"My doctrine will drop like rain." (Deut. 32:2)

There is no need to look for difficulties in these verses, seeing that they are all difficult to comprehend. When our sages explain these verses as hyperbole for the study of the Torah, the message appears to be that just as study is a necessary prerequisite for the mastery of any academic discipline or profession, so Torah study must precede the time for observing Torah directives.

Once a certain measure of Torah has been acquired, constant refresher courses during one's professional or vocational life serve to ensure that one does not forget the Torah learning of one's youth.

Once such plant life exists, relatively small amounts of rain or moisture ensure the ongoing process of vegetation….

The earth requires heavy rainfall to promote plant growth. Once such plant life exists, relatively small amounts of rain or moisture ensure the ongoing process of vegetation. 'Matar/rain' is the initial precipitation, a downpour. "Rivivim", are the minimal amounts of moisture required to maintain grass in prime condition. "Deshe" is the initial growth, "esev" is the growth when it has matured already. Possibly, the lesson of these verses is the progress of Torah study itself. Initially, Torah study appears as if a tremendous input, i.e. "matar" produces relatively little output, "deshe", only coarse primitive knowledge. In the course of time, however, a steady gentle input, "rivivim", will produce a refined mature output, i.e. "esev". The more Torah one studies the less burdensome and more rewarding will such study appear to the student.

"For I will proclaim the name of G‑d." (Deut. 32:3)

When a person has listened to all the dire warnings which have preceded this Torah reading, he is bound to say four things to himself:

1) Where is the mercy of our Father in Heaven, for who can survive all this disciplinary action!
2) Is not verse 19 proof that eventually G‑d's mercy will be turned into the attribute of Justice, and does not this consideration reinforce the fear expressed in question 1?
3) If G‑d really applies all His power to disciplining His son, how can one survive this physically?
4) Why would all this retribution occur in this world, whereas all the reward for our merits is delayed until the next world?

Moses endeavors to answer these concerns of the thinking Jew in the following passage, in the order in which we have listed them here.

First and foremost, Moses points to the contrast in behavior and outlook of a human king, and G‑d, the King of Kings. When the former assumes the throne and warns his subjects who would disobey him of the retribution he would exact, he refers to what will happen after such a disobedience.

When G‑d warns of retribution for disobedience, His entire purpose is to create a climate which would make such retribution forever unnecessary. This is why the admonitions conclude with words of peace, i.e.: "For G‑d will judge His people and repent Himself for His servants. When He sees that their strength is gone...He exacts retribution from those who harm His people." (ibid. 36)

The attribute of Justice can manifest itself in one of two ways….

Similarly, Moses commences with harsh words, i.e. "and I will speak them", but his ultimate purpose is "the earth will hear", that the dwellers on earth should listen, pay heed to the soft words of his mouth.

Just as a heavy downpour is required for the earth to produce initial growth, so suffering and tribulations are the preamble to the Coming World. Retribution for our sins in This World ensures our smooth transition from this world to the World to Come. Proof is the fact that Moses describes his "saying" as descending imperceptibly like "dew".

Concerning the second fear of the people, that the admonitions are such that the attribute of Mercy will be supplanted by the attribute of Justice, Moses says: "I will address the name of Havayah", i.e. the quality of Mercy. The admonitions have been emanating from the attribute of Mercy.

The attribute of Justice can manifest itself in one of two ways: One is that even the attribute of Mercy will turn into an adversary of the people and thus fight them because of the overpowering rage the people's conduct had evoked, or the attribute of Mercy is employed to temper the attribute of Justice, and thus soften its impact. Moses stresses that, in his admonitions, the attribute of Mercy performs the second function. He himself appeals to the attribute of Mercy. In this way, the attribute of Justice of our G‑d is enhanced and aggrandized.

Concerning the third worry of the people, how could one possibly survive all the retributions listed in the admonition, Moses says "The Rock [referring to G‑d] is innocent", i.e. G‑d does not revenge Himself as does a human king, but He always tempers Justice with kindness, making judgment bearable.

Concerning the fourth question, why retribution would occur in this life whereas the reward is delayed until the hereafter, Moses says, "The merciful G‑d is trustworthy to pay the reward in the future;" it is not unfair to reserve the reward for the future.

A tzaddik is he who acts in accordance with his obligations. "Yashar" is someone who does something over and beyond what he is obligated to do. Since sins are committed in this life, when retribution occurs in this life this is an act of Justice. If the reward for the meritorious deeds were also to be restricted to this life, how could G‑d demonstrate that He will pay beyond the call of duty? Were the reward to be paid in this life, man could not ever be presumed to have acted from motives other than functional ones, expecting immediate dividends for the performance of every good deed.

[Translation and commentary by Eliyahu Munk]