Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshat Devarim – originally posted July 17, 2007

As always, I am not a Rabbi- so please correct me if I make an error! Also, I welcome comments and sugestions.


“V’eilu ha’devaraim” And these are the words… So begins this weeks parsha, with words that Rashi says points to rebuke- in the words from Moses to the Bnei Yisrael, which will discuss each of the points in which they were rebellious, in which they disobeyed or challenged God. Yet, in the honour of Israel, Moses does not directly state each instance, but they are alluded to in the words he speaks. In here, we have an important lesson in lashon hara- to not directly embarrass people by mentioning their wrong doings and embarrassing them.

I had just started studying this week parsha, when an article in the Sunday Newspaper here (The Sunday Times) had an article on a scandal in the Jewish community. A seniour Rabbi, well known internationally as well, has been fired from his post, and resigned from the rabbinate due to having an affair with a married congregant. Of course, the newspaper approached the chief rabbinate for comment- and their direct statement “He was dismissed, he acted incorrectly, but as he has not done anything illegal, we will not comment further.” Here we see the Chief Rabbi doing his best to satisfy two needs, the communities needs to be seen as being open and the need to not contravene the laws of lashon hara. Yet the newspaper still saw the need to ask for comment on the story- if people felt that the Chief Rabbi was covering up by not giving details of his infidelity. Personally, I admire the stance the Chief Rabbi has taken, as difficult and as much of a PR nightmare that it might turn into.

Moses faces a similar situation to this in the parsha. He needs to recap, to tell the nation what they have done, where they have come from, remind them of the paths they have taken, what has brought them to this point. At the same time, he needs to do it in a way that will build the nation- not cause it to despair and believe they have lost the favour of God, to worry about forfeitin the protection of God on the eve of their entering the land of Israel. So Moses speaks carefully- his words alluding to the incidents, reminding people circumspectly, but not directly challenging them, not causing them more embarrassment than he has to.

So from these words which start the last book of the Torah, which summarises the laws, incidents and travails of the nation, let us take this message. Be careful with our speech, be wary of speaking in such a way that we harm people, but let us focus on using our speech constructively- to build and to teach.


June 24, 2008 - Posted by | Parshah | , ,

1 Comment »

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    Comment by Engegimbipiek | November 11, 2009 | Reply

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