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Devarim 4:2 states:

לֹ֣א תֹסִ֗פוּ עַל־הַדָּבָר֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר אָנֹכִי֙ מְצַוֶּ֣ה אֶתְכֶ֔ם וְלֹ֥א תִגְרְע֖וּ מִמֶּ֑נּוּ

Yet according to one Talmudic opinion (Bava Batra 15a), Yehoshua added the verses regarding Moshe's death.

Is this not a violation of the verse above? Or does the verse only apply to adding and subtracting mitzvot?

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3 Answers 3

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The commandment forbids adding anything to the Torah on one's own. In this case, Joshua was commanded by G-d to write those eight verses that completed the Torah after Moses' death. So Joshua was acting just as Moses did when he wrote the rest of the Torah: taking G-d's dictation.

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The Torah verse you quote says "You shall not add anything to what I command you". There are no commandments in the verses the Talmud says Joshua added.

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  • You can't add anything to the written Torah either, so the question still stands.
    – N.T.
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 18:40
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Yes. Abraham ibn Ezra writes in his “secret of the twelve” that Moses did not compose the last twelve verses of the Torah. Joshua did so via prophecy. Thus Moses did not write the entire Torah.[1]

Spinoza agreed, but took it too far, writing that ibn Ezra was referring to twelve stone tablets. He wrote, “From what has been said, it is clearer than the sun at noonday that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, but by someone who lived long after him.”[2]

The Jewish scholar on medieval Torah scholars, Warren Zev Harvey wrote that Spinoza misunderstood ibn Ezra.

[1] See his “secret of the twelve” in his commentary to Deuteronomy 1:2. Also see The Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra 15a, Menachot 30a, and Midrash Sifrei, "Moses wrote with tears."

Joshua did not violate the Torah.

[2] See Tractatus Theologico-Publicus

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    This doesn't seem to answer the question. The question is asking if Joshua violated a prohibition by writing the last verses of the Torah; your answer, though, only discusses whether he indeed wrote the verses but makes no mention of whether doing so violated a prohibition.
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 18:56
  • @Alex good find. I did not know that.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 19:03
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    Next time you're welcome to read the question instead of pasting text you wrote on a different topic
    – robev
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 4:21
  • @robev I added that it was no violation. Also, even without reading the full question, my copy and past text answer the question that Joshua added/wrote via prophecy.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 16:22
  • @Alex Joshua did not violate it. A sage (I forget who) wrote that even if the last parts of the Torah (not referring to Joshua) wrote it via prophecy it is still a divine communication since it was done via prophecy. Thus, Joshua, in this case, through prophecy, did not violate the Torah command.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 21:16

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