Sefer Devarim is known in Midrashim as “Mishneh Torah,” “the second Torah.” This could be interpreted to mean a repetition of the Torah; in fact, many topics dealt with in Sefer Devarim appear elsewhere in the Torah as well. However, the Sefer HaChinuch counts 200 new Mitzvot in Sefer Devarim. This week’s Parashah, Ki Teitzai, contains 74 new Mitzvot, more than any other Parashah; this week also concludes a period of three consecutive Shabbatot on which we read more than a quarter of the new Mitzvot in the Torah. How can we call this Sefer a “repetition?”
To answer this question, Abarbanel quotes the Pasuk that introduces Sefer Devarim (Devarim 1:5), “Ho’il Moshe Bei’eir Et HaTorah HaZot,” “Moshe began clarifying this Torah.” He explains that “Mishneh Torah” means that Sefer Devarim is an explanation and clarification of the first four Sefarim. Rather than being an exact repetition, Sefer Devarim presents the general ideas of the first four Sefarim from a different angle. Rav Shlomo Aviner, in his Sefer Tal Chermon, takes this idea one step further and explains that this different angle is the perspective of Eretz Yisrael. Sefer Devarim contains Mitzvot that apply to Bnei Yisrael as a nation living in Eretz Yisrael. This is why the topic of war is a central topic in last week’s and this week’s Parshiyot. War is an aspect of Jewish life that frequently occurs in Eretz Yisrael, while when Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael is lacking Jews do not deal with wars. We have witnessed this in the sixty years since the formation of the modern Jewish State, in which a war has occurred almost every decade.
Rav Aviner supports his contention from the origin of the term “Mishneh Torah,” the commandment to a Jewish king (Devarim 17:18), “VeChatav Lo Et Mishneih HaTorah HaZot Al Sefer,” “He shall write for himself two copies of this Torah in a scroll.” Rav Aviner points out that the requirement to write a second Torah, in addition to the Torah every Jew is commanded to write, is given only to a king as the leader of the Jewish nation in Eretz Yisrael. While containing the same words, the second Torah occupies a different scroll as it is a Torah not from the Galut (exile) angle, but from the Eretz Yisrael angle of Sefer Devarim. Indeed, Sifri writes that though the king’s Mishneh Torah contained all five Chumashim, the words of the Pasuk refer only to Sefer Devarim, which is called “Mishneh Torah”; one possible reason Devarim is singled out is because it is read at Hakheil. The fact that it is read at the national gathering shows the national, as opposed to individual, significance of both Sefer Devarim and the king’s Mishneh Torah.
During the past sixty years, the Jewish nation has begun fulfilling the multitude of Mitzvot recorded in Parashat Ki Teitzei and the rest of Sefer Devarim, as opposed to focusing on the other four Chumashim. The Jewish state has given us an opportunity not only to perform Mitzvot HaTeluyot BaAretz, but also to enhance our performance of other Mitzvot as well. However, the Jewish state still has a long way to go, with the noted absence of a Melech (Jewish King), the Beit HaMikdash, and perhaps most importantly, all the Jews returning to Eretz Yisrael. May we be Zocheh to soon witness the completion of all the facets of the Jewish nation and the fulfillment of all the Mitzvot found in Sefer Devarim.