September 28, 2023
September 28, 2023

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Devarim: Moshe’s Philosophy of Rebuke

The word daber, as opposed to amar, (both meaning “speak”) implies harshness (see Makkot 11a). The issue then becomes that Moshe starts Devarim with only “hints” to places where the generation of the wilderness sinned without naming them outright. Therefore, it seems his soft rebuke doesn’t fit under the rubric of daber.

Additionally, why does Moshe have to tone down his mussar (rebuke) at all? He was speaking to a new generation as the generation of the midbar had already died out.

The answer provides insight into Moshe’s philosophy of rebuke. At this point Moshe has learned that rebuke doesn’t work at all. The closest he’s willing to touch the area of rebuke is by the most minute of hints, even though he’s talking to a generation that had no relation to the earlier sins.

For Moshe, these are “devarim,” as harsh as it will get. A wise man once said that it is highly unlikely that anyone will adopt something that someone else tells him to do; it must come from the mind of the person himself. This notion aligns with Moshe’s philosophy of rebuke: Let the new generation be inspired to adopt a future of their own.

Steven Genack

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