שביבי אש
לסדר דברים

אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה

These are the words which Moses spoke (Deuteronomy 1:1)

In the Midrash (Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:1) it is written: Before Moses was privileged to receive the Torah, the Scripture writes about him (Exodus 4:10): "I am not a man of words" (לֹא אִישׁ דְּבָרִים אָנֹכִי). But after he acquired the Torah, his speech defect was cured and he began to speak "words" (דְּבָרִים). From where do we know this? From what we read on this topic: "These are the words which Moses spoke."

Now it may be asked: were not all the Israelites cured of their ailments when the Torah was given? What then was noteworthy about Moses? Our master explained that Moses, our teacher, peace be upon him, never wanted, owing to his extreme modesty, to be a ruler who would lead the Children of Israel. Nor did he ever presume in his heart to become one who would reprove the people. That is why he said "I am not a man of words" who could, in his own words, speak harshly to the multitudes and scold his people concerning their iniquities and the House of Jacob about their transgressions.

However, after Moses received the Torah, he was able to reprove them without affronting them, for he could say to them: "This is what is written in the Torah. This is what you should do and this is what you should not do." As the Rabbis said in the Talmud, "if one's father or teacher transgresses a commandment in the Torah" (so that it would be disrespectful to reprove them directly) "he should say, 'so has our master taught us' or 'Father, this is what is written in the Torah.'" By speaking in this way, he does not disgrace them.

So it was with Moses. Before he received the Torah, its laws and statutes, Moses could reprove the people only with words of his own choosing. And because he was so modest, Moses said "I am not a man of words that I should raise my voice to rebuke others." But when he received the Torah, he raised his voice like a shofar, and he said to them, "such and such has G-d commanded." It is therefore appropriately written: "These are the words which Moses spoke."

ה' אֱלֹקֵי אֲבוֹתֵכֶם יֹסֵף עֲלֵיכֶם כָּכֶם אֶלֶף פְּעָמִים וִיבָרֵךְ אֶתְכֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר לָכֶם

May the Lord G-d of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as you are, and bless you, as he has promised you! (Deuteronomy 1:11)

Rashi comments: They said to him: Moses, are you setting a limit on our blessings? Has the Holy One Blessed Be He not already promised us (Genesis 13:16) "if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered?" (אֲשֶׁר אִם יוּכַל אִישׁ לִמְנוֹת אֶת עֲפַר הָאָרֶץ גַּם זַרְעֲךָ יִמָּנֶה). He replied. This (i.e., a thousand times) is my own blessing. But He will bless you as He has promised.

It may be asked: Was the thousand-fold blessing that Moses gave them insufficient? Does this not imply a prodigious number of people (six billion) that has never been observed before or since? And it appears to our master that we know that everything that lives and grows in this world does not forever remain stable, but rather goes from one extreme to the other and its course proceeds either upward or downward. Thus, whatever reaches its maximum point must then necessarily turn downward, diminishing until it vanishes entirely. Because he said "a thousand times thus," the people said to Moses: "Have you set a limit upon our blessings, in which case you have placed a bound upon how much we can ascend?" And should they reach that limit, they must fall backwards and descend into oblivion as has happened to many nations that became great and successful, and whose heads reached the clouds. But after they reached the highest peak, they began to fall to the deepest valley. They were lost and annihilated and no trace is left of them. Is that not why, when the Eternal blessed the Children of Israel, He said (Genesis 32:13): "as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude" (כְּחוֹל הַיָּם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִסָּפֵר מֵרֹב) and did not place a limit to their blessing? This was a hint that Israel would survive forever, would live everlastingly, and would never see destruction, inasmuch as they would never reach the maximum point of the blessing that the Eternal had given them. That is why they complained that Moses had placed a limit on their blessing. And his response was "this (a thousand times) is my own blessing," by which he meant a thousand times is a prodigious number that they will never approach and they will never reach the maximum point from which there must be decline and destruction. However, because Moses was a finite being, he could speak only in finite terms. But the Holy One Blessed Be He, the G-d of the universe, Who is infinite, spoke in terms that were infinite. But both of them had intended just one thing: that destruction shall never come upon Israel and they shall always see light.