May 30, 2024
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By Rabbi Menachem Leibtag

Moshe’s concluding remarks, at the end of his final speech, include a striking parallel to God’s original charge to Bnei Yisrael at Har Sinai. We recall that when Bnei Yisrael first arrived at Har Sinai, God summoned Moshe to the mountain and proposed a special covenant with Bnei Yisrael: “And now, if you will listen to My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall become for Me a ‘segula’ amongst all the nations… and you shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and an ‘am kadosh’…” (Shemot 19:5–6).

This proposal, which actually forms the prelude to the Ten Commandments, explains the primary purpose of Matan Torah—that Am Yisrael would become a “goy kadosh, holy nation” to represent God. Now, at the conclusion of the main speech, in which Moshe Rabbeinu repeats those mitzvot which were originally given at Har Sinai, we find this very same theme repeated:

“And God has affirmed this day that you are, as He promised you (at Har Sinai), His am segula (chosen nation) who shall observe all of His commandments, and that He will set you, in fame and renown and glory, high above all the nations that He has made; and that you shall be, as He promised (at Har Sinai) an am kadosh …” (26:18–19).

Moshe’s concluding remarks are quite appropriate, for the purpose of the mitzvot are to help Bnei Yisrael become a segula and an am kadosh; just as He had originally promised them at Har Sinai!

This parallel to ma’amad Har Sinai continues in the parsha immediately afterward: “… Erect these stones on Har Eival… And you shall build there a mizbeach (alter)… (note parallel to Shemot 20:22), and you shall offer upon it olot and shelamim (sacrifices)… ” (Devarim 27:1–8).

We recall how an almost identical ceremony took place, some 40 years earlier, at ma’amad Har Sinai, immediately after Moshe taught Bnei Yisrael the laws which God gave him after the 10 commandments: “And Moshe came (down from Har Sinai) and told the people all of God’s commandments and the mishpatim (laws)… Moshe then wrote down all of God’s commandments. Then, he woke up early in the morning and built a mizbeach at the foot of the mountain and erected 12 large stones… and they offered olot and shelamim …” (Shemot 24:3–8).

There is also a tochacha (rebuke) which is to be read at that ceremony (Devarim 27:11–28:69) on Har Eival; just as there was a tochacha which was read at Har Sinai (Vayikra 26:3–46, 25:1).

The reason for this parallel is quite simple: This generation was not present at the original ceremony, so a new ceremony is required in which this generation can reaffirm their commitment to their covenant with God.

Thus, this ceremony, which Bnei Yisrael must perform on Har Eival, will “relive” the experience of Har Sinai when Bnei Yisrael proclaimed, “Naaseh venishma, We will do and we will hear” (Shemot 24:3–11).

It is not often in our history that one generation is given an opportunity to fulfill a destiny which was, originally, planned for an earlier generation. Aware of this potential, Moshe encourages the new generation in the desert to rise to the challenge of setting up an “am kadosh” in the promised land, as God had originally planned for the generation of their parents.

Although this challenge by Moshe Rabbeinu to Am Yisrael is some 3,000 years old, it takes on additional significance today—as our own generation has been given the potential to fulfill this very same destiny.


Rabbi Menachem Leibtag is an internationally acclaimed Tanach scholar and online Jewish education pioneer. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau (www.mizrachi.org/speakers).

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