This week we begin the fifth and final book of the Torah, Devarim or Deuteronomy. This book is called by the sages “Mishneh Torah” or the “reiteration of the Torah.” Just before Moses passes away and the Jews begin the conquest of the Land of Israel, Moses chooses – as his final address to the nation – to remind the people of all they’ve been through and to provide them with a rebuke.
Indeed the first portion of the book which shares the same title, Devarim, begins with an account of all the encampments during their sojourn in the wilderness. Rashi, whose day of passing was commemorated just days ago, tells us that Moses mentioned by way of a subtle hint all the places where the nation had angered G-d. As his final farewell, would it not have been more appropriate to share words of love?
In a testimony from the Talmudic sage named Rabbi Yochanan Ben Nuri, he relates how on numerous occasions he went to Rabban Gamliel to complain about Rabbi Akiva. Subsequently, Rabbi Akiva would receive rebuke from Rabban Gamliel. Rabbi Akiva knew exactly who had told on him. Nevertheless, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Nuri testified that in spite of all the rebuke that he incited against Rabbi Akiva, with each one Rabbi Akiva only grew fonder and felt greater love for Rabbi Yochanan. In this vein, King Solomon stated that the wise man loves rebuke.
We see that in his rebuke, Moses was actually expressing love. After all, Moses’ entire life was dedicated to knowing G-d and bringing knowledge of Him to the world. In order to know Him it’s necessary to live in alignment with His will. Therefore, Moses valued the rebuke that would reorient him to His Creator more than anything. He wanted to give his people what he would’ve wanted his own teacher to give to him.
In our generation, we are very sensitive. Nevertheless, we must not allow that sensitivity to prevent us from being open to loving rebukes and constructive criticism. On the contrary, we must recognize that rebuke is kindness as it assists our growth and facilitates the actualization of our potential. May we merit being humble enough to receive rebuke and as a result to perpetually be growing.
– Rabbi Liad Braude