(יא) כִּ֚י הַמִּצְוָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את אֲשֶׁ֛ר אָנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם לֹֽא־נִפְלֵ֥את הִוא֙ מִמְּךָ֔ וְלֹ֥א רְחֹקָ֖ה הִֽוא׃
(יב) לֹ֥א בַשָּׁמַ֖יִם הִ֑וא לֵאמֹ֗ר מִ֣י יַעֲלֶה־לָּ֤נוּ הַשָּׁמַ֙יְמָה֙ וְיִקָּחֶ֣הָ לָּ֔נוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵ֥נוּ אֹתָ֖הּ וְנַעֲשֶֽׂנָּה׃
(יג) וְלֹֽא־מֵעֵ֥בֶר לַיָּ֖ם הִ֑וא לֵאמֹ֗ר מִ֣י יַעֲבָר־לָ֜נוּ אֶל־עֵ֤בֶר הַיָּם֙ וְיִקָּחֶ֣הָ לָּ֔נוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵ֥נוּ אֹתָ֖הּ וְנַעֲשֶֽׂנָּה׃ (יד) כִּֽי־קָר֥וֹב אֵלֶ֛יךָ הַדָּבָ֖ר מְאֹ֑ד בְּפִ֥יךָ וּבִֽלְבָבְךָ֖ לַעֲשֹׂתֽוֹ׃ (ס)
(טו) רְאֵ֨ה נָתַ֤תִּי לְפָנֶ֙יךָ֙ הַיּ֔וֹם אֶת־הַֽחַיִּ֖ים וְאֶת־הַטּ֑וֹב וְאֶת־הַמָּ֖וֶת וְאֶת־הָרָֽע׃
(טז) אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָנֹכִ֣י מְצַוְּךָ֮ הַיּוֹם֒
לְאַהֲבָ֞ה אֶת־יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙
וְחָיִ֣יתָ וְרָבִ֔יתָ וּבֵֽרַכְךָ֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ בָּאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֥ה בָא־שָׁ֖מָּה לְרִשְׁתָּֽהּ׃
(11) Surely, this mitzvah* which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach.
(12) It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?”
(13) Neither is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can go across to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?”
(14) No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.
(15) See, I set before you today
life and prosperity,
death and adversity.
(16) For I command you this day,
to love the LORD your God,
to walk in His ways,
and to keep
and His rules,
that you may thrive and increase,
and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land that you are about to enter and possess.
1. In Verse 11, what is the "mitzvah" (commandment or instruction) that is being discussed here? Is it just one mitzvah? The whole Torah? Something in between?
2. Why is Moses giving this speech right now to the people? What does he want them to do and why is he desperate for them to hear his message right at this moment in the story?
3. What kinds of excuses might the people make for not following God's mitzvot, according to this passage?
4. Why would these excuses be terrible excuses? Where is the Torah NOT located? Where is it located?
5. Have you ever made an excuse for not doing what you know you should do by making a similar excuse?
6. In a single sentence, can you summarize the point that Moses is trying to make here? Pretend you are explaining the main idea to Tobey.
1. Look back up to the top of this doc where it’s just in the Torah. Just in the Torah itself--not in the Gemara below….what does Moses mean to teach the people when he says the Torah is not in heaven? (you can review your own answers above if you want.
2. Now read the passage from the Talmud that we read together over the summer.
“The world is full of wonders and miracles, but man takes his little hand and covers his eyes and sees nothing.” (Ba'al Shem Tov - 18th century)
תנן התם חתכו חוליות ונתן חול בין חוליא לחוליא
ר"א מטהר וחכמים מטמאין וזה הוא תנור של עכנאי
מאי עכנאי אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל שהקיפו דברים כעכנא זו וטמאוהו תנא באותו
השיב רבי אליעזר כל תשובות שבעולם ולא קיבלו הימנו
אמר להם אם הלכה כמותי חרוב זה יוכיח נעקר חרוב ממקומו מאה אמה ואמרי לה ארבע מאות אמה אמרו לו אין מביאין ראיה מן החרוב
חזר ואמר להם אם הלכה כמותי אמת המים יוכיחו חזרו אמת המים לאחוריהם אמרו לו אין מביאין ראיה מאמת המים
חזר ואמר להם אם הלכה כמותי כותלי בית המדרש יוכיחו הטו כותלי בית המדרש ליפול גער בהם רבי יהושע אמר להם אם תלמידי חכמים מנצחים זה את זה בהלכה אתם מה טיבכם לא נפלו מפני כבודו של רבי יהושע ולא זקפו מפני כבודו של ר"א ועדיין מטין ועומדין
חזר ואמר להם אם הלכה כמותי מן השמים יוכיחו יצאתה בת קול ואמרה מה לכם אצל ר"א שהלכה כמותו בכ"מ עמד רבי יהושע על רגליו ואמר (דברים ל, יב) לא בשמים היא
מאי לא בשמים היא? אמר רבי ירמיה שכבר נתנה תורה מהר סיני אין אנו משגיחין בבת קול שכבר כתבת בהר סיני בתורה (שמות כג, ב) אחרי רבים להטות
אשכחיה רבי נתן לאליהו א"ל מאי עביד קוב"ה בההיא שעתא א"ל קא חייך ואמר נצחוני בני נצחוני בני
§ We learned in a mishna there (Kelim 5:10): If one cut an earthenware oven widthwise into segments, and placed sand between each and every segment, Rabbi Eliezer deems it ritually pure. And the Rabbis deem it ritually impure. And this is known as the oven of akhnai.
The Gemara asks: What is the relevance of akhnai, a snake, in this context? Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: It is characterized in that manner due to the fact that the Rabbis surrounded it with their statements like this snake, which often forms a coil when at rest, and deemed it impure.
The Sages taught: On that day, when they discussed this matter,
(1) Rabbi Eliezer answered all possible answers in the world to support his opinion, but the Rabbis did not accept his explanations from him. After failing to convince the Rabbis logically,
(2) Rabbi Eliezer said to them:
If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, this carob tree will prove it.
The carob tree was uprooted from its place one hundred cubits, and some say four hundred cubits.
The Rabbis said to him:
One does not cite halakhic proof from the carob tree.
(3) Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, the stream will prove it. The water in the stream turned backward and began flowing in the opposite direction.
They said to him: One does not cite halakhic proof from a stream.
(4) Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, the walls of the study hall will prove it. The walls of the study hall leaned inward and began to fall.
Rabbi Yehoshua scolded the walls and said to them: If Torah scholars are contending with each other in matters of halakha, what is the nature of your involvement in this dispute? The Gemara relates: The walls did not fall because of the deference due Rabbi Yehoshua, but they did not straighten because of the deference due Rabbi Eliezer, and they still remain leaning.
(5) Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, Heaven will prove it. A Divine Voice emerged from Heaven and said: Why are you differing with Rabbi Eliezer, as the halakha is in accordance with his opinion in every place that he expresses an opinion?
Rabbi Yehoshua stood on his feet and said: It is written: “It is not in heaven” (Deuteronomy 30:12).
The Gemara asks: What is the relevance of the phrase “It is not in heaven” in this context? Rabbi Yirmeya says: Since the Torah was already given at Mount Sinai, we do not regard a Divine Voice, as You already wrote at Mount Sinai, in the Torah: “After a majority to incline” (Exodus 23:2). Since the majority of Rabbis disagreed with Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion, the halakha is not ruled in accordance with his opinion.
Rabbi Natan encountered Elijah the prophet and said to him: What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do at that time, when Rabbi Yehoshua issued his declaration? Elijah said to him: The Holy One, Blessed be He, smiled and said: My children have triumphed over Me; My children have triumphed over Me.
3. Here are some questions to make sure you understand the story:
The Rabbis and R. Eliezer are arguing about a kitchen item. Which one?
A pasta maker
Those little birds your mom puts on cabinets
An earthenware oven
Rabbi Eliezer first tries to convince the rabbis using (1) _____________________.
Having failed using the usual means of resolving disputes, R. Eliezer then resorts to showing he’s right using
(2) a carob tree that moves
Who do you think God thinks is right about the oven, based on proofs 2-5?
It Seems pretty clear, right?
R. Yehoshua, however, tells the walls of the Beit Midrash that when rabbis are arguing about halaha, they should listen to the rabbis and not to God. That’s some chutzpah! R. Yehoshua then tells R. Eliezer that even though a divine voice has said the rabbis are wrong, that it doesn’t matter.
What does R. Yehoshua mean when he says “lo bashamayim hi”? You can use the explanation in green to help you here.
How is the Gemara/R. Yehoshua’s meaning similar to or different from what Moses meant when he said it? (see your answer to #1)
4. What is the ‘moral’ of this story? Does it surprise you to see the Rabbis rejecting the opinion of heaven the way they do?
5. What relationship do you have with Torah? Do you think it is in human hands to interpret, or might there be on ‘ultimate truth’ that we have to try to find?
6. Extra credit---try telling this story to Toby. It’s action packed--strip away a bunch of details and I bet you’ll have him spellbound.