רְאֵה אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם בְּרָכָה וּקְלָלָה
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 ("רְאֵה" instead of "רְאוּ"), but then changes to a plural pronoun ("לִפְנֵיכֶם" instead of "לְפָנֶיךָ"). The verse may be understood in the light of what we wrote above (פרשת קדושים) in the name of our master about the verse (Leviticus 19:18): "And you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ). For he explained that all the good things and the blessings that the Eternal promised to Israel on earth if they would keep His statutes and observe His laws, and all the cruel punishments and every disease and every plague that He promised to bring upon them here below should they not listen to His voice and not walk in His ways - that He would give Jacob to destruction and Israel to despoilers - those rewards and punishments pertain to the entire nation and to people as a whole. But the Eternal does not repay any 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). And see פרשת קדוסדשים above. That is why the verse is written at first in singular "see" (רְאֵה) for that blessing and curse, which I place before you today (הַיּוֹם), while you are still alive, is for all of you as a collective (לִפְנֵיכֶם).
In this light we can also understand the Midrash Rabbah This bears out what Scripture says (Jeremiah 13:15): "Hear and give ear, be not proud, for the Lord has spoken" (שִׁמְעוּ וְהַאֲזִינוּ, אַל-תִּגְבָּהוּ: כִּי יְהוָה, דִּבֵּר). What is the meaning of "Hear and give ear, etc."? R. Tanhuma said: "Hearken to the words of the Torah and speak not haughtily, For the Lord has spoken [it]." And where did He speak it? [In the words], "Everyone who is arrogant is an abomination to the Lord (תּוֹעֲבַת ה' כָּל גְּבַהּ לֵב) (Proverbs 16:5).
For this verse is referring to the individual (Deuteronomy 29:17-18) "a root bearing gall and wormwood" (שֹׁרֶשׁ פֹּרֶה רֹאשׁ וְלַעֲנָה) who will "bless himself in his heart saying: 'I shall be safe though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart'" (וְהִתְבָּרֵךְ בִּלְבָבוֹ לֵאמֹר שָׁלוֹם יִהְיֶה לִּי כִּי בִּשְׁרִרוּת לִבִּי אֵלֵךְ). As our master explained so clearly in פרשת קדוסדשים, 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, and against him alone, and the entire curse will lie upon him.
Thus, the Midrash quoted above concerning the verse "Hear and give ear, be not proud" comes to teach 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 will escape punishment for his evil actions. However, "everyone who is arrogant is an abomination to the Lord." Thus, a completely self-centered person who says: "I and none but I" (אֲנִי וְאַפְסִי), and "the whole world was created only on my account" (וכל העולם לא נברא רק בגללי), who therefore does not care about the destruction and the hurt that will devolve upon the nation as a result of a multitude of sins, will kindle the anger of the Eternal against himself. ודו"ק
אַחֲרֵי ה"א תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֹתוֹ תִירָאוּ וְאֶת מִצְוֹתָיו תִּשְׁמֹרוּ וּבְקֹלוֹ תִשְׁמָעוּ
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 "and keep his commandments" (וְאֶת מִצְוֹתָיו תִּשְׁמֹרוּ) refer to "the Law of Moshe" (תורת משה). Now the text of the Sifri interprets the words "You shall walk after the Lord your G-d" (אַחֲרֵי ה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶם תֵּלֵכוּ) as a reference to the positive commandments and the words "and keep his commandments" as a reference to the negative commandments. But Rashi combined the two together by saying that the entire passage including "you shall walk after the Lord your G-d" is a reference to the Law of Moses.
However, we might also say that Rashi interprets "you shall walk after the Lord your G-d" 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 walk only after the Lord your G-d, and cling to Him and keep His commandments. Do not go after a prophet who would ever seek to uproot entirely any of the commandments of the Eternal. And the reason that the Scripture writes "you shall keep" (תִּשְׁמֹרוּ) is that the commandments other than idolatry are subject, under extraordinary circumstances, to special dispensation, but may not be uprooted or invalidated altogether. For "keeping" (שמירה) 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 "do for the Eternal and nullify His law" (עת לעשות לה' ויפירו אותה על פי נביא) at the instruction of a prophet, as the Scripture tells us immediately afterwards: "and hearken unto His voice" (וּבְקֹלוֹ תִשְׁמָעוּ).
לֹא תֹאכְלוּ כָל נְבֵלָה לַגֵּר אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ תִּתְּנֶנָּה וַאֲכָלָהּ אוֹ מָכֹר לְנָכְרִי
You shall not eat of any thing 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 (Hulin 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 Hulin. 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 (ועדים זוממין) were never (or only infrequently) performed in the desert and therefore were not explicitly recorded until here. But since the prohibition of נבילה was in effect and occurred routinely in the desert, it is amazing that it was not mentioned earlier. Moreover, the prohibition of טריפה is written in the book of ויקרא, and נבילה and טריפה are really aspects of a single prohibition, inasmuch as half an olive of נבילה and טריפה half an olive of טריפה may be combined to constitute the minimum amount required for punishment to be administered for consuming נבילה or טריפה. So if the prohibition of טריפה was written in the first four books, then why was the prohibition of נבילה not mentioned until the Mishneh Torah? And a further difficulty is that here concerning נבילה the Scripture writes "you may give it to the alien who is within your gates (שְׁעָרֶיךָ) that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner" which suggests that the prohibition of נבילה 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 נבילה 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 נבילה, 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 נבילה 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 נבילה that they were admonished in דברים and they were further commanded to give the new category of נבילה 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. (See the פתיחה to Dor Revi'i on Hulin, sections I-III, where this insight into the dispute between R. Ishmael and R. Akiva stemming from the prohibition of נבילה in this verse is elaborated at length and provides the foundation for understanding the entire tractate.)