Our sefer and parasha, Devarim, begin with the celebrated pasuk: “These are the words (aleh hadevarim) which Moshe spoke to all of the Jewish people on that side of the Jordan in the desert, in the plain opposite the Red Sea, between Paran and Tofel and Lavan and Hazeroth and Di Zahav.”
The Midrash Sifrei on our verse asks a straightforward question: “And is it the case that Moshe prophesied only these words; did he not write the entire Torah? As the text states: ‘Then Moshe wrote this Torah’.”
Rashi expands on the Sifrei’s statement, “it is coming to communicate to us that these were specifically words of reprimand,” and suggests this explanation as to why the Torah employs the phrase, aleh hadevarim: “Since these are words of rebuke and he [Moshe] enumerates here all the places where they angered the Omnipresent, it, therefore, makes no explicit mention of the incidents [in which they transgressed], but rather merely alludes to them, [by mentioning the names of the places] out of respect for the Jewish people (mipnei k’vodon shel
HaRav HaGaon Moshe Feinstein zatzal notes that the concept of mipnei k’vodon shel Yisrael in Rashi’s gloss is difficult to understand: “For is it not the case that soon thereafter the Torah mentions the Sin of the Spies at great length? And, so, too, in Parashat Eikev, does not the Torah cite the complete narrative of the Golden Calf?”
Rav Moshe offers the following: “While it is true that this generation, [on the verge of entering Eretz Yisrael,] did not commit these earlier sins, and, therefore, could not be directly reproved for them, none the less, they [that is, these sins] are alluded to at this time. For even the new generation needed to be admonished regarding the sins that were done by the previous generation, since it is necessary for each person to know that if they see someone sin, they should never say concerning themselves that it would be impossible to sin.”
I believe that Rav Moshe is teaching us a crucial lesson for this Shabbat day before Tisha b’Av:
It is necessary for each person to know that if they see someone sin, they should never say concerning themselves that it would be impossible to sin because one knows that this matter is proscribed and believes in Hashem and His Torah.
Instead, we must be vigilant in studying and fulfilling Hashem’s Torah and ever seek to be His true servants, for this, too, is mipnei k’vodon shel Yisrael.