Weekly Portion: Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)

This week we begin the last of the Five Books of Moses, Devarim (“Words”). In English, it is called Deuteronomy (from the Greek meaning “Second Law” — from deuteros “second” + nomos“law” — perhaps because Moshe repeats many of the laws of the Torah to prepare the Jewish people for entering and living in the Land of Israel). The Book is the oration of Moses (Moshe) before he died. Moshe reviews the history of the 40 years of wandering the desert, reviews the laws of the Torah and gives rebuke so that the Jewish people will learn from their mistakes. Giving reproof right before one dies is often the most effective time to offer advice and correction; people are more inclined to pay attention and to take it to heart.

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Before Moshe appoints judges and administrators, he says:

“How can I carry by myself all of your contentiousness, your burdens and your quarrels” (Deuteronomy 1:12).

What was Moshe referring to?

Rashi cites the Sages: If Moshe came out of his house early, they would say, “Why is Moshe early? Perhaps he is having family problems at home.” If Moshe came out late from his house, they would say, “Moshe stays home longer in order to devise negative plans against you.”

It is amazing how someone with a tendency to judge people negatively will always find ways to see faults in others. The reality is that whatever someone does or does not do, you can always find some negative motivation or interpretation. There are always positive ways to interpret the behavior of others. For instance, if Moshe came early they could have said, “Look at Moshe’s willingness to make great sacrifices for the welfare of others. He is even ready to minimize the amount of time he is at home with his family in order to give his time for others.” If Moshe was late, they could have said, “He wants to prepare himself properly in order to be most effective in giving good advice to the people.”

The way you interpret events has more to do with your character traits than it does with the reality of what someone else is like. There is a commandment in the Torah to judge people favorably. Of course, we are allowed and even obligated to guard ourselves from harm. In most instances our judgments of others will not have practical effects on us. The more good you see in others the better you yourself will feel. Your entire world will be much sweeter. Moreover, people frequently live up to your expectations of them. Assume that someone is inconsiderate towards you and he probably will act that way. If you assume the good in others, they will feel positive towards you and act accordingly. Be resolved to master the art of seeing the good in others.


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