Devarim: Don't Trust Yourself!
אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה אל כל ישראל בעבר הירדן במדבר בערבה מול סוף בין פארן ובין תפל ולבן וחצרת ודי זהב
These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel, on the other side of the Jordan, concerning the Wilderness, concerning the Arabah, opposite the Sea of Reeds, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab.
Rashi explains that many of these places don’t even exist! Rather they are veiled rebukes for the sins that the people committed. Out of respect for the Nation, Moshe did not rebuke them explicitly, but simple hinted to them with these references.
If Moshe indeed would not rebuke them openly, why does he seem to rebuke them openly and robustly regarding the sin of the spies, just a few pesukim later? Moreover, in parshas Eikev, Moshe rebukes them fully regarding the sin of the golden calf? Why didn’t he veil the rebuke there?
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l makes a clear distinction. Later on, Moshe is reviewing with the people the sins of the earlier generation; he is not rebuking them directly. He is showing them the severity of the previous generation’s sins, and the damage and destruction that the sins brought. He was also showing them Hashem’s mercy: after the terrible sins they had done, they were still forgiven to a certain degree. There, it was not necessary to conceal the rebuke. To the contrary, it was more effective to elaborate for the sake of clarity. There was no risk of insulting anyone.
In the beginning of our Parsha, however, Moshe was ‘rebuking’ the current generation directly; he was warning them that just as the previous generation sinned, they too are inclined to sin. We all have the potential to sin, and we can’t trust ourselves. We must fortify ourselves with Torah and Mitzos and Mussar, ahead of time, in order to withstand the temptations of the Yatzer Hara.
Here, he was rebuking the potential to sin; the potential that lies ‘under the surface’. Here it is appropriate to conceal the rebuke, under the surface, just as the rebuke is for the sins that are under the surface. It wouldn’t be right to rebuke them explicitly, for they have not yet sinned. Here, to warn the people to exercise caution, it is more appropriate -- to hint.
This lesson applies to all of us; we must not be complacent and rely on our knowledge regarding the severity of a particular sin. We must continuously fortify ourselves and ready ourselves to be able to withstand the temptation when it presents itself.
May we merit serving Hashem with all we have and the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash speedily in our days!
Have a wonderful Shabbos