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Eikev, chapter 11:1

ואהבת את השם... ושמרת משמרתו... כי לא את בניכם אשר לא ידעו ואשר לא ראו... כי עיניכם הרואת את כל מעשה השם

Are the children excluded from this requirement to love God and keep his laws because they did not see the wonders, or is בניכם here referring to "future generations"? Or is בניכם literal and this specific part Moshe is only talking to the parents? And if yes, does the part where he is addressing the parents apply only through verse 9 ?

(Do any commentaries bring up this issue?)

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The Da'as Zekeinim writes that it is Moshe talking to the parents who witnessed everything:

כי לא את בניכם. כלו' אינם ראוים ליענש ככם על המצות שהרי אתם ראיתם את מוסר ה' ואת גדלו ולא לפטור הבנים בא:

כי לא את בניכם, “that it was not your children;” Moses warns his own generation that it was they who would be punished for ignoring the laws of the Torah, as it was they who had witnessed G–d’s miracles for them, not their children who had been born in the desert. (Sefaria translation)

My translation:

Because it was not your children - this means that they (i.e. the children) didn't deserve to be punished like you (the parents) over the Mitzvos. Since you (i.e. the parents) saw the morality of G-d and His greatness, whereas the children had not yet come (i.e. had not been born during this time).

Indeed, the Targum Yonason takes the same approach.

Also note the Malbim who writes expressly:

וידעתם היום אתם קבלתם המצות מצד הידיעה, כי לא את בניכם אשר לא ידעו ר"ל שא"א שיהיה לכם ידיעה ברורה באשר לא ראו בעיניהם כל הנסים שחשב פה ויאמינו כ"ז רק בקבלה אבל אתם עיניכם הרואות את כל מעשה ה' הגדול אשר עשה וא"כ ידעתם כ"ז מצד הידיעה:

And you know today, as you accepted the mitzvos from a place of knowledge, whereas your children did not know, which means to say, it is impossible for you to know with absolute clarity, that which they did not see with their own eyes, all the miracles he thought here and will believe. All of this is only accepted if your eyes have actually seen all the great deeds that Hashem did, and if so, you know all of this from the perspective of knowledge.

So the Malbim is essentially saying that if a person has seen firsthand the wondrous deeds of Hashem they know with absolute certainty about the Divine quality of Hashem's Torah and mitzvos. However, the next generation lacked this clarity as they were never zoche to see such wonders. This is why the onus is more on the parents.

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  • What does ולא לפטור הבנים בא mean ? That Moshe is not excluding the children, only giving an extra warning to the parents?
    – larry909
    Jul 30 at 9:35
  • The English translation doesn't seem to match the Hebrew
    – larry909
    Jul 30 at 9:36
  • What does אינם mean?
    – larry909
    Jul 30 at 9:36
  • If I have understood it correctly, it is saying that since the parents had seen G-d's many wonders there is no room for them to ignore the Torah and mitzvos as they had seen G-d's greatness firsthand, whereas their kids didn't
    – Dov
    Jul 30 at 9:50
  • See my translation - אינם is a reference to the children, that they did not deserve to be punished.
    – Dov
    Jul 30 at 9:57
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[Chabad.org]on Eikev 11:2 translates this as

And you shall know this day; that [I speak] not with your children, who did not know and who did not see the chastisement of the Lord, your God, His greatness, His mighty hand, and His outstretched arm,

Rashi says

And you shall know this day: Set your attention to know, understand, and accept my reproof.

that not with your children: am I now speaking, who would be able to say, “We did not know or see all this.”

Thus it does not mean that the children are not required to love Hashem, but that Moshe is speaking directly to those who saw the miracles of Hashem and heard the revelation at Sinai.

Rav Hirsch explains that 11:1 applies to future generations and 11:2 is referring to the current generation who actually saw the miracles and the revelation.

היום is probably in contrast to the כל הימים of the previous verse. The mission of guarding, keeping the Torah applies to all generations of sll time. But that contemporary generation which was the first to approach that task had quite special reason to give all their strength and powers for the accomplishment of that mission. That which succeeding generations would only get to know by tradition was what they themselves had seen and experienced. כי לא את בניכם is clearly elliptical, as much to say: "to whom I am speaking", -- את מוסר refers to the whole guidance from Egypt through the wilderness, everything by which Hashem exerted instructive and educative influence on Israel. (see on Ch. VIII,5)

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