Sefer Devarim, the final Sefer in the Torah, begins with Moshe’s last speech to the Jewish nation. He begins this speech by recounting some of the positive and negative experiences that the nation encountered beginning from the origin of Judaism as we know it—the exodus from Egypt—until the time of his own death. It is of utmost importance that before we delve into the actual text of Sefer Devarim, we first establish its essence and goal.
There are two major themes that Moshe attempts to convey throughout his final speech to Bnei Yisrael. Firstly, as is apparent throughout the Sefer, it is clear that Sefer Devarim is a book of rebuke. Throughout his speech, Moshe tells the Jews what they did wrong in the past in order that they should learn from their mistakes, and be prepared to enter the land of Israel. However, the Sefer actually begins with a lesson in good Middot. Wouldn’t it make more sense that Moshe begin his rebuke of Bnei Yisrael with actual rebuke, and not with complements and Berachot, blessings? Moshe is teaching us an invaluable lesson, that when we want to persuade someone to either grant our requests or and adhere to our rebuke, we should always start with a compliment, and then gently ease our way into the rebuke. We apply this idea three times a day in our Shemoneh Esrei by first praising Hashem and only then requesting help from Him.
Rabbi Yaakov Bender’s mother founded many of the Beit Ya’akov schools in Poland and Lithuania and taught thousands of young girls in America. Rabbi Ya’akov’s mother and her family also had a close relationship with the Rav of Vilna, the Gadol, Rav Chaim Ozer Beranach. Rav Ya’akov recalls that out of all of the lessons that his mother taught him, the one that she stressed most was sensitivity to others. Whether we are requesting something from a friend or simply conversing, we always must remember to be sensitive toward another’s feelings and act in a way that establishes good Middot.
The second idea which is strongly expressed in Sefer Devarim is the concept of constantly doing Chazarah, review, to better understand one’s learning, and to prevent one from forgetting that which he has learned. Many of the ideas found in Sefer Devarim are repetitions from previous Sefarim. For example, the Torah repeats the Ten Commandments, the basis for Judaism, multiple times. By Moshe emphasizing and repeating the events leading up to the moments of his final speech, we see the extreme and utter importance of Chazarah. In order to be most successful in our learning, and to essure that grow fully in our Judaism, we must constantly review that which we have learned.