Category Archives: Parshat ואתחנן

Parshat ואתחנן Devarim 4-42 – Learning Torah for its own sake

Deuteronomy 4:42 ” that the manslayer might flee thither, that slayeth his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in time past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live:”

Sotah 49a: Unawares[1].  Rabbi Ilai the son of Berachya says: “Two scholars, who do not respect each other in halacha, one will die and one will be exiled (to a city of refuge) as the verse says ‘might flee thither, that slayeth his neighbour unawares’.  Knowledge is a reference to Torah as the verse states: ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge[2]'”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #70

The end of the verse in Hosea is “seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God”.  This homily explains the juxtaposition of this verse[3] to “And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel[4].”  Perhaps they are exacting because the verse does not use the same language as the verse: “that killeth any person through error may flee thither[5]”  Rashi on the gemara explains that one dies at the hand of his friend who accidentally kills him.  The other is exiled to a city of refuge. If there is no actual death, the is a hint of death and exile for one is fitting to die and the other is fitting to be exiled.  This homily still requires a broader explanation.

Were it not for his words, one could explain this as is stated in the tractate Makkoth 10a, which states that Torah learning protects from death and exile, see there.  Behold this clearly refers to learning Torah for its own sake. For, in this manner, the two scholars respect each other since neither has another motive than discovering the truth. As the verse says “And Vhab and Sufah[6]“.  This is not the case when learning Torah not for its own sake.  In this case, they vex one another.  Learning such as this, in any case, will not protect from death and exile.  The intent of this homily is to show that learning Torah, not for its own sake, does not protect from death and exile.  To emphasize the point, the homily states that one dies and the other is exiled.  Take note.

Editor’s note: This note shows the importance of learning Torah for its own sake.  Scholars who do not learn Torah for its own sake are destined to attack one another, sometimes with drastic consequences.  Additionally note the Torah Temimiah’s humility, deferring to Rashi’s opinion before proposing his own.


[1] without knowledge

[2] Hosea 4:6

[3] Deuteronomy 4:42

[4] Deuteronomy 4:44

[5] Numbers 35:11

[6] Numbers 21:14