A few weeks before Moshe’s physical parting with his beloved people he taught them the fifth book of TorahSefer Devarim. In this week’s portion, which is the first portion of sefer, Moshe chastised the Jewish people for some of the sins they committed during his forty years of leadership and rebuked them in a veiled way.

The Torah tells us that “In the eleventh month on the first of the month, (that is, Rosh Chodesh Shevat,) Moshe began bei’eir et haTorah hazot, explaining this Torah” (1:5). Rashi writes in the name of Midrash Rabbi Tanchuma that he elucidated the Torah in seventy languages.

In a few weeks, in the portion of Ki Tavo, we will read a very similar occurrence which involves explaining Torah in seventy languages. There we are told that in preparation for the crossing of the Jordan River, which would mark the arrival of the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael, Moshe left a particular legacy to the elders of Israel. As soon as they were in the land they were to set up large stones and inscribe upon them all the words of the Torah. After this was done, they were to coat them with plaster to protect the writing. Moshe also specified that this should be “ba’eir heiteiv” — “well clarified.”

Rashi (to 27:5), citing the Gemara (Sotah 32a), comments that it was to be inscribed in seventy languages, indeed a miraculous feat.

The Siftei Chachamim offers an ingenious explanation as to how Rashi derived this idea.

In the study of numerology, known in Torah as gematria, there are many different methods of calculation. One method is “cumulative calculation,” in which the numerical value of the letter is added to the total numerical value of the letters preceding it.

Thus, the word “heitev” (היטב) adds up to 70 as follows: ה=5, ,ה+י 10+5=15, ,ה-י+ט 9+15=24, ,ה-י-ט+ב 2+24=26. The total of 5+15+24+26 is 70. Consequently, the extra word “heitev” — “well clarified” — is an indication that it was “well clarified” by being translated into 70 languages.

What bothers me with Rashi’s comments is the following:

In my youth I attended a shul where the Rabbi would deliver his derashot — sermons — in Yiddish, the language he and most of the people spoke. A few blocks away was another shul that advertised “the Rabbi will deliver his learned sermons in Yiddish and English.” This was a novel innovation at the time to cater to the American congregant whose native tongue was English. Nevertheless, I don’t know of any shul in New York where the Rabbi lectures in Italian, Greek or French, etc. The obvious reason is because none of the congregants speak or understand these languages.

The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 32:5) says that one of the reasons the Jews merited the Egyptian redemption is because they did not give up their native tongue. Throughout the many years they sojourned in Egypt they continued to speak Lashon Hakodesh — the holy language. Nevertheless, I would venture to say that the people also understood the language the Egyptians spoke though they did not converse in it in their homes. But I can say confidently that no one spoke or understood English, Spanish or French, etc., so why bother to explain or write Torah in all these unspoken and incomprehensible languages?

Moshe knew very well that Eretz Yisrael might not be the final stop in the journey of the Jewish people. Years later there might, unfortunately, be an exile and the people would be dispersed in all corners of the world. There, the spoken language would not be Lashon Kodesh, but rather one of the many alien tongues. The Jews would become residents of various countries and acclimate to those societies and adopt many of the practices of the land. As time progressed the younger generations would erroneously think that Torah does not speak in the language they speak and doesn’t apply to them.

To counter this, Moshe personally explained the Torah very clearly in all seventy languages. In addition, Moshe’s legacy was that the elders were to write the Torah on the stones in seventy languages thereby accentuating that Torah “talks in every language” and applies to all places and all periods of history.

The message to you, dear Chatan and Kallah, as well as every Jewish man and woman, is to always remember that your Torah must be the same Torah your parents studied and observed. Even if they spoke a different language than you do, Torah addresses you in your language and must be kept and observed regardless of what language you have adopted as your native tongue.

Be assured that Hashem understands all languages. He will hear your prayers in whatever language you offer them and reward you handsomely wherever you may be and regardless of the dialect in which you communicate.

"כי יקח איש אשה חדשה לא יצא בצבא... נקי יהיה לביתו שנה אחת"
“When a man marries a new wife he shall not go out to the army... he shall be free for his house one year.” (Devarim 24:5)

QUESTION: The wording of the pasuk should have been reversed: “He shall be free for his house for one year and not go out to the army”?

ANSWER: In addition to the simple halachah, the pasuk is also explaining how to preserve a marriage. In war enemies face off, each one attempting to conquer the other. The armies are very regimented and the officers give commands which the soldiers must obey.

The Torah is teaching that when one marries a wife he must remember that his wife is not his enemy or adversary. Rather, she is his companion and best friend. The home is not a battlefield, G‑d forbid, but rather, hopefully, a place of peace and harmony.

Their communication should not be in a tone of orders and commands (as in the army) but rather courteous, pleasant and respectful.