Gather to me all the elders of your tribes and your police officers, and I will speak these words [of the song of Ha'azinu] into their ears. I will call upon the heavens and the earth as witnesses against them.

-- Devarim 31:28

Classic Questions

Why were the elders and police officers picked for this gathering? (v. 28)

Abarbanel: Because they were the leaders of the people, who listened to Moshe's words on behalf of the people.

The Rebbe's Teachings

The Presence of Police Officers (v. 28)

In Verse 28, we read how Moshe requested a gathering of the elders, to whom he would transmit the Song of Ha'azinu on behalf of the Jewish people.

However, with this gathering we find a totally unprecedented detail, that in addition to the elders of the Jewish people, Moshe also requested the police officers to be present. Since the role of the police officers is simply to enforce the law, what was the need for their presence here, when Moshe was transmitting the Torah?

The Explanation

The purpose of this gathering was an attempt to avert the spiritual decline of the Jewish people after Moshe's passing, as verse 29 continues: "I know that long after my [disciple Yehoshua's] death you will surely become corrupted [with idol worship] and depart from the way which I commanded you. Misfortune will inevitably come upon you in the end, etc."

At first glance, these efforts to avert spiritual decline would appear to have been totally futile, according to Moshe's own admission, as he exclaimed in verse 27: "Even while I am alive with you today you have been rebels against G‑d; surely [you will be] after my death [too]!" How could Moshe possibly expect the Jewish people to listen to the elders, if they had not listened properly to Moshe himself?

To address this problem, Moshe added police officers to the gathering, thereby setting a precedent: that whenever the elders would gather in the future to transmit the Torah's commands to the people, they would do so in the presence of the police officers. In this way, the elders' declarations would be taken more seriously by the people, since the threat of law-enforcement would be real and obvious.

Of course, this had not been done in the past, but on the day of his passing, Moshe understood that it would be required in the future, at least as a deterrent.

(Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Vayeilech 5746)