Moshe’s blessing to the nation of Israel is interesting in that a similar blessing, which Hashem had given Avraham and Yizchak, had already been fulfilled. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, observes that among the greastest blessings is abundant offspring, and therefore this blessing was particularly auspicious – even the third time around.
“Hashem your G-d has caused you to increase, and behold: you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven” (1:10): This very important statement by Moshe declares that the prophetic promise given by Hashem to Avraham (Bereishis 15:5, 22:17) and to Yitzchak (ibid. 26:4), that their seed would be as numerous as the stars, was already actually fulfilled by this time. If we should include in the count all men even over 60, and all women and children, the total would certainly be two million. (The additional blessings given here by Moshe that they increase a thousandfold, has not yet been fulfilled but it is proper to believe that the kindly and pious blessing by Moshe will eventually be fulfilled by Hashem.)
This declaration is part of the list of kindnesses Hashem bestowed, and it is used as a preface to the rebukes Moshe subsequently voiced. (The stars actually number more than two million, but, “The Torah speaks in the language of men” – Berachos 31b; and when the intention was to express a very large number, the comparison to the stars was employed.) The mention of their numbers is also intended to encourage them to be more bold in the conquest of Canaan.
We read later: “Yehudah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea, in multitude” (I Kings 4:20), but we find the prophecy which was said long afterward: “The number of the sons of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted” (Hoshea 2:1). Thus it is evident that the original promise to Avraham (Bereishis 13:16), though fulfilled in the days of Moshe, included even more for some day in the future. This additional increase may perhaps be due to the prayer Moshe now said: “Hashem, the G-d of your fathers, should make you a thousand times so many more as you are, and bless you, as He has promised you” (1:11).
This hoped for increase in the numbers of the holy nation is one of the most desired wishes of Hashem and also of our great fathers. Nothing can equal the blessing of a huge multitude of the holy people. The Presence of Hashem increases in proportion to their numbers. Every ten Jews gain the Shechinah (Sanhedrin 39a), and a greater “Shechinah dwells upon 22,000 Jews” (Yevamos 64a); and when 600,000 assembled, Hashem came down upon Mt. Sinai.
All of the benefits that are enumerated (which Hashem had bestowed) were for the purpose of the great conclusion: “Fortunate are you Israel; who is like you” (33:29) – the very last words of Moshe.
“That Hashem your G-d carried you just as a man carries his son” (1:31): This is a most significant declaration. Israel, and Israel alone, is Hashem’s son, as He had declared, “My son, My firstborn is Israel” (Shemos 4:22); and “Send forth My son” (ibid. 4:23). All the severe castigations and the heavy chastisements were the strongest demonstrations of Hashem’s love: “And you should know with your heart that just as a man chastises his son, does Hashem your G-d chastise you” (8:5).
Though that generation, more than any other, was privileged to see and to be close to Hashem, the principle that Hashem bears Israel in His arms as His son continues to hold good for all their generations. This is an astonishing statement, which we ourselves would never have dared say; yet Hashem declares openly for the entire world to hear that the loyal and observant Jewish nation is held in His arms as a father holds his beloved child. This is repeatedly stated, as in Yeshaiah 49:15-16 and elsewhere.
This Tisha B’Av, be inspired by the thought-provoking words of Rabbi Avigdor Miller. Access free streaming lectures from your computer or smartphone at www.simchashachaim.com/tisha-bav.html or bit.ly/rabbimiller9av.