“If, then, you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you…I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil” (Deuteronomy 11:13).
Before we clarify matters of reward and punishment written about in the Torah (a matter which is one of the 13 fundamentals of the faith) we will say that in this portion, too, “parenthetical” matters are written, as we have said and clarified in the portions of Devarim. This is what it says in our portion: “Then I left and went down from the mountain, and I deposited the tablets in the ark that I had made, where they still are, as the Lord had commanded me. [From Beeroth-jaakan the Israelites marched to Moserah. Aaron died there and was buried there; and his son Elazar became the High Priest in his stead. From there they marched to Gudgod, and from Gudgod to Jotbath, a region of running brooks. At that time the Lord had set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, to stand in attendance upon the Lord, and to bless in His name, as is still the case. That is why the Levites have received no hereditary portion along with their kinsmen: the Lord is their portion, as the Lord your G-d spoke concerning them.] I had stayed on the mountain, as I did the first time, forty days and forty nights.” Anyone who reads this will immediately see that the “parenthetical” words are an addition to the main topic. This addition is not on the same topic as the rest, and it is difficult to understand how these words found their way there. But it is completely clear that this addition was written later that the words around it, as it is written, “to bless in His name, as is still the case” and “that is why the Levites have not received a hereditary portion along with their kinsmen.” Had Moses written this, it should have read, “that is why the Levites will not receive” in the future tense, for when the text was written they had not yet divided the land.
Not only were these words written later on, this addition also contradicts what is written in Numbers 33:38, “Aaron the priest ascended Mount Hor at the command of the Lord and died there.” We have two conflicting versions about the burial place of Aaron the priest! According to the author of Numbers, Aaron the priest was buried at Mount Hor, but according to the author of Deuteronomy, Aaron the priest was buried in Moserah. Not only that, but in the account in Numbers there are an additional eight camps before they reached Mount Hor, as written in Numbers 33:31, “They set out from Moseroth and encamped at Bene-jaakan. They set out from Bene-jaakan and encamped at Hor-haggidgad…They set out from Kadesh and encamped at Mount Hor.”
What do the Biblical commentators say about this? Rashi says: “But did he not die at Mount Hor?… and you appointed a chief to return to Egypt, and you turned backward eight stages…and in Moserah you made a great mourning over the death of Aaron which caused this to you, and it seemed to you as though he had died there.” According to Rashi the Children of Israel went backwards and mourned Aaron at Moserah due to error.
Ibn Ezra wrote: Moserah is not Moseroth…and the name of the desert of Mount Hor is Moserah.” Nachmanides wrote about Rashi’s commentary: “All Rashi’s words are from the Aggadah” and about Ibn Ezra’s commentary he said, “And all this is nonsense, for how is it possible that all these many places are all new places not mentioned in the journeys?” How did Nachmanides settle for himself the contradicting Scriptures? “It seems to me that Mount Hor is the greatest of mountains and is many parasangs long…and on the plain facing Mount Hor there were many cities or places call Moseroth and Bene-jaakan…they went up to the top of the mountain and faced Moserah, and there Aaron died.” (He blames Rashi for bringing what are only “words from Aggadah,” yet he invents the legend of “the long Mount Hor” which is mentioned nowhere.) We have brought the Biblical commentators to show you how the commentator who accepts in advance that the whole Torah was written by Moses from Divine dictation suffers distortion and evasions because “it is not possible that there is a contradiction between Scriptures.” There is no end to the inventions and evasions. But any who approach the Scripture without prejudice, who wants only to learn from the Scriptures themselves (as the philosopher Spinoza wrote in his “Theological-Political Treatise”: “All acquaintance with the Scriptures must be sought only from within itself”) will see for himself that different authors in various periods wrote the Torah.
And now we will clarify the matter of reward and punishment written about in the Torah. According to the plain text of the Scripture, reward is given in this world, the physical world in which we need health, satisfaction, and longevity. This is what is written in Deuteronomy 11:14, “You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil” along with other physical blessings. But anyone who looks around himself will see that the world just keeps on going and makes no distinction between one who does as G-d said and one who rebels against His very existence. R’ Yannai already said this in Tractate Avot chapter 4, mishnah 15: “We cannot account for the tranquility of the wicked or the afflictions of the righteous.”
Here we have a wonderful example of how our rabbis deal with reality which contradicts what is written in the Scripture. In Tractate Kiddushin 39b, “It is as R’ Yaakov, who says that the reward for a commandment is not in this world. As we have learned from Beraita: R’ Yaakov says…about honoring one’s parents it is written (Deuteronomy 5:16) ‘that you may long endure and that you may fare well.’ In sending away the mother bird it is written (Deuteronomy 22:7) ‘so you may fare well and you will long endure.’ But one whose father told him: ‘Ascend to the top and bring me the chicks,’ and he went to the top, and sent the mother bird away, and took the babies, and while returning fell and died — how is this faring well for him? ‘That you may fare well’ — in the world which is all good; ‘that you may long endure’ — in the world which is all longevity.” We have already written in the portion of Masaey that our rabbis, when they get into trouble, push their testimony into the realm of secrets so deep that they cannot be investigated. This is what happened here. There is nothing simpler than to push the reward off to the World to Come, that is, to a place, form, and future which are unknown and uncheckable. But R’ Yaakov, in his evasive explanations, is not even careful about the verses themselves, for it is explicitly written about honoring one’s parents: “that you may long endure and that you may fare well in the land” — what land is there in the World to Come?
Let us continue to look at that gemara which shows us Chazal’s ways of thought and inquiry. The gemara continues and asks about the words of R’ Yaakov: “And maybe this is not how it was?” Why did R’ Yaakov suppose that one could obey these two commandments yet fall and die? Maybe nothing like this ever happened and then the Scripture is upheld? The Gemara answers: “R’ Yaakov saw such an incident.” He saw an actual case of a person who fell down and died while fulfilling these commandments, and therefore he went and distorted the plain meaning of the Scripture.
You cannot say that he received this interpretation from his rabbis (who got it from Sinai) for if he did there would be no room for the Gemara’s question at all. There is also proof from Elisha the son of Avuyah (see what is written about him in Tractate Hagigah 15a) who was a Tanna in the days of R’ Akiba and also saw such an incident, because of which he began to doubt the veracity of the Judaic faith, as it says in the Gemara, “Rabbi Yosef says, ‘Did the Other [R’ Elisha son of Avuyah] understand this verse as R’ Yaakov the son of Beteira [his grandson] understood it, he would not sin.” We find that Elisha had no tradition about the interpretation of this verse, but his grandson saw such an incident which contradicted the Scriptures, and so distorted the Scripture on his own.
The Torah forbids us to test the holy One, blessed be He. Deuteronomy 6:16: “Do not test the Lord your G-d, as you did at Massah.” As written in theChinuch, commandment 424, “It is also within the scope of this prohibition not to observe the commandments of the Eternal Lord, blessed is He, in the way of a test – what happens when one fulfills a commandment to test if the Eternal Lord will reward him according to his righteousness…Now, the reason for the prohibition against making any tests with the commandments is that the reward for observing the commandments is not in this world; as the Sages of blessed memory interpreted at the beginning of Tractate Avodah Zara (3a), ‘this day to do them,’ but tomorrow–meaning in the World to Come–to receive their reward.” Here, before our very eyes, all the promises, blessings, prophecies, and rewards written and promised in the Torah fall into a deep well and we cannot check whether, when, and where the words of G-d will be fulfilled or not.
But G-d granted us a boon and gave us one commandment through which we are permitted to test Him, as brought in Tractate Taanit 9a, “‘You shall give a tithe’–give the tithe in order that you will become wealthy. How do you know this? He said: go test it. He asked: And who permits testing G-d? It is written, ‘Do not test the Lord.’ He answered: R’ Hoshaya said, Aside from this, for it is written, ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…and pray put Me to the test thereby, said G-d.'”
If so, the question is — how are there poor righteous people? There is a clear promise that in this world all who give tithes will become wealthy. But know that the Tosfot in Taanit 9a, first reference, shows that this did not mean he will actually become wealthy, but that his fields will continue to yield as in previous years. They even brought an incident of one who did not separate tithes as he should have and the next year his field did not yield more than a tenth of what it had the year before. All their words are most strange. Today there are many farmers who do not separate off tithes at all and not only do their fields not give reduced yields, they increase. Another strange thing is that the arbiters were divided on what tithing is. Is it tithing money as the Rama says in Yoreh Deah 247, section 4, or is it any act of charity, or is it, as is the opinion of the Sheilat Yaabetz, part one, section three, only a tithe on agricultural produce? The matter can be easily checked. It’s very simple: try all three options and see in which a man grows wealthy. That will immediately show what the verse meant by tithing.
It’s obvious that any such test will show that the Sages’ words are nonsense. Therefore none of our sages would suggest such a test, knowing full well that its results would refute the whole issue of “testing G-d.” Let this be a sign to you that even something the Scriptures permitted as a test of the holy One, blessed be He, falls into a deep well. The Rashba in his responsa, part five, section 48, summarized the confusion on matters of Divine supervision, reward and punishment. After he cites several sources which contradict each other he shuts off all his explanations and writes: “My ears have heard only a small point on the great wheel, and I only received from my rabbis a drop in the bucket, and I cannot explain this.”
Our rabbis of recent generations, led by the Arizal, when they saw the troubles of exile and the affliction of the righteous who are scrupulous to observe the smallest commandment as the most important, while the wicked enjoyed good, long lives, were not satisfied with reward in the World to Come. After they saw little children who had not had the chance to sin dying in persecutions and pain, they explained the matter using a new innovation which had never been heard before, even from the early sages — reincarnation. A little infant dies because he is the reincarnation of another and has come to make amends for previous sins. Chazal have no explanations for the affliction of the righteous but the Arizal knows that their affliction is because they are reincarnations of sinners.
Not only is this utter nonsense that Judaism took from the idolaters (such as the various Indian religions), go and see the characteristics of Divine justice which can be learned from this nonsense: A wicked man will live a long, full, happy life and will then be reincarnated into a baby who will die to atone for the wicked man’s soul. The wicked man will die at eighty and the infant will die at a year; the wicked man’s soul will be redeemed and the baby’s parents will cry over him for the rest of their lives. This is Divine justice incarnate.
Come, you who seeks wisdom and truth, come see how our rabbis make up worthless things and invent disgusting morality so that their worldview will not be harmed. To defend an erroneous belief they will turn the heavens into the earth and the earth into the heavens, will deny simple reality and will make up unjust interpretations, will distort what is seen, said, and written and will invent new meanings for the very words.
All this (and more) and why? They will do all this so they will not have to say three words: “It’s a mistake.”
Words of True Knowledge