Sefer Devarim is often called the “Mishneh Torah,” or the “second Torah.” Throughout the Sefer, Mosheh presents many of the important events that took place in the forty years in the desert. In Devarim 1:12, Mosheh recalls the incident in Sefer BeMidbar, when he appointed seventy people to assist him in leading the nation. Mosheh tells the people, “Eichah Esa Levadi Tarchachem UMasa’achem VeRivchem,” “How can I alone bear your troubles, your burdens and your quarrelling?” These three reasons exceed the lone reason Mosheh brought (BeMidbar 11:11), where Mosheh complains to Hashem about the Masa, burden of B’nei Yisrael. Never does he mention that he can also not take their troubles and their quarrellings. It seems strange that Mosheh would be so much more upset about this turbulent episode years after it happened.
Additionally, Mosheh seems to be criticizing the wrong people. This episode happened forty years ago. None of the people who actually sinned were alive to hear Mosheh’s speech. Although it was important for them to hear what their fathers did, why should they be held accountable for their actions vis-à-vis this brutal criticism? Can we assume that since “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” this generation will sin as well and Mosheh needs to prevent it? It seems unfair that Mosheh is lecturing the people like this.
This scolding of B’nei Yisrael is uncharacteristic of Mosheh. Twice before, Mosheh begged Hashem to save the nation immediately after they sinned, which Hashem had done before. When Hashem created the world, he expected people to live in a moral society. When this didn’t happen, Hashem destroyed the world, and wanted to make Noach the leader of the Jewish people. However, most of Noach’s descendents were no better than the people prior to the flood. Rather than destroying the world once again, Hashem chooses to start His nation with Avraham. Mosheh’s attack on Bnei Yisrael seems like he is conceding many of his prior arguments to save Bnei Yisrael. It is even more puzzling because the people never even did anything wrong, yet Mosheh attacks them anyway.
We can learn a lesson from this. Everyone in B’nei Yisrael is responsible for everyone else’s actions, Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh LaZeh. Even though they did not participate in the sins of the prior generation, Mosheh needs to teach them the lesson about responsibility for other people’s actions. It is this generation’s duty to make up for what their parents did. We need to take this message into our daily lives and work on improving ourselves to help make up for the sins of our ancestors that caused the galut, so we can rebuild the Beit HaMikdash.