1.

In the final five 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.

It is to be assumed that since the world consists of seventy nations and each has their respective language, therefore, Moshe elucidated the Torah in all of the seventy languages.

In a few weeks, in the portion of Ki Tavo, we will read of an occurrence which involved 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” — (באר היטב) “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 Yalkut Mei’am Loez — The Torah Anthology — (initiated by Rabbi Yaakov Culi — d. 1732) offers an ingenious explanation as to how the number seventy was derived.

There is a form of Gematria where the value of each letter of a word is multiplied by the amount of succeeding letters plus itself. Consequently, the "ה", which is the first letter of the word “heitev” (היטב) and which has the numerical value of five, is multiplied by the three succeeding letters in the word and itself, thus 4 x 5 = 20. The second letter is a "י", which has the numerical value of ten. From the letter "י" till the end of the word there are three letters (י-ט-ב), thus 10 x 3 = 30. The third letter "ט" has the numerical value of nine, and since there are two letters left (ט-ב), 9 x 2 = 18. The final letter "ב" has the numerical value of two, and it is the only letter left in the word, with no letters succeeding it; thus, 2 x 1 = 2. Consequently, with this method of Gematria the word “heitiv” (היטב) adds up to 70 (20 + 30 + 18 + 2 = 70).

True, Moshe was a towering scholar and an accomplished linguist, but to whom was he speaking ? By now most of the people who were twenty years old when they left Egypt had expired. Perhaps some of the others still remembered Egyptian. The popular language was, undoubtedly, Lashon Hakodesh — Hebrew. No one knew English or Spanish, etc. So why bother the people to listen to all the translations?

The Rebbe in Likkutei Sichot (vol. 36 pp. 38-40) explains that Moshe did not do this for the people’s sake, but rather, for the Torah’s sake. Moshe’s translating in all the spoken languages broke the barrier between Hebrew and all other languages. His purpose was to establish that the holiness of Torah is not limited to the language it was given in — Lashon Hakodesh (Hebrew). But the identical holiness remains when it is translated into another language.

Another explanation I heard is the following: When parting with the Jewish people and preparing them for their entry to Eretz Yisrael, Moshe knew that it might not be their final stop. After being in Eretz Yisrael for many years, they would be going into exile and be dispersed in all the corners of the world.

It was true that currently the spoken language of the people was limited to very few tongues. However, there would be a time when Jews would be in France and speak French, in South American and speak Spanish, in Italy and speak Italian and so on throughout the entire world.

An erroneous notion may arise that since Torah was given in Lashon Hakodesh, it applies only to those who speak that language or in a place where that is the spoken language. To dispel such a misconception, Moshe translated it to all languages, as if to say, “Wherever you will be and whatever language you will speak, Torah speaks in your dialect and is applicable in your location.”

My dear Bar Mitzvah, the succinct message of these two explanations is this: The Torah you are learning in your native tongue is precisely as holy as the Torah given originally on Sinai and conveyed to the Jewish people by Moshe Rabbeinu.

Secondly, it is obligatory to strictly adhere to all precepts of Torah in any and every part of the world that Divine Providence places you.

We wish you much success in your Torah studies and hope that not only will you observe the message but also influence others to follow suit.


2.

In Parshat Devarim Moshe delivers a veiled rebuke to the Jewish people. He recounts the experiences that brought them to the point that, in lieu of entering Eretz Yisrael shortly after receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, 40 years had passed in which they travelled in the wilderness.

To prepare for receiving the Torah, they arrived at Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, less than two months after the exodus from Egypt. They camped there for close to eleven months. Moshe then told them, “Hashem, our G‑d, spoke to us in Chorev (one of the names for Sinai — see Midrash Rabbah Shemot 2:4), saying Rav lachem shevet bahar hazeh” — “Your stay at this mountain has been plenty for you; turn yourselves and journey” (1:6-7).

On the words “rav lachem” Rashi offers two explanations. The first is just one word, “kepeshuto” — “according to its simple explanation.” Rashi does not inform us what this “simple explanation” is. He presumed that the student would figure it out himself by searching or recalling a previous similar context of the words and Rashi’s comments there.

Googling the words “rav lachem” one will find that there is a similar phrase which was previously used by Moshe when he chided the Korach contingency that quarreled with him, He said to them “Rav lachem [B’nei Levi]” (Bamidbar 16:6). According to Rashi there, it does not mean “enough for you [offspring of Levi],” rather, “excessive for you” [you are taking on a great liability on yourselves].” Accordingly, here too, Hashem was saying that the stay at Mount Sinai had already been excessive. It seems that Hashem so strongly desired to hasten their arrival at Eretz Yisrael that He regarded their stay at Mount Sinai as too long.

Superficially, Hashem terse expression seems to suggest that the Jewish people were doing something wrong in remaining at the same location so long. Why was their extensive stay, so to speak, bothering Hashem?

The Rebbe in Likkutei Sichos (vol. 24, pp. 14-18) explains it in following way and brings out an important lesson.

Granted, their eleven months at Mount Sinai were not wasted, for there they received the Torah and expanded their knowledge and understanding of its precepts throughout their stay. In addition, their very residence at the foot of the mountain reminded them constantly of the extraordinary Divine revelation they had witnessed there. Nevertheless, Hashem’s desire for them to proceed to the Promised Land was so great that He regarded any additional time spent at Sinai as excessive.

From here we understand the extent to which the Torah demands constant advancement and growth in our service of Hashem. The message to a Jew is “Your stay has been excessive!” No matter how admirable your current spiritual state may be, for a Jew to “stay put” and not advance is undesirable; even the slightest pause in growth is already too much.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, the Rebbe constantly would repeat the words of our sages “Me sheyeish lo mana rotzeh matayim” — “the one who has one hundred, desires two hundred” (see Midrash Rabbah Kohelet 1:34). In other words one should never be content with his achievements and accomplishment, rather, always desire more, and strive to reach loftier, more exalted heights.

Never become complacent with your accomplishments. Being productive isn’t enough! Always endeavor to go meichayil el choyil — from strength to strength — materially and spiritually. Continuously work on being a greater Chassid, a greater yirei Shamayim — G‑d fearing Jew — and a greater lamdan — Torah scholar. When you think you have made your parents and Klal Yisrael proud of you, don’t stop there, but keep on making them even prouder. Hatzlacha Rabbah — much luck — in this mission.


3.

Continuing the veiled rebuke that Moshe had started more than a month before his physical departure from this mundane world, he also brings up his appointment of judges. Rashi explains (1:14) that Moshe was upset, thinking that the people should have insisted on learning from him rather than from intermediaries. He suspected them of preferring a multitude of judges in order to make it easier to find a judge willing to accept a bribe.

Moshe says he commanded the judges: “Shamo’a bein acheichem ushefatetem tzedek bein ish u’bein achiv u’bein geiro” — “Listen among your brothers and judge righteously, between a man and his brother or his disputant” (1:16).

Regarding this pasuk there is an interesting Bar Mitzvah story with the famous Gaon — great Torah scholar — Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshutz (1690-1764), who was also a renowned child prodigy.

When he became Bar-Mitzvah, he was asked, “The Yeitzer Hara — Evil Inclination — enters into the person upon birth, and the Yeitzer Tov — Good Inclination — makes his full entry when one becomes Bar-Mitzvah (see Alter Rebbe Shulchan Aruch 4:2). How did you manage to protect yourself from his inducements to violate Torah and transgress?”

The young genius answered: “From the words ‘listen between your brothers’ the Gemara (Sanhedrin 7b) derives that this is a warning to a court that it may not hear the words of one litigant before his fellow litigant arrives. The reason for this is that a litigant might speak falsely if his opponent is not present to contradict him. Then, even upon hearing his opponents claim, the judge might be partial to the first litigant (Rashi).

“Hence, when the Yeitzer Hara would attempt to lure me into his trap and try to convince me that some course of action is really the right way and even a mitzvah, I would tell him ‘Cease trying to seduce me because I must also hear what your opponent, the Yeitzer Tov, has to say in this matter. Now, that only you are present and he hasn’t arrived yet (in full capacity), it is forbidden for me to listen to you until he is present. Upon hearing the both of you, I will be in a position to decide who is right.’”

The question that comes to mind is this: This strategy is only good up to age thirteen; how should one deal with his Yeitzer Hara from the age of Bar Mitzvah and on?

The Gemara (Kiddushin 30b) suggests a strategy offered by the Academy of Rabbi Yishmael to combat the Evil Inclination: “If this menuval — repulsive one — engages you, draw him into the Beit Hamidrash — the Torah study hall. If he is like a stone, he will dissolve, and if he is like iron, he will shatter.”

Superficially, why draw him into the study hall? It should have just said “Sit down and study Torah”?

The Evil Inclination is very persuasive. To win you over to his side he will attempt to even tell you that what he wants you to do is in fact a mitzvah. His enticements and arguments appear to be strong like stone and iron. Unfortunately, you are in a dilemma and doubtful if what he is endeavoring to convince you to do is the right thing or not.

Therefore, the Academy of Rabbi Yishmael advises to say to him, “Hey wait a minute, let’s go to the Beit Hamidrash to find out from the Rabbis and Torah scholars there if what you want me to do is really proper behavior for a Jew. Is it in fact a mitzvah as you claim or the reverse?” Once you manage to draw him into the Beit Midrash, the Rabbis and Torah scholars will prove the falsehood of his arguments. They will cause him and his arguments to “dissolve” and “shatter” and you will be spared.

Another solution for dealing with the enticements of the Yeitzer Hara could be what the Rebbe writes in HaYom Yom for 20 Tevet in the name of the Rabbi DovBer Schneerson the second Rebbe in the Lubavitch dynasty, known as the Mitteler Rebbe (1773-1827) “The Mitteler Rebbe once answered [a chassid] at yechidut — private audience — “When a person discusses his Divine service with a friend and they study together, there are two G‑dly souls (Yeitzer Tovs) pitted against one natural soul” (Yeitzer Hara).

Some questioned, why is it two Yeitzer Tovs against one Yeitzer Hara, and not against two Yeitzer Haras, (yours and your friends)?

The Rebbe, in a Farbrengen (6 Tishrei, 5744), answered this question based on the Gemara (Kiddushin 63b) “A person does not sin unless he himself gains something from it.” Thus, one’s Yeitzer Tov is a G‑dly soul and is interested in helping others, too, but the Yeitzer Hara — which is the animal soul in man — is only concerned about doing “his job” on the person he is assigned to.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, so when your Yeitzer Hara cast a doubt into your mind, discuss it with your parents, elders, or good friends, and with the strength of two Yeitzer Tovs you will surely be on the right path.

Mazal Tov and kol tov, all the best.