Additional דברי תורה of the דור רביעי
Assembled and translated by David Glasner

(Adapted from the essay Zionism in the Light of Faith of the Dor Revi'i )

בְּזֵעַת אַפֶּיךָ תֹּאכַל לֶחֶם

From the sweat of your face you shall eat bread. (Genesis 3:19)

Our Sages warned against study of the Torah exclusively and exalted the importance of work, as we have been taught in Pirqei Avot (2:2):

Rabban Gamliel the son of R. Judah the Patriarch said: "Excellent is the study of Torah together with a worldly occupation, for the energy taken up by both of them keeps sin out of one's mind. And as for all the study of Torah where there is no worldly occupation the end thereof is that it comes to naught and brings sin in its train."

Moreover, we learn in Qidushin 29a that one who does not teach his son a craft is like one who teaches him brigandage, and our Sages taught us (Berakhot 8a) as well that a man who lives from the labor of his hands is greater than one who fears heaven.

The various commentators endeavor to interpret the explicit and clear saying of the Talmud in Berakhot differently from its plain meaning. But their efforts were unnecessary, for the fear of heaven associated with an easy life is very far from being powerful enough to enable one to resist the evil inclination and sin. Nor does it preclude evil character traits. On the other hand, the expenditure of energy required by hard work distracts a person from his weakness and from his evil inclination and confers upon the worker a noble spirit, so that jealously and hatred, suspicion and oppression are hardly known to him.

This lesson may also be learned from the sin and fall of Adam. At the commandment of the Almighty, blessed be He, Adam was prohibited, on pain of death, from deriving any benefit from the Tree of Knowledge. Adam, of course, was one who feared Heaven, but in the Garden of Eden he was idle. He was therefore unable to withstand the test, and ate from the fruit of the tree from which he was commanded not to eat. After sinning, in response to G-d's query, Adam said (Genesis 3:12): "The woman whom You gave to be with me. She gave me from the fruit of the tree. And I ate." (הָאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה עִמָּדִי הִוא נָתְנָה-לִּי מִן הָעֵץ וָאֹכֵל) The Midrash exlaborates on his answer as follows:

It was the woman that You gave to be with me that brought me to do this - that I ate from the tree. And I am not at all sure that I will not eat again.

When the Holy One Blessed Be He saw that the fear of heaven, which, was surely one of Adam's attributes, could not save him from sin, He provided Adam with another means by which to avoid sin: hard work. For G-d said to him (Genesis 3:19): "from the sweat of your face you shall eat bread."

The saying of our Sages that one who lives from the labor of his own hands is greater than one who fears Heaven is therefore fully correct, for one who works is better protected from sin than one who fears heaven but is idle.

(Adapted from the Introduction to the Dor Revi'i )

אֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת נֹחַ נֹחַ אִישׁ צַדִּיק תָּמִים הָיָה בְּדֹרֹתָיו

These are the generations of Noah; Noah was a perfectly just man (Genesis 6:8-9)

In my youth my father, my teacher, my master, the gaon (R. Abraham Glasner 1826-78) often told me not be proud of my success in my studies. He used to say: "Know that it was your forefathers who conquered the path before you. They labored and toiled for your sake, and the Torah always returns to its lodging place." In this way he explained the following Midrash:

"The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon" (צַדִּיק כַּתָּמָר פְרָח כְּאֶרֶז בַּלְּבָנוֹן יִשְׂגֶּה) (Psalms 92:13). These are the children of Levi. "They are planted in the house of the Eternal" (שְׁתוּלִים, בְּבֵית יְהוָה) (Id. 14). These are children studying with their teachers. "They flourish in the courts of our G-d" (בְּחַצְרוֹת אֱלֹהֵינוּ יַפְרִיחוּ). (Id. 14). For they stand and serve in the courtyard of the Holy Temple.

This Midrash tells us that the children of Levi, who are sanctified in the womb before their birth, easily rise to ever higher levels without great effort or toil, and, even at a young age, achieve greatness. But this is not so for one who is not a Levite. A non-Levite will not be successful without many years of toil, nor achieve greatness until old age. This is what is meant by "a righteous person will flourish like a palm tree." It refers to someone who begins to advance at a young age and quickly develops into a cedar of Lebanon (i.e., a Torah scholar), so that even in his youth his name becomes great. But only for the children of Levi is this so, because, from conception, they are destined for Torah scholarship, for they alone are "planted in the house of the Eternal," and are devoted, even as young children, to studying with their teachers. Although they begin by studying in the house of their teachers, the Levites are soon in the courts of our G-d, flourishing in the performance of the Divine service in the Holy Temple. They stand at the head of the people, and from their mouths Torah is sought, which is why they cause others to flourish (יפריחו).

So it was with Noah and Avraham. For Noah, who was a descendant of righteous and upright ancestors, Lemekh and Metushelakh, was called a righteous man from the beginning of his life, indeed a perfectly righteous man (וצדיק תמים). And it is written, "Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." It was as if by chance that Noah found favor, for he achieved righteousness with little effort or exertion. However, Avraham, as the son of Terah, was required to undergo ten tests before the Blessed One could call him G-d-fearing.

How sweetly may the words of the Midrash at the end of porashat Noah be explained in this manner:

R. Simon said the Holy One Blessed Be He found three bargains (מְצִיאוֹת) in the world: Abraham, David, and Israel. Abraham, as it is written (Nehemiah 9:8): "and Thou didst find his heart faithful before Thee" (וּמָצָאתָ אֶת-לְבָבוֹ נֶאֱמָן לְפָנֶיךָ). David, as it is written (Psalms 89:21): "I have found David, my servant" (מָצָאתִי דָּוִד עַבְדִּי). Israel, as it is written (Hosea 9:10): "Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel" (כַּעֲנָבִים בַּמִּדְבָּר מָצָאתִי יִשְׂרָאֵל). The other scholars asked R. Simon: "Is it not written (Genesis 6:8): 'And Noah found favor in the eyes of the Eternal'? He replied to them: "He found, but the Holy Blessed Be He did not find.

The meaning is clear. In Avraham, the Holy One Blessed Be He found an unexpected bargain, for in the Midrash the Sages say about him: "Who was the one who was defiled and became pure? Abraham who came from Terah." Similarly, who could have imagined that David, who had a ruddy complexion, was derided as the son of a maidservant, and a descendant of a Moabitess who had been allowed to marry into the nation only by virtue of a special halakhic inference from the Scripture [ממואב ולא מואבית], would became the singer of songs for Israel or the sovereign of Israel? So David, too, was a bargain for the Holy One Blessed Be He. And similarly Israel left Egypt into the desert as if it were a foreign nation (am lo'eiz), but soon (Psalms 114:2) "Judah became His sanctuary and Israel His dominion" (הָיְתָה יְהוּדָה לְקָדְשׁוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל מַמְשְׁלוֹתָיו). The Sages in the Midrash, therefore, make the following comment on the verse (Exodus 13:17): "When Pharaoh let the people go" ( וַיְהִי בְּשַׁלַּח פַּרְעֹה אֶת הָעָם).

Who was it that cried "ווי"? [The Sages understand the verb "ויהי to be an expression of lament based on the first two letters which are pronounced "vai" or "woe."] It was Pharaoh who cried "ווי" upon seeing the people of Israel marching in formation, traveling triumphantly to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

The Midrash compares the reaction of Pharaoh to that of the owner of a field in which there was a heap of debris which he therefore sold cheaply. The buyer cleared the heap, used it for planting, and eventually grew three myrtle trees. It was thus that the Holy One Blessed Be He found a bargain in Israel.

The question why Noah, about whom it is written that he found favor in G-d's eyes, was not also a bargain for the Almighty is now easily answered. For Noah did, indeed, find a bargain, since, owing to his distinguished lineage, he found favor, with no great effort of his own, in the eyes of G-d. However, the Holy One Blessed Be He found no bargain in Noah, for Noah, owing to the efforts of his forefathers on his behalf, had already been destined from conception to be a righteous and faithful person.

(Adapted from the Dor Revvi'i חולין דף צא ע"ב )

וַיֵּצֵא יַעֲקֹב מִבְּאֵר שָׁבַע וַיֵּלֶךְ חָרָנָה. וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם וַיָּלֶן שָׁם כִּיבָא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ . . . וְהָיָה יְהוָה לִי, לֵאלֹהִים.

And Jacob went out of Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night because the sun had set. . . . Then the Lord shall be my G-d (Genesis 28:10-21)

The Gemara explains the passage "and Jacob went out of Beer-sheva, and went towards Haran. And he came to a certain place" (וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם) as follows:

When he reached Haran he said [to himself], "Shall I have passed through the place where my fathers prayed [i.e. Mount Moriah] and not have prayed too?" He immediately resolved to return, but no sooner had he thought of this (מיד יהיב דעתו למיהדר) than the earth contracted and he immediately lighted upon the place [Mount Moriah]. After he prayed he wished to return (באי למיהדר), but the Holy One, blessed be He said: "This righteous man has come to my habitation; shall he depart without a night's rest?" Thereupon the sun set.

My father, my teacher, my master, the gaon of blessed memory (R. Avraham Glasner, 1826-78) explained that Jacob, who had been ensconced for fourteen years in the academy of Sheim and Eiver, longed to study the Torah so passionately that he despised every worldly activity and complied only grudgingly with the instruction of his parents that he travel to Laban's house to marry because to do so would require him to become involved in mundane activities. So the Gemara tells us that after arriving in Haran, having passed by, without pause, the Divine mountain, the place dedicated to prayer by Abraham and Isaac, Jacob said: "Would it have been possible when I was immersed in the study of Torah in the academy of Sheim and Eiver that I should have passed by such a holy place without feeling its holiness?" Just because he had just passed by Mount Moriah without feeling its holiness, Jacob concluded that his decision to go to Laban's house and to become occupied with mundane matters was not correct, for that decision had already shown its effect: to profane him and to separate him from his attachment to what is holy. He therefore decided to return to the academy of Sheim and Eiver, because only there could he be "a plain man, abiding in tents" (איש תם יושב אוהלים). For what would he accomplish by engaging in worldly pursuits that only detract from his holiness? It was just at that moment that Jacob was miraculously transported back to Mount Moriah and he prayed. When he finished praying, he wanted to return (באי למיהדר) - return to the academy of Sheim and Eiver! But he immediately fell asleep there, because the sun had set (וילן שם כי בא השמש), and the Holy One Blessed Be He then showed Jacob that his decision to return to the academy was not correct. For to separate oneself entirely from the matters of this world and to be involved only in reflection is not the function of man in this world. To be involved in reflection only is the calling of an angel that has no evil inclination. But a human being perfects himself by living in a community and rejoicing, as the Torah permits, in the temporal life. This is how one can fulfill the commandment "to know Him in all your ways" (בכל דרכיך דעהו), uniting thereby body and soul.

It was this message that was conveyed by the dream: "and behold a ladder set up on earth" (והנה סלם מצב ארצה). The ladder symbolizes man in this world, the world of action, because, at each moment, he is either ascending or descending, going either to a higher level or a lower level. And although the primary place and situation of man is on the ground "מצב ארצה", his head may still reach the heavens (וראשו מגיע השמימה), for one is required to use this world as a preparation for the next one, as we are told "prepare yourself in the vestibule so that you may enter the banquet hall" (Avot 4:21). The phrase "and behold angels of G-d going up and down on it" (והנה מלאכי אלקים עלים וירדים בו) means that even though angels at first stand on a higher level than man, they may be surpassed by a complete person who fulfills his obligation to know G-d in all His ways. As the Gemara here (Hulin 91b) explains, Israel is dearer to the Holy One Blessed Be He than the ministering angels.

And should you say that this test is too difficult, for who can survive a battle with the evil inclination if he does not enclose himself within the four cubits of the law, that is why Jacob was shown that "the Eternal stood above him" (ה' נצב עליו) - to watch over him. When Jacob awoke he said, "how fearful is this place" (מה נורא המקום הזה) by which he meant that this path that he was directed to follow - to join the two opposites in order to unify and perfect himself - is awesome and perilous. And he continued, "this is none other than the house of G-d" (אין זה כי אם בית אלקים), which means that his ultimate goal must be to unify my heart to my Heavenly Father, "and this is the gate to Heaven" (וזה שער השמים), which means that the way to achieve this goal is to follow the path on which I have started to Haran - to marry a wife and to tend the sheep of Laban. The path is awesome and perilous, for who knows if I will be worthy of achieving my goal. It was for this reason that Jacob made his vow, which at first glance seems calculated and lacking in trust in the Almighty: "If G-d will be with me, and will guard me on this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace and the Eternal shall be my G-d, then this stone which I have put for a pillar shall be G-d's house: and all that Thou givest me I will surely give the tenth to Thee."

וַיִּקַּח מֵאַבְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם . . . וַיִּקַּח אֶת-הָאֶבֶן אֲשֶׁרשָׂם מְרַאֲשֹׁתָיו

and he took of the stones of that place . . . and he took the stone which he had put under his head (Genesis 28: 11,18)

The Tosafot write (Hulin 91b) that the simple meaning of the verse is not that Jacob took many stones which were miraculously combined into a single stone, but that he took one stone from the stones of the place. However, if that were the proper interpretation, it would be difficult to understand why Hazal deduced from the verse that all the stones gathered into one place, and each one said "let this righteous one lay his head upon me." The most reasonable interpretation would have been that he took that particular stone that he had taken earlier, not that there had been a miraculous combining of many stones. But it appears to me that Hazal did not deduce that a miracle had occurred because they saw any contradiction between the first verse that refers to "stones" and the later verse that refers to "the stone." Rather, they were troubled that since there had been many stones available, since it is written "he took from the stones of the place" (ויקח מאבני המקום), why did Jacob specifically take that stone upon which he had laid his head, a stone that had been put to a mundane use. It would have been more appropriate to have taken a stone that had never been used by anyone, which would be greater homage to Heaven. They therefore deduced that the stones of the place gathered together and were miraculously transformed into a single stone, so that no others were left. And the proof that this is so is that if the basis for the deduction were, as is usually supposed, a contradiction between the two verses, why was it said that all the stones of the place gathered together? Was it not Jacob who took some stones and arranged them as a kind of border around his head, as Rashi comments on the verse in the Torah. If so, it was only those stones that had been selected already by Jacob that were arguing. So it must be as we have explained it that all the stones of the place were arguing and were transformed into a single stone. And according to the Kabbalists who say that these stones were from the altar upon which Isaac had been bound by Abraham, all the stones desired that Jacob should lay his head upon them. And one could say that Jacob was inspired to use that stone as a pillar owing to his modesty, because he did not believe himself to be sufficiently holy for the stones to have been arguing for his sake and that a miracle was then performed to transform then into a single stone. He instead attributed the argument and the miracle to the desire of the stones to be part of the pillar that they anticipated that he was going to set up.

And with this Aggadah I would explain in a pleasant way Jacob's words "and this stone which I set up as a pillar shall be G-d's house." See the commentaries of Rashi and the Ramban. According to what has been said previously, one could say that a pillar was prohibited when the Torah was given, as it is written, "thou shalt not set up for thyself a pillar" (לא תקום לך מצבה). But the Sages said that although a pillar was beloved in the time of the Patriarchs it was despised later, because the idolaters prescribed it as the procedure for offering sacrifices. But this is very difficult, because the idolaters built so many altars, as it is written "ye shall uproot their altars" (אֶת-מִזְבְּחֹתָם תִּתֹּצוּן), (Exodus 34: 13) and we see that Bilam built many altars, and the entire procedure of offering a sacrifice was followed in idolatry, as it is written "so that they should not sacrifice further to the satyrs" (למען לא יזבחו עוד לשעירים), and it is also written "and they will eat the sacrifices of the dead and drink the wine of their libations." So there was no difference between our method of sacrifice and theirs except that they were sacrificing to demons and not to the Deity, while we were sacrificing to Heaven to the blessed Ein Sof, and with the intent that was prescribed by the Torah. If so, what was the difference between a pillar and any other altar? But the difference, as Rashi explains, between a pillar and an altar is that a pillar is a single stone and an altar is made up of many stones, so that, according to the explanation that all the stones were combined into one, the pillar that Jacob set up really had the status of an altar, not a pillar, because it was made up of many stones. Jacob therefore said, "this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be fitting to be the House of G-d even after the Torah is given." And in truth, a pillar was always despised by G-d, because of some hidden reason, but Jacob's pillar was different because it was like an altar.

(Adapted from the Dor Revvi'i חולין דף קלט ע"ב )

כִּי יִקָּרֵא קַן צִפּוֹר לְפָנֶיךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּכָלעֵץ אוֹ עַל הָאָרֶץ אֶפְרֹחִים אוֹ בֵיצִים וְהָאֵם רֹבֶצֶת עַל הָאֶפְרֹחִים אוֹ עַל הַבֵּיצִים לֹא תִקַּח הָאֵם עַל הַבָּנִים שַׁלֵּחַ תְּשַׁלַּח אֶת הָאֵם וְאֶת הַבָּנִים תִּקַּח לָךְ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לָךְ וְהַאֲרַכְתָּ יָמִים

If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young; thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, but the young thou mayest take unto thyself; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days. (Deuteronomy 22:6)

It states in the Talmud (Hulin 139a) Our Rabbis taught: It is written (Deuteronomy 22:6): "If a bird's nest chances to be before you in the way, in any tree or on the ground." What does Scripture teach thereby? But because it is also written (Id. 7): "But you shall let the mother go, and take the young" (שַׁלֵּחַ תְּשַׁלַּח אֶת הָאֵם וְאֶת הַבָּנִים תִּקַּח לָךְ) I might suppose that one should go searching over mountains and hills to find a nest, the text therefore states: "chance to be," that is, if it happens to be before you.

From here the Havot Ya'ir (responsum no. 67) concluded that even if one does not want to take anything from the nest, there is an obligation to send away the mother and to take the children, for the Talmud deduced from this verse that "if a bird's nest chances to be before you" teaches us that one is not obligated to go searching for a nest in the mountains and hills in order to fulfill this obligation. And I am amazed, for the deduction of the Talmud is precisely that the formulation "if a bird's nest chances to be before you" teaches us that we do not say that there is an unconditional obligation to seek a nest to be able to send the mother away (as we might have thought from the repetition of the words שַׁלֵּחַ תְּשַׁלַּח ), so that only if it had not been written "if a bird's nest chances to be before you" would I have concluded that there is an absolute obligation to send away the mother and take the children. But it was precisely to preclude this inference that the Scripture wrote "if a bird's nest chances to be before you." Therefore, even if one happens upon a nest, one is not obligated to send away the mother unless he wants to take the children.

Now the Havot Yair bases his inference from the Talmud that there is an absolute obligation to send away the mother and to take the children on the explanation of this obligation given by the holy Zohar, which is that if the mother bird will be distraught and flies from one place to another in search of her children, the mother's pain will arouse the pity of the Omnipresent, blessed be He, on his children in exile. But it is known that the kabalistic explanations are in many cases not in accord with the halakhah, as I have previously shown you in connection with the prohibition of the sciatic nerve (גִּיד הַנָּשֶׁה) which, according to the Zohar, is intended to repair the transgression of Jacob in marrying two sisters. For the sciatic nerve is one of the 365 sinews of the body, which correspond to the 365 negative prohibitions listed in the Torah. But this explanation accords only with the opinion of R. Judah who holds that prohibition of the sciatic nerve applies only to one of the sciatic nerves, but it does not accord with the opinion of the Sages who hold that the prohibition applies to both sciatic nerves. Similarly the kabalistic explanation for the tefilin to be worn on the weaker (left) hand, because the left hand is next to the heart, does not accord with the halakhah, because, according to this reason, a left-handed person should also wear the tefilin on his left hand. But in fact a left-handed person is required to wear the tefilin on his right hand. And there are many other instances in which the kabalistic explanation does not accord with the halakhah. And the opinion of the Havot Ya'ir is also disproved by the Hidushei ha-Ran.

(Adapted from the Dor Revvi'i )

וַיֹּאמַר יְהוָה מִסִּינַי בָּא וְזָרַח מִשֵּׂעִיר לָמוֹ הוֹפִיעַ מֵהַר פָּארָן וְאָתָה מֵרִבְבֹת קֹדֶשׁ מִימִינוֹ אשדת (אֵשׁ דָּת) לָמוֹ

The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir to them; he shone forth from Mount Paran, and he came with holy tens of thousands; from his right hand went a fiery law for them. (Deuteronomy 32:2)

In the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 2b) the Sages interpreted this verse, What did He seek in Seir, and what did He seek in Mount Paran? -- R. Johanan says: This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, offered the Torah to every nation and every tongue, but none accepted it, until He came to Israel who received it.

How then can we recite the blessing on the Torah who chose us from among all the nations and gave us His Torah after He offered the Torah to every nation and they all refused to accept it? Now the Sifri on this verse adds the following details: The descendants of Esau asked G-d, "What is written in it?" G-d answered, "Thou shalt not kill." They responded, "Our ancestor was a killer to the core of his being." G-d then went to the descendants of Amon and Moav. They asked Him, "What is written in it?" G-d answered, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." They responded, "Our ancestor was an adulterer to his core." G-d then went to the descendants of Ishmael to offer them the Torah. They asked Him, "What is written in it?" G-d answered, "Thou shalt not steal." They responded, "Our ancestor was a thief to the core of his being."

This Midrash is clearly amazing. For these three commandments were among the Seven Noahide Laws, which they were already obligated to observe. And see what I have correctly written about this verse in my book Shevivei Eish (see next d'var torah). But it now appears to me as clear as the sun that G-d did not speak to the ordinary people of the nations, but to their most enlightened and upright sages. And they therefore responded to Him wisely that they would not be able to accept the Torah on account of those three commandments, because if the national scholars would have the authority to interpret and derive these prohibitions, the national spirit would lead them astray to permit what must be forbidden, as it was said about R. Meir that he could give 150 reasons for the ritual cleanliness of a creeping thing (שֶׁרֶץ).

And it is also written (Psalms 50:16-20): But to the wicked G-d says: "What right have you to recite My statutes, or take My covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and cast My words behind you. If you see a thief, you are a friend of his; and keep company with adulterers. You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son. (מַה לְּךָ לְסַפֵּר חֻקָּי וַתִּשָּׂא בְרִיתִי עֲלֵי פִיךָ. וְאַתָּה, שָׂנֵאתָ מוּסָר וַתַּשְׁלֵךְ דְּבָרַי אַחֲרֶיךָ. אִם רָאִיתָ גַנָּב וַתִּרֶץ עִמּוֹ וְעִם מְנָאֲפִים חֶלְקֶךָ. פִּיךָ שָׁלַחְתָּ בְרָעָה וּלְשׁוֹנְךָ תַּצְמִיד מִרְמָה. תֵּשֵׁב בְּאָחִיךָ תְדַבֵּר בְּבֶן אִמְּךָ תִּתֶּן דֹּפִי)."

My father, the gaon of sainted memory (R. Avraham Glasner, 1826-78) explained that the meaning of the verses is that our will is the source of our understanding, so that a person's opinions are subordinate to his will and his inclination. Thus, if a person's heart yearns for his desire, he will easily find, while imagining that he is acting in accord with the Torah, a vacuous argument on the basis of which to permit what is forbidden. For the sake of his own desire, a crooked person can easily find 150 reasons for the ritual cleanliness of a creeping thing. Therefore, the verse "But to the wicked man G-d says: 'What right have you to recite (לְסַפֵּר) My statutes?'" is referring to one who interprets and derives the laws of the Torah for that is called "סַפֵּר" as our Sages understood the verse "איה סופר" to mean "where is the one who counts the letters of the Torah?" The subsequent words "or take My covenant on your lips" mean that you have relied on the covenant giving the Sages of each generation authority over the Torah, as it is written (Exodus 34:27): "in accordance with these words (כִּי עַל פִּי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה) I have made a covenant with you and Israel." And you relied on this covenant to make invalid inferences from the Torah. So G-d says: "I did not have you and those like you in mind when I made the covenant, because you hate discipline, and cast My words behind you." In other words, because your heart is inclined towards your own desires and you despise moral instruction, you inevitably cast My words behind you, in order that their interpretation not contradict your will. You would even excuse theft and adultery. "If you see a thief, you are his friend, and keep company with adulterers." Through your words you cause calamities by permitting that which is forbidden. ("You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit.") And you slander the true sages of the Torah who are called the "sons of your mother" (בני אמך), the children and the builders of your people (בני ובוני אומתך).

The Gentile sages refused to accept the Torah, because they knew that if the Torah were under their jurisdiction, the Torah would not be protected from and safeguarded against misguided and invalid derivations that would turn the laws and percepts of the living G-d into wormwood. But G-d could be sure that He could give the Torah - some of it in writing but most of it orally - to the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, sanctified from their origins in the character traits of their holy ancestors, with no risk that the Torah would, Heaven forbid, be perverted. It is for this reason that we recite the blessing "asher bakhar banu mi-kol ha-amim v'natan lanu et torato," which means that He gave us the Torah as a gift which became our possession to do with as we please. [See also the explanation of the Dor Revi'i on the verse in seder Ki Tisa (Exodus 31:18, "וַיִּתֵּן אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, כְּכַלֹּתוֹ לְדַבֵּר אִתּוֹ") (from the introduction to Dor Revi'i on Hullin) [Note for a third interpretation of this midrash see the d'var torah on Megilat Rut for Shavuot.]

מֹשֶׁה אִישׁ הָאֱלֹקִים ... לִפְנֵי מוֹתוֹ

Moses the man of G-d . . . before his death) (Deuteronomy 33:1)

Rabbi Juda Tzvi Glasner, grandson of the Dor Revi'i, asked the following question. Why is this the only place in the entire Torah in which Moses is referred to as "the man of G-d" (אִישׁ הָאֱלֹקִים)? He answers that a leader must not separate himself from the people. He must be one of the people, not a godlike figure above and beyond them. (See the Dor Revi'i on סדר וילך). Thus, during all the time that Moses was the leader of the Jewish people, the Torah emphasizes his human qualities. Only at the very end, literally the last day, of his life, when his leadership of the Jewish people is over, does the Torah refer to him as "the man of G-d."