Oroh V'Simchoh

Meshech Chochmoh
on the Weekly Parsha

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:SHOLOM613@ROGERS.COM


Ch. 33, v. 2: "V'zorach mi'Sei'ir lomo hofia mei'har Poron" - The Sifri #343 relates that before offering the Torah to the bnei Yisroel, Hashem offered it to many nations. Each nation asked what the Torah contained. Hashem responded by mentioning a specific mitzvoh in which that nation was sorely lacking. For example, when approaching the bnei Eisov Hashem mentioned the mitzvoh of "Lo sirtzoch" - thou shalt not commit murder. Seemingly Hashem was dissuading them by hitting their weak point. The Meshech Chochmoh explains that quite to the contrary, Hashem was giving the nations a very good reason to accept the Torah. The gemara Sanhedrin 59a says that the mitzvos that were incumbent upon all of mankind before the giving of the Torah, if when the Torah was given they were not repeated, they applied from that point and onwards only to the bnei Yisroel. The mitzvos that were repeated after the giving of the Torah apply to the bnei Yisroel and remain incumbent upon all the rest of mankind. Thus, for example, the bnei Eisov upon becoming aware that the Torah was being offered and it might possibly not contain the mitzvoh of "Lo sirtzoch" - thou shalt not commit murder, would have quite a compelling reason to not accept the Torah, as this would remove from them the sin of murder from the time of the giving of the Torah and onwards. Hashem therefore told them that the Torah contains among its mitzvos the prohibition against committing murder, and they would be bound to it in any case, so they might as well accept the Torah. It would seem that the Meshech Chochmoh's understanding of the Sifri is that Hashem truly wanted the nations of the world to accept the Torah and gave a sampling of specific mitzvos that would entice them to accept it. This seems contrary to the Yalkut Shimoni in parshas Chukas at the end of remez #764. Moshe was told by Hashem to take the bnei Yisroel through the lands of certain nations as they came close to the eastern border of Eretz Yisroel. Moshe first sent peace greetings to them and asked for permission to traverse their land. Hashem asked Moshe why he did this, since Hashem had not commanded him to do so. Moshe said that although he knew that the nations would not grant permission, he learned the strategy of approaching with peace first, from Hashem. He saw Hashem offer the Torah to the nations before offering it to the bnei Yisroel even though Hashem did this only as a peaceful gesture, knowing full well that the Torah was only appropriate for the bnei Yisroel. We see from the words of the Yalkut Shimoni that Hashem did not offer the Torah in a manner that would be most appealing for the nations, but rather just went through the motions of offering it.

Another question comes to mind on the explanation of the Meshech Chochmoh. If indeed the nations would remain bound in any case to the commandments to not commit murder, adultery, and theft, why indeed did they not accept the Torah? As a matter of fact it would have made matters more lenient for them. For example, for the bnei Yisroel who accepted the Torah, to be punished by the court for murder or adultery there is a prerequisite that the perpetrator must be warned just before committing the crime that he is about to commit a sin and be advised of the exact form of punishment meted out for it. As well, two witnesses are required to testify in court who go through a very rigorous interrogation, often being disqualified. This is not so for a ben Noach. It is sufficient to have only one witness, to have no warning, and even if there is an element of lack of intentionally doing the act, the perpetrator is culpable for the death penalty. There are other stringencies as well, but let this suffice.

I heard this question raised by MVRHRH"G R' Yaakov Kamenecki zt"l. He answered that the idea of accepting the mitzvos is not only to do the positive acts and to refrain from the prohibitions, but to train oneself to be a Torah personality. That "Lo sirtzoch" should not only mean "thou shalt not kill" but to so resonate in a person's total being to the point that it also means "thou shalt not be a killer," so that the idea of committing murder is totally foreign to one's nature. This level of change in their essence the nations of the world could not accept.

It seems that according to the words of the Rambam in Shmonoh Prokim #6 that was written about in length in Sedrah Selections parshas K'doshim 5759 that this concept only applies to mitzvos that a person would live by even if the Torah had not mentioned them, "mishpotim," but not regarding "mitzvos mashmios," as the Rambam describes statutes, "chukim."

According to the insight of MVRHRH"G R' Yaakov Kamenecki it is well understood why the bnei Yisroel were told to prepare for 49 days for the receiving of the Torah. Seemingly this should not have been required, as the Ten Commandments were basically precepts of basic human understanding. Did the pagan nations make major preparations before writing into their law books to not commit murder, adultery, testify falsely, etc.? However, once preparation for the Torah involves total character subordination to the precepts it is very well understood why much preparation was required.

33:4 "Torah tzivoh lonu Moshe" - The Rambam in his list of negative mitzvos lists as the first, second, fifth, and six mitzvos "Lo y'h'yeh, Lo saa'seh l'cho fessel, Lo sishtacha'veh, and V'lo so'ovdeim." The Ramban says that all of these are to be considered one mitzvoh. He proves this from the gemara Makos 23b-24a that derives from the words "Torah tzivoh lonu Moshe" (Dvorim 33:4) that Moshe taught the bnei Yisroel 611 mitzvos, the numeric value of the word TORAH, while the TWO mitzvos "Onochi" and "Lo y'h'yeh," the bnei Yisroel heard directly from Hashem, giving us a total of 613 mitzvos. If we count the negative commands that are found in the verse that begins with "Lo y'h'yeh" as separate mitzvos, we have a total of five mitzvos that we heard directly from Hashem. This leaves us with only 608 mitzvos that we heard from Moshe, totally contrary to the words of the gemara. The Ramban, in asking his question, assumes that along with "lo y'h'yeh" we must include the complete verse with the cantellations of "taam ho'elyone" as being heard directly from Hashem or this complete parsha until the next paragraph space. Indeed, the Megilas Esther, a commentator on the Sefer Hamitzvos l'hoRambam, answers the Ramban's difficulty by saying that only the first words of the verse "Lo y'h'yeh" were heard directly from Hashem, leaving us with only two mitzvos, "Onochi" and "Lo y'h'yeh."

However, the Meshech Chochmoh gives a most interesting answer based on the words of the Rambam himself, in Moreh N'vuchim 2:33. The Rambam writes that hearing "Onochi" and "Lo yi'h'yeh" does not mean that the bnei Yisroel actually heard the words of these two mitzvos articulated. Rather, they heard a most awesome celestial sound.

(Perhaps this is indicated in Dvorim 4:12, "Kole dvorim a'tem shomim," - You hear a voice of words, but not the words themselves. Another allusion to this might be in Dvorim 4:35, "Atoh horeiso lodaas," - You were SHOWN to know, but did not hear it, since the verse does not say "Atoh SHOMATO lodaas," "ki Hashem hu ho'Elokim," this is "Onochi," ein ode milvado, this is "Lo y'h'yeh.")

The sound emanating from heaven left the bnei Yisroel with the clear knowledge that "Onochi" and "Lo yi'h'yeh," - I am your G-d and there shall be no other besides me. This is what is meant by the gemara Makos. Since they did not grasp the other three mitzvos from this sound, only two were heard (understood), and Moshe taught them 611 mitzvos including the three following "Lo yi'h'yeh." Moshe, on the other hand, was able to discern the actual words conveyed with the sound and heard the articulated five mitzvos in the verse of "Onochi."

34:1 "Va'ya'eihu Hashem es kol ho'oretz" - Although Moshe sinned and did not merit to enter Eretz Yisroel, he was not included in the statement "v'chol m'naatzai lo yiruhoh," - and all who anger Me will not merit to SEE it(Bmidbar 14:23). To clearly differentiate between Moshe and the generation that accepted the words of the spies, Hashem showed Moshe the land. He at least merited to SEE it. (MESHECH CHOCHMOH)


See also Sedrah Selections, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to parsha@shemayisrael.com

Jerusalem, Israel