The Gemara (Megilla 31b) says: "[In reading] the curses that are in Deuteronomy one may pause [it may be broken up into several aliyot]. Why? Those [that are in Leviticus, which must be read in one aliya] are said in the plural, Moses relaying them from mouth of the Almighty; and these [in Deuteronomy] are in the singular, said by Moses himself."

Rashi comments there: "Moses spoke them in the name of G-d and became a messenger to say," thus said the Holy One blessed be He", for they are worded (in first person singular): and I will give ... and I will place ... and I will send, referring to the One who has the power to act; but in Mishneh Torah it is written: The Lord will strike you... The Lord will afflict you, MOSES SPOKE THESE WORDS ON HIS OWN INITIATIVE - if you transgress His commandments He will punish you".

In contrast, Rashi comments on Sanhedrin 56b (ד"ה כאשר צוך) "Moshe did not teach his own ideas in the book of Devarim..rather he informed them What HE HAD RECEIVED FROM G-D".

On Deuteronomy 28:23 RASHI brings the above mentioned Gemara and the Sifsei chachomim there explains "These curses Moshe articulated himself, etc. Meaning that Moshe asked the Holy One for permission to curse them this way, and the Holy One granted him permission. This resolves the Gemara's statement (Sanhedrin 99a) that Moshe did not innovate even one letter [in the Torah] on his own i.e., without permission from the Holy One. And when Rashi explains that Moshe “articulated himself,” he means that he first asked the Holy One [for permission].

Tosefos in Chapter Bnei Ha'ir (Megilla 31b), [commenting on the Gemora there] write, “Moshe articulated himself, and through Divine Inspiration.”

My question is that in Rashi's comment to Megilla 31b it seems like he actually holds Moshe said the curses on his own accord in contrast to what he writes in Sanhedrin?

  • Do you think it's also a problem that Avraham, Paro, Balak, and lots of other people said things on their own initiative that were later recorded in the Torah?
    – Heshy
    Aug 1 '19 at 21:47
  • No. My question is an extension from a very famous one in general about the authorship of the book of Devarim. Namely to quote the Rambam in Mishneh Torah, Sefer Hamada, Hilchot Teshuvah (chap. 3, halachah 8): "There are three who deny the Torah; (1) he who says that the Torah is not from the Lord, even one verse or one word of it, if he claims that Moses said it on his own, then this man denies the Torah". Aug 1 '19 at 22:38
  • 1
    So would you say that Hashem also told Moshe to say שמעו נא המורים???? Nobody is saying that Moshe put it in the Torah on his own. He was talking to the Jews on his own, exactly the same as all the other people in the Torah who spoke on their own. Then a few days later Hashem told him to write it in the Torah, and he did.
    – Heshy
    Aug 1 '19 at 23:05
  • @Heshy I'm confused what's happening here. Is the original question whether Rashi is consistent? If so, how is it relevant that other people said things they had never been commanded to say, or that the Torah consists in the words G-d chose for it? Nonetheless it could be that Rashi contradicts himself, or that there is some way to reconcile the comments that Rashi makes.
    – Chaim
    Aug 2 '19 at 0:06

I would suggest that Rashi agrees with Tosfos that "Mishnah Torah was said with Ruach Hakodesh" but nevertheless the previous 4 books were on a level higher "Mipi HaGevurah Mamash".

Also worth noting is a comment by Rabbenu bachaye (Devarim 29:6) "You should appreciate that the warnings of doom enumerated in this whole portion are Moses’ own wording as distinct from similar warnings of disaster in Leviticus chapter 26. This does not mean that Moses “made up the תוכחה by himself.” Rather, it means that the syntax used by the Torah reflects that G’d approved of the choice of words Moses had used so that effectively everything recorded in the written text of the Torah is equivalent to something dictated by G’d Himself.

If our sages (Megillah 31) stated that the “curses contained in the Torah and which were uttered by the priests were words put in their mouths by G’d Himself,” whereas those contained in the Book of Deuteronomy reflect Moses’ words, they meant that Moses succeeded in voicing thoughts which reflected exactly what G’d would have told him to say.

The reason that the Torah chose to write two versions of these exhortations and warnings, one being G’d’s initiative and words, the other at the initiative of Moses who had divined what G’d wanted him to say, is that the version we read at the end of the Book of Leviticus is that which became true at the time the first Temple was destroyed, whereas the longer version we read here in the Book of Deuteronomy was not fulfilled until the second Temple was being destroyed. One proof that this is so is furnished by the words (Leviticus 26,30) והשמדתי את במותיכם והכרתי את חמניכם, “I will destroy your private altars and demolish your sun-idols.” These are phenomena which existed only during the period of the first Temple when idolatry was widespread among the people during the reigns of many kings. The curses listed in Deuteronomy were all fulfilled during the collapse of the second commonwealth and its Temple."

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