סדר ראה

ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה

Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse 

Deuteronomy 11:26

The verse begins with an imperative verb in the singular — “ראה” instead of “ראו” — but then changes to a plural pronoun — “לפניכם” instead of “לפניך”. The verse may be understood in the light of our master’s explanation above (סדר קדושים) of the verse (Leviticus 19:18): “ואהבת לרעך כמוך” (you shall love your neighbor as yourself): that all the benefits and the blessings that the Eternal promised to Israel on earth if they would keep His statutes and observe His laws, and all the punishments and diseases and plagues that He promised to bring upon them here below should they not listen to His voice and not walk in His ways, leading them to destruction and to despoliation, those rewards and punishments pertain to the entire nation, to the people as a whole. But the Eternal does not repay a single individual for his conduct here on earth, for individual reward and punishment do not exist in this world (שכר ועונש פרטי בהאי עלמא ליכא). That is why the verse at uses a singular form “ראה” for that blessing and curse, which is place before you today (היום), while you are still alive, is for all of you as a collective “לפניכם”.

In this light we can also understand the Midrash Rabbah:

“This bears on what Scripture says (Jeremiah 13:15): “שמעו והאזינו אל תגבהו כי יהוה דבר” (hear and give ear, be not proud, for the Lord has spoken). What does “hear and give ear” mean? R. Tanhuma said: “Hearken to the words of the Torah and speak not haughtily, for the Lord has spoken [it].” Where did He speak it? [In the words], “תועבת ה’ כל גבה לב” (everyone who is arrogant is an abomination to the Lord) (Proverbs 16:5).

This verse is referring to the individual (Deuteronomy 29:17-18) “ שרש פרה ראש ולענה” (a root bearing gall and wormwood) who will bless himself in his heart saying: ‘I shall be safe though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart'” (והתברך בלבבו לאמר שלום יהיה לי כי בשררות לבי אלך). As our master explained in  סדר קדושים, an individual who hears that he will not be rewarded for his good deeds in this world may say to himself: What will I lose if I walk in the stubbornness of my heart, for no evil will befall me? But then the anger of the Eternal will be kindled against that man alone, and the entire curse will lie upon him.

The Midrash quoted above concerning the verse “Hear and give ear, be not proud” teaches us that one should not think arrogantly that, because collective punishment is not administered to a single individual inasmuch as only misconduct by the whole nation is subject to Divine retribution in this world, he would escape punishment for his evil actions. However, “תועבת ה’ כל גבה לב” (every arrogant person is an abomination to the Eternal). Thus, a completely self-centered person who says: “אני ואפסי” (I and none but I), and “וכל העולם לא נברא רק בגללי” (the whole world was created only on my account), who is therefore indifferent about the destruction and the hurt that devolves upon the nation because of its multitude of sins, will kindle the anger of the Eternal against himself.  (שביבי אש )

אחרי ה”א תלכו ואתו תיראו ואת מצותיו תשמרו ובקלו תשמעו

You shall walk after the Lord your G-d, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice 

Deuteronomy 13:5

Rashi comments, based on the Sifri, that the words “ואת מצותיו תשמרו” (and keep his commandments) refer to “תורת משה” (the Law of Moses). The Sifri identifies the words “אחרי ה’ אלקיכם תלכו” (You shall follow your Eternal God) as a reference to the positive commandments and the words “ואת מצותיו תשמרו” (and keep his commandments) as a reference to the negative commandments. But Rashi combined the two by saying that the entire passage including “אחרי ה’ אלקיכם תלכו” (you shall follow your Eternal God” refers to the Law of Moses.

However, we could also say that Rashi interprets “you shall follow the your Eternal God” as a reference to the prohibition against idol-worship, even if doing so has been granted special dispensation (הוראת שעה) by the authority of a prophet concerning whom the Scripture speaks above. Even if the prophet from among your brethren has been confirmed, do not hearken unto him to follow false gods, even if (as explained in the Gemara) an exceptional circumstance has occasioned the temporary dispensation. At all times, you may follow only your Eternal God, clinging to Him and keeping His commandments. Do not follow a prophet who would ever seek to uproot entirely any of the commandments of the Eternal. And the reason that the Scripture writes “תשמרו” (you shall keep) is that the commandments other than idolatry are subject, under extraordinary circumstances, to special dispensation, but may not be uprooted or invalidated altogether. For  “תשמרו”  means that the commandment should at least be maintained as a remembrance for the generations, even if we depart from one of them temporarily at an extraordinary time “” when we must “take action for the Eternal and nullify His law” (עת לעשות לה’ הפירו תורתך) – but only at the instruction of a prophet, as the Scripture tells us immediately afterwards: “ובקלו תשמעו (and hearken unto His voice). (שביבי אש )

לא תאכלו כל נבלה לגר אשר בשעריךָ תתננה ואכלה או מכר לנכרי

You shall not eat of anything that dies of itself; you shall give it to the stranger that is in your gates, that he may eat it; or you may sell it to a foreigner 

Deuteronomy 14:21

In the Talmud (Hullin 16b-17a) there is a dispute between R. Yishmael and R. Akiva. The opinion of R. Yishmael is that in the desert the Israelites were forbidden to eat the meat of an animal not brought as a sacrifice (בשר תאוה), and the opinion of R. Akiva is that even the meat of an animal slaughtered through stabbing (נחירה) not just through shehitah was permissible. The halakha accords with the opinion of R. Akiva. But both agreed that the meat of an animal that was not slaughtered (either through שחיטה or נחירה) was forbidden in the desert, because even נחירה required that the windpipe and the gullet be severed as the Tosafot write in many places in Hullin. So the question arises why the Scripture did not record a commandment not to eat נבילה until here in the Mishneh Torah (דברים) with no prior mention at all in the first four books? And although there are several other commandments that are mentioned only in the Mishneh Torah, the Ramban writes at the beginning of דברים, that perhaps because these commandments, like leverite marriage (יבום), divorce, slander (ומוציא שם רע), and conspiring witnesses (עדים זוממין) were never (or only infrequently) performed in the desert and therefore were not explicitly recorded until here. But since the prohibition of נבלה was in effect and occurred routinely in the desert, it is amazing that it was not mentioned earlier. Moreover, the prohibition of טרפה is written in the book of ויקרא, and נבלה and טרפה are really aspects of a single prohibition, inasmuch as half an olive of נבלה and half an olive of טרפה may be combined to constitute the minimum amount required for punishment to be administered for consuming נבלה or טרפה. So if the prohibition of טרפה was written in the first four books, then why was the prohibition of נבלה not mentioned until the Mishneh Torah? A further difficulty is that here concerning נבלה the Scripture writes “you may give it to the alien who is within your gates (שעריך) that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner” which suggests that the prohibition of נבלה became effective only after they entered the land of Israel since they had no gates (שערים) and no resident aliens (גר תושב) in the desert.

Our master explains that this verse is therefore a clear and valid proof to the second opinion in Rashi (Hulin 92b) that an animal that died of natural causes is forbidden even to the Noahides. That is why נבלה was not prohibited in the desert, because it really was not a frequent occurrence, inasmuch as the meat of an animal slaughtered through נחירה was permissible and was not considered נבלה, while an animal that died of natural causes was prohibited even to the Noahides, so there was no need for such meat to be specifically prohibited. However, upon their entry into the Land of Israel, they were commanded to slaughter only through שחיטה (subject to the five further הלכות למשה מסיני governing שחיטה). At that point, an entirely new category of נבלה came into existence, namely the meat of an animal slaughtered through נחירה or through a defective שחיטה (i.e., in violation of any of the five הלכות למשה מסיני). Thus, it was concerning this new type of נבלה that they were admonished in Deuteronomy and they were further commanded to give the new category of נבלה to the resident alien within their towns or to sell to a foreigner. But any animal that had died of natural causes was prohibited even to a Noahide and could not have been given or sold to a resident alien or to a foreigner. (שביבי אש )

(See the petihah to Dor Revi’i on Hullin, iqarim 1-3, where this insight into the dispute between R. Ishmael and R. Akiva stemming from the prohibition of נבלה in this verse is elaborated at length providing the foundations for understanding the entire tractate and the laws of שחיטה, נבלה and טרפה.)

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