuke thy neighbor.” He who wants to help his fellow man should be sincere and not have any personal agenda behind his actions. Not only will this maximize the effectiveness of the rebuke, but it will be better received by the people.
Candle Lighting Times, Torah Portions and Holidays
Light Candles at: 7:30 p.m.
Torah Portion: Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)
Monday, August 8
Erev Tisha B’Av
Tuesday, August 9
Light Candles at: 7:24 p.m.
Torah Portion: Vaetchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)
Light Candles at: 7:16 p.m.
Torah Portion: Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)
Light Candles at: 7:07 p.m.
Torah Portion: Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)