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לימוד תורה

משנה תורה – לִשנות כדי לְשנות

Mishnah Torah - to Repeat, to Change

Parsha and it’s Implementation - Dvarim - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald – 5779

The Chumash of Dvarim is named after the opening of our Parasha:

אֵ֣לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֗ים אֲשֶׁ֨ר דִּבֶּ֤ר מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶל־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּעֵ֖בֶר הַיַּרְדֵּ֑ן...

  • §"These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan…" (Dvarim 1: 1).

In Chazal, it is called "Mishnah Torah":

וְכָ֨תַב ל֜וֹ אֶת־מִשְׁנֵ֨ה הַתּוֹרָ֤ה הַזֹּאת֙ עַל־סֵ֔פֶר ...

  • §"…he shall have a copy of this Teaching written for him on a scroll…" (Dvarim 17: 18). Mishnah Torah comes from the word "Leshanot"; repetition, repeat the study of the Torah – repeat these words.

From here comes also the term "shinun" (repetition) as a way of learning by repetition:

תנו רבנן ושננתם שיהו דברי תורה מחודדים בפיך

  • §” The Sages taught: The verse states: “And you shall teach them diligently [veshinnantam]” (Dvarim 6:7). The root shin, nun, nun, of veshinnantam should be understood as meaning sharp, i.e., that matters of Torah should be sharp and clear in your mouth” (Kiddushin 30a).

ואינו דומה שונה פרקו מאה פעמים לשונה פרקו מאה ואחד

“the verse is hinting at a distinction between them, as one who reviews his studies one hundred times is not comparable to one who reviews his studies one hundred and one times”. (Chaggigah 9b:10)

In this Chumesh, Moshe parts from the people of Israel and passes the baton to Yehoshua. At this point, Moshe repeats some of the "Dvarim" (things) mentioned in the previous Chumoshim; some of the Mitzvot and words of ethics and guidance towards the challenges of entering the Land of Israel.

What is the need to go back to the people and repeat the "things"? Why is Moshe required to repeat the already known?

On the one hand, the word 'Mishna' means 'repeat', but it has two meanings. It also encapsulates the meaning of 'change' as the sages wrote:

וכתב את משנה התורה הזאת כתב הראוי להשתנות

  • § “And it is written: “That he shall write for himself a second [mishne] Torah” (Deuteronomy 17:18), where “second [mishne]” teaches that it is written in a script that is apt to be changed [lehishtannot]". (Sanhedrin 22a:1).

Because in every 'repetition' there is also change. It is not exactly the same as its predecessor, it has something different that was added from the previous time. It is often necessary to repeat the already known once again, to see it from a different angle, and to understand it perfectly.

When Moshe Rabbeinu repeated the "things" to Am Israel, he focused on new and different sides, as needed due to the situation change, prior to entering Eretz Israel. (The commentators discussed the differences between the "things" in this Chumash and the previous ones).

However, there is another explanation to the double meaning of "Mishnah Torah" - in the connection between "repeat" and "change". The forty years in the desert and the crises they went thru, taught how difficult it is to change the habits and consciousness that the people of Israel absorbed during their slavery years in Egypt. This was and remains Moshe’s most difficult task, and he dealt with it until his very last day.

If you want to lead a "change" in personal and public behavior, you must "repeat" - "the beginnings", frequently and constantly, with patience, time after time until the desired change has been achieved, until it has been assimilated as a second nature, and becomes a habit. Most changes are not achieved in a one-time manner, and the larger the change, the more "repetition" it needs to make it the norm.

The same is true in the realm of consciousness; in order to assimilate a message in the personal and public consciousness, one has to 'repeat' it over and over, tirelessly and patiently, even though these are well-known, old fashioned and obsolete things, and although the listeners 'signal' that they have already heard them several times and it seems they won’t pay attention any more…

Parashat Dvarim is read close to Tisha B'Av.

There seems to be that everyone knows that the Temple was destroyed because of 'free hatred' and in the future, it will be rebuilt because of 'free love'. The people of Israel have a hard history of sectarianism and free hatred that led to the destruction. We caused to ourselves, by free hatred and “brothers war”, what our great enemies could not do. Making 'change' and dealing with 'free hatred' is not a simple challenge. Therefore, these days we are especially obliged to hear this message and repeat it many times. Especially when in the background of the elections, there are negative campaigns and internal tensions.

Even if there is a "signal" that this is an "old fashioned" message. Repeat to Change

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