I’d like to do something a little less intense and focus on פרשנות, understanding the meaning of the words of the parasha. There’s an odd pasuk at the end of the parasha:
What does it mean that ולא נתן ה׳ לכם לב לדעת ועינים לראות ואזנים לשמע עד היום הזה? Specifically, what does עד היום הזה mean?
The term היום when it means “today” has a number of polysemous meanings. It can mean literally “today”, referring to the day that the words were written or spoken. For instance, in the beginning of the parasha, in the declaration on ביכורים, (דברים כו:ג) ובאת אל הכהן אשר יהיה בימים ההם; ואמרת אליו הגדתי היום לה׳ אלקיך כי באתי אל הארץ אשר נשבע ה׳ לאבתינו לתת לנו׃, היום means “I have come today specifically to demonstrate my gratitude”. But in our pasuk, what happened on that day to make Moshe declare that בני ישראל had only then acquired a knowing heart? We shall return to that question.
Another meaning of היום is in a metaphoric or midrashic way, as “every day”, “today” from the point of view of the reader. For instance, (דברים כו:טז) היום הזה ה׳ אלקיך מצוך לעשות את החקים האלה ואת המשפטים; ושמרת ועשית אותם בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך׃. רש״י explains: בכל יום יהיו בעיניך חדשים, כאילו בו ביום נצטוית עליהם. It’s hard to interpret our pasuk that way.
The phrase עד היום הזה is usually an idiom for “still, yet”, not referring to any specific day. It’s usually used to describe place names, as in (בראשית כו:לג) ויקרא אתה שבעה; על כן שם העיר באר שבע עד היום הזה. In our case, that would be interpreting the pasuk negatively, “You still do not have a knowing heart or seeing eye”. This is how the Gemara in עבודה זרה ה,ב interprets it: אמר להן משה לישראל כפויי טובה בני כפויי טובה.
This is certainly consistent with the following psukim, as Moshe continues his lectures in נצבים, but רש״י understands our pasuk in a literal and positive way. Something special did happen at that time. To figure out what, we have to look at the structure of ספר דברים.
דברים is basically a series of lectures by Moshe in the last days of his life:
So he started on the first day of שבט. When did he finish? The gemara in קידושין figures it out:
So Moshe died on the seventh of אדר. Now lets look at the speeches. After the first, we have:
This is the clue: this speech was ביום ההוא, on the same day, implying that the others were on separate days.
So we have seven speeches over the course of 36 days, with the clear implication that they were given on different days, and at the end Moshe writes the Torah and gives it to בני ישראל.
And now we can see how רש״י interprets היום in our pasuk:
He is referring to the time that Moshe writes the Torah then gives it to the Kohanim:
The wording is hard to understand; how can he give it to the Kohanim “and to the elders”? Rashi answers that he actually wrote multiple copies in response to בני ישראל's complaint. But he can’t mean that Moshe gave them the Torah literally on that day, since it was not complete yet:
So how could Moshe give them the Torah before it was written? It was only completed on the day of the last of Moshe’s speeches. Rashi talks about him giving it out on the day of the sixth (ויתנה אל הכהנים), the fifth (ולא נתן ה׳ לכם לב לדעת עד היום הזה) and the third speeches (היום הזה נהיית לעם). I think Rashi is picking up on a change in attitude among בני ישראל. If we look carefully, Moshe talks about היום in every one of his speeches. If we think about what is going on, he gathers all the people together (note the phrase אל כל ישראל), gives them a long mussar shmooz and tells them to come back tomorrow. And they do. And after the incredibly long list of mitzvot on the second day, they come back the third day for more. This bespeaks a degree of maturity that they had never shown before; the midrash talks of בני ישראל running away from Sinai like children on the last day of school. They might accept the Torah, but they weren’t going to seek it out. Now, as demonstrated by the fact that they did not want the Torah hidden away by the Kohanim, they were eager to accept the yoke of the commandments.
This is an important message as we head into the Yomim Noraim. We can’t have the attitude of ס׳איז שװער צו זײַן אַ ײִד. We need to embrace our responsibilities and demonstrate that we now have לב לדעת ועינים לראות ואזנים לשמע.