Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg zt”l: Notes on Devarim III: Alver HaYardain
Why does it say, in pasuk aleph, ‘BeAiver HaYardein’? Moshe never passed into Israel proper so everything he said was there. So why say this?
The answer is that to refer to this land as Ever HaYardein is really only a reference to people that are living in Eretz Yisrael already. They refer to ‘the land over the Jordan’. If you haven’t entered Israel yet then you would not refer to this land as Ever HaYardein; on
the contrary, Israel would be Ever HaYardein. So if the Torah refers to this land as Ever HaYardein, Klai Yisrael has already reached a mentality of having entered Eretz Yisrael.
They were on the brink of entering Eretz Yisrael and for all intents and purposes they felt as if they had already entered. It is only because Klal Yisrael has accepted fully where they should be and how they should be in carrying out Hashem’s will that Moshe can speak to and offer rebuke to them in Sefer Devorim.
Klal Yisrael now understands that their life is in Eretz Yisrael and they are on the wrong side of where they should be. They are now willing to hear Moshe and his mussar because they realize their task and role in the world.
Another approach to this kashya of why it says Ever HaYardein is that this kashya led Chazal(in Rashi) to say that the mention of all the cities was what Moshe’s speech was about(the events that happened at each place) and not where he spoke. The speech took place in Ever HaYardain-it is not important to know where exactly Moshe spoke.
Another point on this pasuk is that the places where Moshe would speak(if you learn that the pasuk lists all the places that Moshe spoke) would not be significant unless something happened in these places that spurred his speeches.
If the Torah mentions the names of places then it must be significant to know the names. So Chazal tell us that the mention of the cities is important in terms of what events happened
Achad Asar Yom: The Key to Sefer Devorim
Moshe describes an 11 day journey that took 40 years. The importance of this is what is pointed out by Rashi that the length of the journey is not the issue; but the fact that Klal Yisrael shaped and formed their relationship with G-d to require 40 years for an 11 day journey. This is what Klal Yisrael is supposed to reflect on.
This is really the difference between the rest of Chumash and Sefer Devorim. The rest of Chumash is what G-d spoke to us and how He reacted to us, what He did with us, and through us, and as a result of us.
In Devorim, Moshe points out what we did and we affected and what happens because of us. And Moshe does this in the first 2 pasukim by mentioning the names of the places and what we did at those places to affect our fate, and by pointing out that Klal Yisrael’s journey is not in time and place but in undertakings, and spiritual levels of a whole nation.