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Zera Shimshon on Va’eschanan

וַיִּשְׁמַע ה’ אֶת-קוֹל דִּבְרֵיכֶם, בְּדַבֶּרְכֶם אֵלָי; וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֵלַי, שָׁמַעְתִּי אֶת-קוֹל דִּבְרֵי הָעָם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר דִּבְּרוּ אֵלֶיךָ–הֵיטִיבוּ, כָּל-אֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּרוּ. (דברים:כה).

Last week, we wrote that the Zera Shimshon explains that when the Torah refers to someone’s speech, there is a difference if the Torah writes, “es divreichem—your words,” or if the Torah writes, “es kol divreichem—the sound of your words.” When the Torah adds the word, “kol—sound of,” the Torah is focusing on the tone that the words were said more than just the words that were spoken. For instance, regarding Hashem’s anger with Bnei Yisroel for not wanting to enter Eretz Yisroel after the meraglim gave a very negative report about Eretz Yisroel, it is written, “Vayishma Hashem es kol divreichem, vayektzov vayishava laimor—And Hashem heard the sound of your complaints, He became angry and swore that no one from that generation will enter Eretz Yisroel. It is not written simply, “es divreichem—And Hashem heard your complaints,” but, “es kol divreichem—the sound of your complaints.

Zera Shimshon explains the reason for adding the words, “es kol—the sound of their complaints,” is because their words they voiced of not wanting to enter Eretz Yisroel wasn’t enough of a reason to be punished to die in the Midbar. They might have said what they said, simply, because they panicked after hearing from the meraglim such a scary report of Eretz Yisroel. Therefore, they were not complaining, but it was only their emotion of fear that was complaining. If it was only their fear that spoke, they didn’t deserve such a harsh punishment. Moshe Rabbeinu, therefore, said that Hashem heard the “sound” of their complaint, “es kol divreichem”—the calmness in which they voiced their complaint and this shows that it wasn’t just their fear that spoke but they spoke. Consequently, Hashem punished them very harshly.

Zera Shimshon asks that, indeed, some pesukim in our parsha seem to contradict this: In our parsha, Moshe describes how Bnei Yisroel were afraid that if they would continue to hear commandments directly from Hashem, they would die. They, therefore, asked Moshe to be an intermediary between them and Hashem; Hashem would teach Moshe the mitzvos and Moshe would relay them to Bnei Yisroel.

Moshe then tells them Hashem’s reaction, “Vayishma Hashem es kol divreichem b’dabrechem ailie, vayomer Hashem ailei; shamati ess kol divrei ha’am hazeh asher dibru ailecha, haitivu kol asher debeiru—And Hashem heard the sound of your words that you spoke to me, and Hashem said to me, ‘I heard the sound of this nation’s words that they spoke to you. All that they said is very good.’”

Zera Shimshon asks: That if, “es kol divrei ha’am hazeh”—the sound of this nation’s words was referring to the emotions of their words, why did Hashem praise them for what they said, “haitivu kol asher debeiru”—all that they said is very good? The fear in their voices was, simply, a result of their fear that they would die if they continued to hear Hashem anymore. Why do they deserve praise for this? Most people are scared to die!

Zera Shimshon answers that even though they had a fear of dying, if they would continue to hear Hashem’s voice, they also had a different fear; the fear of Hashem—yiras shamayim. Chazal teaches us that if Bnei Yisroel received all of the 10 commandments directly from Hashem, then they would be free from the yetzer hara. This being so, they were concerned that if they would have no yetzer hara, they would also not get any reward for their service of Hashem, since it wouldn’t be at all difficult. True, they would also not be punished for any wrongdoing, still they were confident that they had enough yiras shamayim in them to protect them from sinning. This was the fear that Hashem detected in the sound of their words, “kol divreichem” and not the fear of dying. This fear is surely worthy of praise and Hashem praised them and said, “… haitivu kol asher debeiru”—all that they said is very good.

Zera Shimshon brings a proof to this from the next pasuk: There, it is written, “… me yeitain v’hahyah levavam etc. … l’yirah ohsee—Who will make their hearts to remain with them, to fear Me etc.” We see from here that it was their yiras Hashem, their yiras shamayim that Hashem praised and not their fear of dying!

To sum things up: When the Torah refers to someone’s speech as “kol divreichem,” the Torah is focusing on the tone of the words that were said. This usually means that they are less responsible for what was said than if they only said the words themselves with no emotion. However, sometimes the tone of speech is what is worthy of praise even more than the plain words.

For instance, when Bnei Yisroel asked that Moshe be the intermediary between them and Hashem, Hashem detected yiras shamayim in their voice. Therefore, even though not wanting to hear from Hashem could be taken as something negative, Hashem heard in their tone of voice that what they spoke was rooted in true fearing of Hashem and they, therefore,deserved to be praised.

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