“And if you do not listen to Me, and do not do all of these commandments, and if My statutes disgust you, and if My laws repulse your souls, so that you do not do all of My commandments, [thereby] undoing My covenant” (Vayikra 26:14-15). “And I will set My [angry] face upon you” (26:17). The consequences for not following G-d’s commandments are severe, described at length, and in painful detail, here (26:14-44) and in D’varim (28:15-68). Ramban (Vayikra 26:16 and D’varim 28:42) says that the first “tochacha” (rebuke) refers to the destruction of the First Temple and its aftermath, while the second refers to the destruction of the Second Temple and its aftermath. Others (see Kli Chemda, Ki Savo 3:5 and Nitzavim 3) have it the opposite way, with the “tochacha” in Vayikra referring to what happened when the Second Temple was destroyed and the “tochacha” in D’varim referring to the destruction of the First Temple. Each opinion breaks down the verses of both “tochachos” to show how they refer to either one of the Temple’s destructions or the other.
Aside from the need to explain how each verse used as “proof” for one or the other can be explained by the other opinion, there is another issue that I’d like to address. How can the Torah lay out two separate “tochachos,” each different enough that they could be said to refer to different eras? It’s one thing to warn us about what will happen if we stray from the covenant, but laying it out twice, with different consequences based on specific circumstances, is not as simple. A “tochacha” designed for what will happen after we have already broken the covenant once, re-established it, and then broke it a second time, with punishments precise enough to match the nature of the original break, the reconciliation that followed, and the specific sins that led to another break in the covenant, make it seem as if it is a fait accompli. Were there no other possibilities in the way we broke the covenant either time, or how we reconciled with G-d in between, that one of these sets of punishments would have to fit the second breakage? What about free will, not just regarding whether the covenant will be broken, but how it was broken?
Previously (https://rabbidmk.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/parashas-bereishis-5774/) I discussed the nature of a covenant, specifically the covenant between us and G-d (and how it parallels the covenant protocol of the Ancient Near East.) In short, a covenant consists of three parts; the background that led the parties to make the covenant, the actual agreement between the parties (what each is obligated to do), and the consequences of breaking the covenant. Obviously, the “tochacha” makes up the third part, the consequences (see Vayikra 26:25 and D’varim 28:69). And keeping the commandments are our obligation (with G-d’s obligation being to take care of us, to “be our G-d,” and to consider us His “treasured nation”). What about the first part, the historical overview that explains why we are obligating ourselves to keep the mitzvos (etc.)? Rashi (Sh’mos 24:4 and 24:7) tells us that the “Book of the Covenant” that Moshe wrote down, and read to the nation, before they were asked whether they want to enter a covenant with G-d, consisted of the Torah “from B’reishis through the giving of the Torah, plus the mitzvos commanded at Marah.” This was the background against which the covenant was being enacted; G-d being the Creator of the world, the world’s history prior to His choosing the Patriarchs as the foundation for the nation that would carry out His mission, the relationship between G-d and the Patriarchs and their descendants and what happened to them, including the nation’s slavery in Egypt and His miraculously taking them out, and the commandments that were already in place. [Interestingly, another opinion regarding what the “Book of the Covenant” refers to (see Chizkuni on Sh’mos 24:7 and M’chilta Yisro 3) is the “tochacha” itself. Both were part of the covenant protocol; the only question is which part of the protocol constituted the “Book of the Covenant.”]
When the covenant was restated on the Plains of Moav, these three elements were there as well, with Moshe repeating many of the laws that were part of our obligation (see Rashi on Vayikra 19:2) as well as concluding the process with another “tochacha.” Although the historical overview that Moshe gave at the beginning of Sefer D’varim could very well qualify as the first part of the covenant protocol, I would suggest that when Moshe gave this overview, including referring to the covenant enacted at Sinai (see D’varim 4:13, 4:23 and 5:2-3) he was adding the rest of Sefer Sh’mos, as well as Sefer Vayikra and Sefer Bamidbar, to the “historical background” of the covenant being enacted. True, the covenant was essentially the same as the one made at Sinai (with the addition of “arvus,” each member of the nation being responsible for the spiritual well-being of every other member of the nation — see Sanhedrin 43b), but just as for the first enactment of the covenant the Torah up until that point was the focal point of the historic overview of what led to the covenant, for the restatement of the covenant on the Plains of Moav, the entire Torah, including what had transpired since Sinai, was the historic overview of what led to the reiteration of the covenant.
With the entire Torah being the historic overview of what led to the covenant at the Plains of Moav, the covenant that had been enacted at Sinai (which was still in full effect, including the consequences for not keeping it) was part of that overview. Had the nation gone into the Promised Land shortly after leaving Sinai (which was the plan until the sin of the spies), the only consequences for violating the covenant would have been those given in Vayikra. [This included the concept of “arvus,” see Vayikra 26:37 and Sh’vuos 39a.] However, it would be decades until the nation would actually enter the Promised Land, and a lot happened in between, not the least of which was that it was the next generation that entered the Promised Land. These changes not only necessitated a reiteration of the covenant, but also a new set of consequences for not keeping it. The original set of consequences were still valid, and would apply in situations where breaking the covenant more closely mimicked the covenant being broken had the nation entered the Promised Land right away (and were therefore included in the “overview” not just because it was part of the history that led to the covenant being reiterated, but because they could still happen). Nevertheless, additional consequences were now possible as well, and were therefore stated as the consequences for not being faithful to the covenant being enacted on the Plains of Moav.
Whether the destruction of the First Temple (or Second Temple) more closely resembled the consequences described at the covenant at Sinai or those described at the covenant on the Plains of Moav (or there were aspects of each in both of them), the need for a second “tochacha” was not necessarily because two Temples would be destroyed, with one “tochacha” for each destruction, but because the reiteration of the covenant on the Plains of Moav needed its own set of consequences. And because things were not the same as they had been before the turmoil in the desert occurred, the consequences were not exactly the same as when the covenant was enacted at Sinai. That they were the consequences of the Sinai covenant were part of our history, and therefore included in the covenant made on the Plains of Moav. And unfortunately, they became part of our real history when they became actual consequences as a punishment for our sins. But two separate “tochachos” became necessary because there were two separate covenant ceremonies, each requiring a full covenant protocol, not because there were two separate destructions.
It is appropriate that we read the “tochacha” from Vayikra shortly before the holiday at Shavuos, since it is “z’man matan Toraseinu,” the time (of the year) that the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai, and this “tochacha” consists of the consequences of breaking the covenant made at Sinai. It is also appropriate that we read the “tochacha” in D’varim shortly before Rosh Hashana, when we are judged regarding how the forthcoming year will be, as these consequences were not part of an historical overview of what led to a reiteration of our covenant with G-d, but what would happen to us if we break the covenant.