Check Out: The book that will change your life for the good

  (photo credit: Shuva Israel)
(photo credit: Shuva Israel)

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto’s talks are known throughout the Jewish world. They combine chassidic teachings and philosophy, along with tips for a better life. We have collected pearls from his teachings that are relevant to our daily lives. This week he comments on the Torah section of Devarim.

"These are the words that Moses spoke to all of Israel on the other side of the Jordan in the desert in the Aravah."

In this week's Torah section of Devarim, the Torah tells us: "These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan in the desert in the Aravah opposite the Red Sea between Paran and Tofel and Laban and Chatzerot and Di Zahav."

Our holy sages explain that thirty-six days before his death, Moses addressed the Israelites and began to tell them the Book of Deuteronomy.

We have to understand why it was necessary. After all, Moses had been studying the Holy Torah with the Israelites day in and day out. Why did he have to review the Torah and recite the Book of Deuteronomy before his death?

Also, another important question we want to understand: Why does the Torah specify exactly where Moses spoke to the Israelites - "on the other side of the Jordan in the desert in the Aravah opposite the Red Sea." Doesn’t everyone know that Moses was in the desert and was not allowed to enter the Land of Israel? Why does the Torah detail the location where he taught the Book of Deuteronomy to the Jewish people?

Our holy sages say, and this is mentioned in Sifri, that before Moses’s death, the Almighty showed him everything that was going to happen to the Jewish people of Israel throughout all their generations - both the good times, and the bad, difficult times. God showed everything to Moses.

Our rabbis learn out that the Torah’s language “in the desert in the Aravah” is a hint that the First Temple would be destroyed and the Jewish people would become desolate. By the Torah adding the word “and Chatzerot” - it hints to us that we will be comforted for the loss, because the Jewish people will in the future have beautiful courtyards [“chatzerot” in Hebrew] and houses. The name Di Zahav hints that everything will be gold [“zahav” in Hebrew]. And as the prophet says (Zechariah 2:8): "Jerusalem shall be inhabited like unwalled towns, because of the multitude of men and cattle therein." Jerusalem will expand and be happy. Di Zahav is also related to the term dai in the verse "And I will pour out a blessing for you until it is more than sufficient” [“dai” in Hebrew] (Malachi 3:10). This means that G-d showed Moses both the evil that would come upon the Jewish people in exile and also the good and the happy times.

At this point in time, Moses was almost one hundred and twenty years old. It was thirty-six days before he died. The midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 793) says that people began to complain and say that Moses had lost his mind due to seeing such difficult sights and everything that was expected to occur to the Jewish people in their difficult exile.

This can be compared to an old man on the verge of death who called a lawyer and told him about all his assets and instructed him what to do with them after his death. "Give this asset to this son, and give that asset to my other son," the old man explained how the lawyer should divide his belongings.

To make sure that the old man was competent and that his mind was sound to divide his property, the lawyer asked the old man a number of questions to check how capable and healthy he was. He asked him: Where are you now? What is the address of your friend’s house? What day of the week is it? What is today's date?

Moses did the same with the Israelites. The Israelites were concerned that perhaps Moses was speaking without being fully competent. Perhaps he was afraid of his impending death and of being separated from the Israelites - and that might cause him to speak improper and incorrect things. Maybe he wasn’t completely in control of his words. So Moses stood before them and stated unequivocally where they were - in the desert, opposite the Red Sea, at a distance of an eleven day walk from Mount Sinai.

After Moses mentioned all these details to the Israelites, and showed them that he had full control of his mind - he then told them all the following words from the Holy One, blessed be He.

We find a similar statement made about Jacob, one of our three Forefathers. The Torah says that Jacob had a dream in which he saw the Temple built and afterwards destroyed.

He responded: "How awesome is this place! It can only be the House of God and this is the Gate of Heaven" (Genesis 20:17). Our Sages say that when he said, "How awesome is this place!” he had a vision seeing the magnificent and beautifully constructed Temple. When he said “It can only,” he envisioned the destruction of the Temple. Jacob was anguished and prayed “May it be the House of God!” And when Jacob attempted to tell his sons when the End of Days would come - prophecy left him, because when you see the pain and suffering and hear the difficult prophecy - one’s happiness decreases and one feels sadness - and where there is sadness, one cannot receive prophecy.

Now we can understand why before his death, Moses related the entire Book of Deuteronomy to the Israelites. He wanted to part from them after conveying ethical standards, the people’s future and their great abilities.

The Book of Deuteronomy contains great powers that cannot be imagined or described, which Moses gave over for future generations. It wasn’t only for the generation that came out of Egypt. but for all future generations. The Book of Deuteronomy would become a part of them and give them strength to deal with adversity while elevating themselves until the Moshiach will come. This is what the Book of Deuteronomy is all about.

Precisely after God showed Moses all the good and difficult things, the building and the destruction, and after Moses saw everything, and after he proved to the Israelites that he was of sound mind and body and everything he said were the words of the living God - then he related to them the Book of Deuteronomy. All the holy Names are embedded in it and all the Gates of Heaven are within it. It has the power to pave a person's path to God. This is what is so special about the Book of Deuteronomy that Moses gave to the Israelites.

Reading the Book of Deuteronomy has the enormous power to split open all the skies in the heavens, and each verse in the Book opens another gate. Therefore, in this orphaned generation - it is a commandment and obligation for every Jew to carefully read the Mishnah Torah, this Repetition of the Torah, every Shabbat according to a quota he undertakes to read every day or every week. Whoever does more will be blessed.

Sefer Rokach mentions that there are 955 skies in the heavens, through which the angel MTT lifts the prayers of the Jewish people. He only has permission to lift the prayers through 900 skies, but not the upper 55 skies, because no angel or fire is permitted to ascend there.

Through the power of reading the Book of Deuteronomy, one can crack open those 55 upper skies where no angel or seraph is allowed to ascend. This is the power that Moses gave the Jewish people in his Mishnah Torah, the Book of Deuteronomy.

If a person would only understand and grasp the great intrinsic power of the Book of Deuteronomy - he would take the book in his pocket with him everywhere, and whenever he had free time, he would read verses from this holy book.

May the merit of Moses and the merit of the power of the Book of Deuteronomy, bring us great private and general salvations, and have a good impact on each and every one of us.

(Published in the ultra-Orthodox weekly BaKehilah)

This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel