Questions and Suggested Answers
Based on the writings of Nehama Leibowitz
And Moshe went and spoke these words unto all Israel. Deuteronomy (31-1)
Ibn Ezra - He went from tribe to tribe to inform them of his impending death and that they should not be afraid (about the future). He gave them encouragement through his charge to Joshua (31-7)... and you shall cause them to inherit it. In my opinion, Moshe then blessed the tribes - with the blessing listed later in Parashat V’zot Ha-Brerakhah.
Ramban - When Moshe completed his address, all the assembled returned to their respective tents. The text does not mention this because it is already stated “you are standing this day, all of you before the Lord.... that you should enter into the covenant with the Eternal, thy God” and after entering the covenant they dispersed. The text in our Parasha now informs us that Moshe went from the Levite encampment to the Israelite encampment to honor them, as is the case when one takes leave from one’s host.
Sforno - Moshe took the initiative in going. Compare the term “Va’yeleach” here to Exodus (2-1) and Deuteronomy (29-15). After Moshe completed the matter of entering them into the covenant, he took the initiative of comforting the people as they contemplated Moshe’s imminent death because he didn’t want his passing to sadden their celebration of entering into the covenant as reflected in the verse “Let Israel rejoice in its maker” Psalms (149-2).
Rav S.R. Hirsch - Preceding the opening words of our Parasha, were the blessings and curses and the concluding verse. With that, was concluded Moshes’s message to the people in the name of God. Moshe considered those words as concluding his mission. From that point, Moshe preoccupied himself with matters related to his imminent death. Thus in Verses 1-6 he took personal leave of the people. Verses 7 and 8 deal with introducing his successor with words of encouragement. Verses 9 - 13 describe how he handed over the Torah scroll to the priests and elders with he command that it be read publicly at the end of the Sabbatical year during the Succot festival.
In this situation Moshe did not issue a call that the people assemble as was done on every occasion when he addressed them in the name of God. Rather “He went” himself to the people to take leave of them in a simple manner as is fitting for an individual whom the Torah describes with the words “Now the man Moshe was very humble, more so than all men upon the face of the earth.” Numbers (12-3)
What is the difficulty in the verse that the above commentators seek to resolve?
Given the fact that the people were already assembled to enter the covenant, what is meant by the opening verse “And Moshe went” to speak to the people? Weren’t they already assembled?!
What is the difference between the approaches in resolving their difficulty?
One approach (Ramban) sees Moshe’s activity here as a very personal matter between Moshe and the people. He quietly recedes from center stage.
The other commentators see this going also as part of Moshe completing his “official” task as leader of the people.
Explain the words of Ibn Ezra that Moshe gave them encouragement through his charge to Joshua.
By telling Joshua that he would lead the people into the promised land, the people witnessing this charge would realize that there would be no break in the continuity of leadership.
Where does Sforno detect in Moshe’s words that he sought to console the people?
Moshe opens by explaining his limitations and continues with the words “The Lord thy God, He will go over before thee; He will destroy these nations from before thee....” Moshe is comforting the nation by telling them that although he can not continue with them, the Lord himself will now lead and protect them.
What does Sforno want to prove by quoting from Psalms (149-2)?
Sforno is reinforcing the idea that Israel truly rejoices in its Maker and King and therefore Moshe’s words were indeed comforting.
Which of the other three commentators does Rav Hirsch follow?
Prepared by: Rabbi Mordechai Spiegelman veteran yeshiva educator (USA) now residing in Jerusalem