These are the Mitzvot...  More or Less by David Gertler


Parshat Vaetchanan states the most important principle of the Torah.  The Torah (Devarim 4:2) writes, “You shall not add to the words that I have commanded to you, and shall not subtract anything from it.”  Why am I calling these the two most important Mitzvot?  Additionally what is the reason behind these Mitzvot?  And lastly, have we been properly keeping these Mitzvot?

These two Mitzvot lay down the absoluteness of the Torah.  These are the most axiomatic Mitzvot of the Torah.  If one has a fervent belief that this one Pasuk is given by Hashem, that person has obligated himself to believing the rest of the Mitzvot.

Rabbi Zvi Grumet made an interesting observation regarding Moshe, which helps us to understand the absoluteness of these principles.  In the story of Miriam’s talking about Moshe (Bemidbar Sinai 12), Miriam comments that there is nothing special about Moshe, as both Miriam and Aharon have spoken to Hashem.  This is directly after the story of the Shivim Zekainim, where Hashem gives Nevuah to seventy people.  During the story, Yehoshua and Moshe find out that two more than the original seventy are prophesizing.  Yehoshua becomes very upset but Moshe expresses a wish that the entire nation should become Neviim.  We see that Moshe is not alone in being able to have Nevuah, but the story of Miriam explains to us Moshe’s uniqueness.  When Hashem is rebuking Aharon and Miriam he tells them that all other Neviim get their Nevuah in dreams, but it is not so with Moshe.  Moshe is נאמן in the entire house of Hashem.  I am going to translate the word נאמן as trusted, that Moshe is trusted with all of the knowledge of the works of Hashem, and not with riddles but clear and precise visions.  The reason that these principles are absolute and complete is because they were given by Moshe, the only one able to receive a vision from Hashem clearly.  No other prophet was, or will be, able to do that.  And therefore no other Navi can claim that they were given a new Mitzva or that they were instructed to retract a Mitzva, because we are told that even if they get Nevuah it is not on the level to be able to understand such a concept.  The Mishna states that in judging if one is a Navi all one must do is watch for these two principles, if they violate either one they are a Navi Sheker.

In recent conversation someone asked me if we can think that we are properly observing these Mitzvot.  After all, there is so much of the Torah that is neglected, an example being the laws of Tumah Vetaharah.  I responded that there is a difference between Neglect and stating that a certain Mitzva, which should apply, does not.  We do not have the proper means to be cleansed of Tumat Hamet (i.e. Para Aduma), but we yearn for the day that we do.  Even without our ability to properly keep all of the Mitzvot, we must keep those that are accessible to us and we should strive to make more of the Mitzvot accessible to us if possible.


That Which Is Not Said by Rabbi Mark Smilowitz

Toiling in Torah by Yoni Ratzersdorfer