Chapter 4

1And now, O Israel, hearken to the statutes and to the judgments which I teach you to do, in order that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord, God of your forefathers, is giving you.
2Do not add to the word which I command you, nor diminish from it, to observe the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.
Do not add: for instance, by inserting five sections into the tefillin [instead of four], by using five species for the [commandment of] lulav [on Succoth] instead of four], or by attaching five fringes [instead of four]. And so too, וְלֹא תִגְרְעוּ nor diminish [from it i.e., three instead of four].
3Your eyes have seen what the Lord did at Baal Peor, for every man who went after Baal Peor, the Lord your God has exterminated from your midst.
4But you who cleave to the Lord your God are alive, all of you, this day.
5Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, as the Lord, my God, commanded me, to do so in the midst of the land to which you are coming to possess.
6And you shall keep [them] and do [them], for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the peoples, who will hear all these statutes and say, "Only this great nation is a wise and understanding people. "
And you shall keep [them]: This refers to study.
and do [them]: [To be interpreted] according to its apparent meaning.
for that is your wisdom and your understanding [in the eyes of the peoples]: Through this you will be considered wise and understanding in the eyes of the peoples.
7For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is at all times that we call upon Him?
8And which great nation is it that has just statutes and ordinances, as this entire Torah, which I set before you this day?
just statutes and ordinances: צַדִּיקִם means worthy and acceptable ones.
9But beware and watch yourself very well, lest you forget the things that your eyes saw, and lest these things depart from your heart, all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children and to your children's children,
But beware…lest you forget the things: Only then, when you do not forget them, and will [therefore] do them in their proper manner, will you be considered wise and understanding, but if you distort them because of forgetfulness, you will be considered fools.
10the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, "Assemble the people for Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.
the day you stood: This refers back to the preceding verse :“which your eyes saw” [on] the day that you stood at Horeb, where you saw the thunder and the torches.
that they may learn: Heb. יִלְמְדוּן The Targum [Onkelos] renders: יֵלְפוּן, they may learn for themselves.
that they may teach: Heb. יְלַמֵּדוּן the Targum [Onkelos] renders: יְאַלְפוּן, that they may teach others.
11And you approached and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire up to the midst of the heavens, with darkness, a cloud, and opaque darkness.
12The Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of the words, but saw no image, just a voice.
13And He told you His covenant, which He commanded you to do, the Ten Commandments, and He inscribed them on two stone tablets.
14And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, so that you should do them in the land to which you are crossing, to possess.
And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you: the Oral Law.
15And you shall watch yourselves very well, for you did not see any image on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire.
16Lest you become corrupt and make for yourselves a graven image, the representation of any form, the likeness of male or female,
form: Heb. סָמֶל, meaning “form.”
17the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the heaven,
18the likeness of anything that crawls on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters, beneath the earth.
19And lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and see the sun, and the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, which the Lord your God assigned to all peoples under the entire heaven, and be drawn away to prostrate yourselves before them and worship them.
And lest you lift up your eyes: to gaze at this thing and to set your heart to stray after them.
which the Lord… assigned: to illuminate for them [all peoples]. (Meg. 9b) Another explanation: Which God assigned to them as deities; He did not prevent them from erring after them; rather, He caused them to slip, [i.e., to err], with their futile speculations, in order to drive them out of the world. Similarly, it says: “He [God] smoothed the way for him in his eyes to find his iniquity to hate [him]” (Ps. 36:3) (Avodah Zarah 55a).
20But the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron crucible, out of Egypt, to be a people of His possession, as of this day.
out of the iron crucible: Heb. מִכּוּר. A כּוּר is a vessel in which gold is refined.
21And the Lord was angry with me because of you, and He swore that I would not cross the Jordan and that I would not come into the good land the Lord, your God, is giving you as an inheritance.
was angry: Heb. הִתְאַנַּף, [The hithpa’el conjugation denotes that] He became filled with wrath.
because of you: Heb. עַל-דִּבְרֵיכֶם, because of you, on your account.
22For I will die in this land; I will not cross the Jordan. You, however, will cross, and you will possess this good land.
For I will die… I will not cross: Since he was to die, how could he cross? But rather he meant: even my bones will not cross (Sifrei on Numbers 27:12).
23Beware, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image, the likeness of anything, which the Lord your God has forbidden you.
the likeness of anything: Heb. תְּמוּנַת כֹּל, the likeness of anything.
which the Lord… commanded you: Which He commanded you not to make.
24For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a zealous God.
a zealous God: Zealous to wreak vengeance, in Old French, anprenemant, zealous anger. He burns in His anger to exact retribution from idol worshippers.
25When you beget children and children's children, and you will be long established in the land, and you become corrupt and make a graven image, the likeness of anything, and do evil in the eyes of the Lord your God, to provoke Him to anger,
and you will be long established: Heb. וְנוֹשַׁנְתֶּם. He hinted to them that they would be exiled from it at the end of 852 years, the gematria, numerical value, of the word וְנוֹשַׁנְתֶּם, but He exiled them earlier, at the end of 850 years. He did this two years earlier than the numerical value of וְנוֹשַׁנְתֶּם in order that the prophecy about them should not be fulfilled “that you shall utterly perish.”(verse 26) This is the meaning of what is said: “And the Lord ‘hastened’ with the evil and brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is charitable (צַדִּיק)” (Dan. 9:14). He was charitable with us for He hastened to bring it [the exile] two years before its time (San. 38a; Gittin 88a).
26I call as witness against you this very day the heaven and the earth, that you will speedily and utterly perish from the land to which you cross the Jordan, to possess; you will not prolong your days upon it, but will be utterly destroyed.
I call as witness against you [… heaven and earth]: I hereby summon them to be witnesses that I have warned you.
27And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will remain few in number among the nations to where the Lord will lead you.
28And there you will worship gods, man's handiwork, wood and stone, which neither see, hear, eat, nor smell.
And there you will worship gods: As the Targum [Onkelos] explains: Since you serve those who worship them [idols], it is as though you [yourselves] serve them [i.e., the idols].
29And from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.
30When you are distressed, and all these things happen upon you in the end of days, then you will return to the Lord your God and obey Him.
31For the Lord your God is a merciful God; He will not let you loose or destroy you; neither will He forget the covenant of your fathers, which He swore to them.
He will not let you loose: He will not let go of you with His hands. The expression לֹא יַרְפְּךָ means that He will not cause something, i.e., He will not cause you looseness. He will not separate you from [being] near Him. Similarly, “I held him fast, and I would not let him loose (אַרְפֶּנּוּ)” (Song of Songs 3:4), which is not vocalized אֲרַפֶּנּוּ [which would mean to heal]. The term רִפְיוֹן “letting slack” always adopts the hif’il [causative conjugation, that is, causing someone else רִפְיוֹן] or the hithpa’el [reflexive conjugation, that is, causing oneself רִפְיוֹן]. For example: (II Kings 4:2), הַרְפֵּה לָהּ, let her be, means literally “give her looseness [i.e., an example of causing to others]”; (Deut. 9:14) הֶרֶף מִמֶּנִּי, let Me be, means literally “Make yourself loose from me [i.e., an example of causing looseness to oneself].”
32For ask now regarding the early days that were before you, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from one end of the heavens to the other end of the heavens, whether there was anything like this great thing, or was the likes of it heard?
regarding the early days: Heb. לְיָמִים רִאשׁוֹנִים [the“lammed” of לְיָמִים here means] regarding the early days.
and from the one end of the heavens: And also ask of all the creatures from one end [of the heavens] to the other end. This is its simple meaning, but its midrashic explanation is: [This] teaches [us] about Adam’s height, that it was from the earth to the heavens, and that this is the very same measurement as from one end of the heavens to the other end (San. 38b).
whether there was anything like this great thing: And what is this great thing? “Did ever a people hear,” etc.
33Did ever a people hear God's voice speaking out of the midst of the fire as you have heard, and live?
34Or has any god performed miracles to come and take him a nation from the midst of a[nother] nation, with trials, with signs, and with wonders, and with war and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great awesome deeds, as all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?
Or has any god performed miracles: Heb. הֲנִסָּה אלֹהִים. Has any god performed miracles (נִסִּים)?
to come and take him a nation…: All the letters “hey” are in the interrogative form. Therefore, they are vocalized with a chataf patach הִנִהְיָה has there been? הִנִשְׁמַע has it been heard? הִשָמַע did there hear? הֲנִסָּה did… perform miracles?
with trials: Through tests, He let them know His might, for example: “[and Moses said to Pharaoh] 'Boast of your superiority over me [to fix a time]” (Exodus 8:5), whether I am able to do so. This is a test.
with signs: Heb. בְּאֹתֹת. With signs, so that they should believe that he [Moses] was the messenger of the Omnipresent, as, e.g., “What is that in your hand?” (Exod. 4:2)
and with wonders: Heb. וּבְמוֹפְתִים. These are wonders, [meaning] that God brought upon them [the Egyptians] wondrous plagues.
and with war: At the Red Sea, as it is said: “because the Lord is fighting for them” (Exod. 14:25).
35You have been shown, in order to know that the Lord He is God; there is none else besides Him.
You have been shown: Heb. הָרְאֵתָ As the Targum [Onkelos] renders it: אִתְחִזֵיתָא, you have been shown. When the Holy One, blessed is He, gave the Torah, He opened for Israel the seven heavens, and just as He tore open the upper regions, so did He tear open the lower regions, and they saw that He is One. Accordingly, it is stated, “You have been shown, in order to know [that the Lord He is God-there is none else besides Him].”
36From the heavens, He let you hear His voice to instruct you, and upon the earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words out of the midst of the fire,
37and because He loved your forefathers and chose their seed after them, and He brought you out of Egypt before Him with His great strength,
And because He loved: And all this was because He loved [your forefathers].
and He brought you out… before Him: like a man who leads his son before him, as it is stated (Exod. 14:19), “Then the angel of the Lord who had been going, who had been going [in front of the Israelite camp,] moved and went behind them.” Another explanation: And He brought you out before him-before his forefathers, as it is said: “Before their forefathers, He wrought wonders” (Ps. 78:12). And do not be astonished by the fact that [Scripture] refers to them in the singular [using בְּפָנָיו instead of בִּפְנֵיהֶם], for it has already written about them in the singular, “And chose their seed (בְּזַרְעוֹ) after them (אַחֲרָיו),” [lit. his. seed after him].
38to drive out from before you nations greater and stronger than you, to bring you and give you their land for an inheritance, as this day.
from before you [nations greater and stronger] than you: Heb. מִמְּךָ מִפָּנֶי‏ךָ, lit. than you from before you. The verse can be explained by transposing it: to drive out from before you מִפָּנֶי‏ךָ‏, nations greater and stronger than you מִמְּךָ.
as this day: As you see today.
39And you shall know this day and consider it in your heart, that the Lord He is God in heaven above, and upon the earth below; there is none else.
40And you shall observe His statutes and His commandments, which I command you this day, that it may be well with you and your children after you, and that you may prolong your days upon the earth which the Lord your God gives you forever.
41Then Moses decided to separate three cities on the side of the Jordan towards the sunrise,
Then [Moses] decided to separate: Heb. אָז יַבְדִּיל [The future form יַבְדִּיל instead of the past form הִבְדִּיל is to be explained]: Moses set his heart to hasten to [implement] the matter to separate them. And even though they were not to serve as cities of refuge until those of the land of Canaan would be separated, Moses said, “Any commandment that is possible to fulfill, I will fulfill” (Makkoth 10a).
on the side of the Jordan towards the sunrise: On that side which is on the east of the Jordan.
towards the sunrise: Heb. מִזְרְחָה שָׁמֶשׁ Because the word מִזְרְחָה is in the construct state, the “reish” is punctuated with a “chataf” (vocal “sh’va”), the meaning being, “the rising of the sun,” i.e., the place of the sunrise.
42so that a murderer might flee there, he who murders his fellow man unintentionally, but did not hate him in time past, that he may flee to one of these cities, so that he might live:
43Bezer in the desert, in the plain country of the Reubenites, Ramoth in Gilead of the Gadites, and Golan in the Bashan of the Menassites.
44And this is the teaching which Moses set before the children of Israel:
And this is the teaching: This one which he is about to set down after this chapter.
45These are the testimonies, statutes and ordinances, which Moses spoke to the children of Israel when they went out of Egypt,
These are the testimonies… which [Moses] spoke: They are the very same ones that he spoke when they went out of Egypt, and he taught it to them again in the plains of Moab.
46on the side of the Jordan in the valley, opposite Beth Peor, in the land of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, whom Moses and the children of Israel smote, after they went out of Egypt.
47And they possessed his land and the land of Og, king of the Bashan, the two kings of the Amorites, who were on the side of the Jordan, towards the sunrise,
who were on the side of the Jordan: which is in the east, because the other side was in the west. [That means on the side opposite the western side.]
48from Aroer, which is by the bank of the river Arnon, to Mount Sion, which is Hermon,
49and all the plain across the Jordan eastward as far as the sea of the plain, under the waterfalls of the hill.