More Discussions for this daf
1. Prophets to the nations 2. Job Marrying Dinah 3. Queen of Sheba
4. Moshe's Name 5. Last Eight Lines 6. Last eight verses of Torah and Ibn Ezra
7. Reading from a Sefer Torah

1. Shalom Spira asked:

Bichasdei HaKadosh Barukh Hu, Yishtabach Shemo

Shalom Aleikhem to the Rabbanan of the Kollel Iyun HaDaf, shlit"a, Yivarekh Hash-m Cheilam, Vi'yizakeinu Bimi'or Toratam,

I would like to ask a question about a halakhic topic related to the gemara in Bava Batra 15a which discusses the last eight verses of the Torah.

The Yosef Da'at (which is very kindly provided by the Kollel's Website) points us to consult R. Moshe Feinstein's rulings in Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De'ah III, nos. 114-115 and Orach Chaim IV, no. 24. In those responsa, R. Feinstein establishes based on our gemara (as well as the gemara in Sanhedrin 99s and the gemara in Megillah 2b-3a) that it is the fundamental obligation of a Jew to recognize the self-evident truth that every single word in our Torah was dictated by HaKadosh Barukh Hu, Yishtabach Shemo to Mosheh Rabbainu. Anyone who denies this is considered a heretic, and therefore the "commentary" on Pentateuch attributed to R. Yehudah Hachassid is heresy (-and, adds R. Feinstein, a worthless forgery which was never written by the saintly R. Yehudah Hachassid), because in that commentary the preposterous claim is made that subsequent prophets edited the Sefer Torah [yishtake'a hadavar vilo ye'amer].

R. Feinstein points to the pesak halakhah of the Ibn Ezra in his commentary on Genesis 36:31 as proof to this effect. [The Ibn Ezra describes a "commentary" that claims that a later prophet added a section to the Torah regarding the kings of Edom. The Ibn Ezra says that this "commentary" is heresy and must be burned. R. Feinstein affirms the correctness of the Ibn Ezra's ruling.] R. Feinstein emphasizes that the final eight verses of the Torah are the sole exception, as per our gemara. According to some Tanna'im, HaKadosh Barukh Hu revealed an oral halakhah to Mosheh Rabbeinu that the final eight verses of the Torah scroll will not be transcribed by Mosheh but rather by Yehoshua as the extended agent of Mosheh, and that a Sefer Torah is only kosher (for such di'oraita purposes as the mitzvah of Ketivat Sefer Torah or Hak'hel) when those last eight verses - that will be dictated to Yehoshua as the extended agent of Mosheh.

[And other Tanna'im disagree and hold that even the last eight verses were dictated by Mosheh Rabbeinu. The Mishnah Berurah in Orach Chaim no. 428 (se'if katan no. 21) is apparently unable to decide between the views.]

Accordingly, I would like to ask the Rabbanan, how does the Ibn Ezra himself (upon whom R. Feinstein relies) comment in Deuteronomy 34:1 that he thinks the final twelve verses were written by Yehoshua? All the gemara says is there is a possibility of eight! Isn't the Ibn Ezra violating his own rule (as well as the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a regarding "Ki Devar HASH-M bazah") by claiming that four additional verses - beyond those mentioned by the gemara - were written by Mosheh??????

[It should be noted that in addition to having earned the approval of R. Feinstein, the Ibn Ezra is quoted by Tosafot in Rosh Hashanah 13a and Kiddushin 37b. Thus, I find it almost impossible to say that the Ibn Ezra was (chas vishalom) a heretic, and so I would like to explain the words of the Ibn Ezra.]

I have thought of a creative solution, but I wanted to check with the Kollel if the Kollel agrees. The Sifrei at the end of Zot Haberakhah parallels our gemara in Bava Batra 15a, but there are shinu'yei nus'cha'ot there. According to one girsa of the Sifrei, right after the two opinions of the Tanna'im are presented regarding whether Mosheh or Yehoshua (as the agent of Mosheh) wrote the final eight verses, the words "Rabbi Eliezer Omer Shneim Asar..." appear. Although Rabbi Eliezer is talking about something else completely, perhaps the Ibn Ezra saw a text of the Sifrei that said (or which the Ibn Ezra interpreted to say) that it is actually the last twelve verses which Yehoshua wrote. And the Ibn Ezra incorporated this tanna'itic opinion into his commentary.

Thank you very much for your assistance on this question.

Kol tuv, lichaim ulishalom, lisasson ulisimchah, lihagdil torah uliha'adirah, mechayil el chayil.


Shalom Spira, Montreal, Canada

2. The Kollel replies:

I think your idea is very interesting, but in light of another comment of the Ibn Ezra, I think it is untenable. The Ibn Ezra at the beginning of Sefer Devarim (1:2) lists a few different Pesukim and then says that if you understand the "Sod haShneim Asar" you will recognize the truth.

It seems that what he is alluding to is that there are several other Pesukim in Sefer Devarim - besides the last twelve of the Sefer - that are written in the the third person. They include the first five Pesukim of the Sefer and several Pesukim in Perek 31. He seems to be hinting that whatever we say about the last twelve Pesukim would apply to these Pesukim as well.

The upshot is that it doesn't help the Ibn Ezra's case by saying that he had a unique interpretation of the Sifri, because there are 20-plus Pesukim that he seems to include in the Sod haShneim Asar.

That being said, we can't accuse the Ibn Ezra of doing the same thing as the Yitzchaki, that he refers to in Bereishis, whose Sefer he says is fitting to be burned. The Ibn Ezra simply took an idea rooted in Chazal - that Yehoshua wrote some of the verses of the Torah - and expanded it. And even his expansion is not necessarily at odds with the Gemara in Bava Basra.

It could be that the Gemara is primarily interested in stating a Halachah: that the last eight verses have to be read together; that there is something special about the last eight verses - that they refer to a time after Moshe Rabbeinu's death - that necessitates them being read together, and that the Ibn Ezra would agree to this Halachah. The Ibn Ezra is just saying that on a Pshat level it could be argued that other Pesukim were also written by Yehoshua.

Kol Tuv,

Yonasan Sigler

This is not a Psak Halachah

3. Shalom Spira responded:

Bichasdei HaKadosh Barukh Hu, Yishtabach Shemo. Shalom Aleikhem Rabbi Yonasan Sigler, shlit"a, Yehi Noam Hash-m Alav, Vi'al Kol Hanilvim Elav,

I thank the Rav for his very kind recent response and insights regarding the last eight verses of the Torah scroll.

Firstly, just as a small technical point, I apologize and ask mechilah from the Rav that there was a typographical error in my original question. I had mistakenly wrote that:

"Isn't the Ibn Ezra violating his own rule (as well as the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a regarding "Ki Devar HASH-M bazah") by claiming that four additional verses - beyond those mentioned by the gemara - were written by Mosheh??????"

I meant to write

"Isn't the Ibn Ezra violating his own rule (as well as the gemara in Sanhedrin 99a regarding "Ki Devar HASH-M bazah") by claiming that four additional verses - beyond those mentioned by the gemara - were written by Yehoshua??????"

[In other words, "Mosheh" should be replaced with Yehoshua".]

And now, more importantly, with the kind permission of the Rav, I would like to counter-respond to his answer.

What the Rav is writing is seemingly quite weighty: the Rav is saying that according to the Ibn Ezra's "secret of the twelve", there are many pesukim in the Sefer Torah written by someone after Mosheh Rabbeinu. But this runs counter to the entire point of R. Moshe Feinstein's teshuvot referenced by the Yosef Da'at on Bava Batra 15a- to emphasize that it is prohibited for an Orthodox Jew to say such a thing. Even to say that the phrase "va'yasem et efrayim lifnei menasheh" - which is only half a verse - was written by someone after Mosheh Rabbeinu, is heresy, rules R. Feinstein. And R. Feinstein specifically believes that the Ibn Ezra supports his psak halakhah.

As the Rav can see from, this question of whether or not the Ibn Ezra would agree with R. Feinstein's psak halakhah is the subject of a current discussion sponsored by the Rabbinical Council of America. All the participants in the debate are tzaddikim gemurim, but the point I have been attempting to argue is that we should assume that indeed the Ibn Ezra would agree with R. Feinstein, or otherwise the Ibn Ezra cannot be counted as one of our Rishonim, for the Ibn Ezra would (chas vishalom) be a kofer ba-Torah.

I see that the second of R. Feinstein's teshuvot on this topic (IM YD 2:115) was addressed to R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and R. Joseph Shalom Eliashiv. R. Feinstein emphasizes to R. Auerbach and R. Eliashiv that a clarification of this matter is of the utmost of urgency for the sake of the spiritual welfare of the public, since it pertains to rescuing the public from kefirah. Accordingly, since the Kollel Iyun Hadaf is stationed in Eretz Yisrael near the residence of R. Eliashiv, I would ask the favour - if possible - for the Kollel Iyun Hadaf to present this urgent question to R. Eliashiv. Namely, how do we reconcile the Ibn Ezra's position with R. Moshe Feinstein's ruling (- a ruling which was specifically addressed to R. Eliashiv some thirty years ago)?

Thank you very much. Kol tuv, lichaim ulishalom, lisasson ulisimchah, lihagdil torah uliha'adirah, mechayil el chayil.


Shalom Spira, Montreal, Canada

4. The Kollel replies:

The main point of my first letter was that since the Ibn Ezra is taking an idea already endorsed by Chazal - that is, that Yehuoshua could have written some of the verses of the Torah - and expanding it to include several more verses (at least four more), it is hard to label this as Kefirah. Those of the Chachamim that say that Yehoshua wrote the last eight verses base this on the fact that it says "va'Yamas Moshe". The Ibn Ezra takes this one step further and says that Moshe stopped writing when he ascended the mountain from which he was not to return. Going this extra step can hardly be compared to claiming - as the Yitzchaki did - that someone in the times of the Melachim added verses into Parshas va'Yishlach.

Even though, we are indeed Zocheh to live here in Yerushalayim and to have some sort of proximity to Rav Elyashiv Shlita, it is hardly a simple thing to gain an audience with him. If, however, I have such an opportunity in the future, I will try, B"N, to ask him your question.

Berachah v'Hatzlachah,

Yonasan Sigler