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In this week's parsha, Moshe says to Bnei Yisrael (Devarim 29:15):

כִּי אַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם אֵת אֲשֶׁר יָשַׁבְנוּ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר עָבַרְנוּ בְּקֶרֶב הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר עֲבַרְתֶּם

For you know how we dwelled in the land of Egypt, and how we passed among the nations through which you passed.

Why not keep it consistent? Say instead "how we passed through the nations through which we passed," or say "how you passed through the nations through which you passed."

Especially since the whole parsha up until that point, and until the next chapter, are all in the second person "you," why change that in this passuk at all to include the first person "we"?

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The Meshech Chochmah on this posuk explains that Moshe was reproving Yisrael here by saying that we all passed through the various nations, but only you sinned.

We, the righteous who did not sin in any of the places that we passed through, passed through like an express train passes through the various stations on the way to its destination but does not stop at any of them (my analogy), but you passed through like a regular train, stopping at each place and sinning with the people there, with Edom, Ammon, Moav and Midian - as the Ibn Ezra writes on this posuk.

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Rabbi Sorotzkin, in Oznayin Latorah, connects it to the next pasuk 29:16 about seeing the avoda zarah of the nations.

16 And you saw their abominations and their repugnant idols [of] wood and stone, silver and gold which were with them.

Moshe Rabbeinu, the aron and the Shechinah were in the camp ("we passed"). The Bnei Yisrael went out of the camp ("you passed") to see the nations (tourism) and to purchase items from the natives (merchandise).

The avoda zarah could not enter the camp. Thus only those who left the camp to deal with the nations they were passing ("you passed") through saw the avoda zarah and were exposed to the alien philosophies -- those who stayed inside ("we passed") were not exposed.

  • Note that the next passuk says "ותראו את שקוציהם" -- in second person....great answer. – Shokhet Sep 22 '14 at 18:56
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I asked a friend what he thought, an he pointed me to a Chizkuni (ad loc) who dealt with a different question -- why should Moshe say "את אשר ישבנו בארץ מצרים," no one who lived in Egypt was there on that day!
His answer: "ישבנו" refers to those יוצאי מצרים who were under 20 and over 60 at the time of the Exodus, for whom the גזירה of dying in the מדבר did not apply. (And, I would add, יהושע and כלב, who also were in Egypt and also went into ארץ ישראל)

My friend suggested that this might be extended to the use of "עברנו" as well -- "את אשר עברנו" refers to those lands that these יוצאי מצרים saw, that the new generation (the ones who entered ארץ ישראל) did not.

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