The passuk tells us that Moshe spoke to the entire Bnei Yisrael בעבר הירדן במדבר…, across the Yarden in the desert. Rashi is bothered, didn’t Moshe speak to them in Arvos Moav across the Yarden, as it states at the end of Sefer Bamidbar? Rashi explains that Moshe did not speak to Bnei Yisrael in the desert, rather he spoke them about that which they complained in the desert.
Onkelos translates the word במדבר as “he rebuked them for that which they sinned in the desert.” The Nefesh HaGer explains that Onkelos also understands that Moshe rebuked them in Arvos Moav about that which Bnei Yisrael transgressed in the desert. The passuk states במדבר in the desert as an introduction and generalization of all the different challenges that occurred while in the desert. The passuk continues to list the different wrong-doings which we did in the desert, about which Moshe gave tochacha. Onkelos translates בערבה מול סוף as that which they angered Hashem in the plains opposite Yam Suf; בין פארן ובין תופל ולבן as Paran where they complained about the mon; וחצרות as Chatzeiros where they angered about meat; ודי זהב as that which they worshiped the eigel. The passuk states each of the places where Bnei Yisrael sinned or complained and which Moshe rebuked them for.
The Nefesh HaGer asks: in Parshas Beha’aloscha it states that Bnei Yisrael complained about meat in Kivros HaTa’avah and from there they traveled to Chatzeiros. If so why does Onkelos translate וחצרות “and in Chatzeiros they angered about meat,” since they did not complain in Chatzeiros about meat?
The Nesina LaGer answers that the place called Kivros HaTa’avah was originally called Chatzeiros, and afterwards got changed to Kivros HaTa’avah. The Torah calls the place Chatzeiros and not the new name.
The Nefesh HaGer answers that the place was called Kivros HaTa’avah “the burial of those who desired,” as it states כי שם קברו את העם המתאוים since they buried there the nation which requested meat. Moshe did not want to mention the name of the place in his rebuke because it reflected their sin and their punishment which would be a tremendous disgrace. Moshe covered up their sin and punishment for the honor of Yisrael. The other names of the places, such as Yam Suf and Paran do not reflect any sin or punishment, rather we acted improperly in each place. The Torah states Chatzeiros instead of Kivros HaTa’avah since this was the next place where Yisrael camped in their travels.
Rashi explains that Moshe did not mention the sins or complaints straight out, rather he hinted to them because of the honor of Yisrael. HaRav Chaim Shmulevitz zatzal adds that Moshe had just a few days left to live and he came to fulfill the mitzvah of הוכח תוכיח, for the well-known sins which they transgressed. Also he came to rebuke them for sins which they were not yet forgiven, such as the sin of the eigel, which they still needed to be punished for in order to be atoned. Yet, Moshe was careful not to embarrass Yisrael when he rebuked them and only hinted to their wrong doings. We see the great importance of the honor of a person, and how not to belittle one in any way.
Let us learn from Moshe Rabbeinu to be careful about another’s honor, and increase ahavas chinam, and may Hashem rebuild the Beis HaMikdash quickly in our days!