QUESTION: The Satan wanted to know where the Torah had gone. Hash-m told him to ask Moshe. When the Satan asked Moshe for the whereabouts of the Torah that Hash-m had given to him, Moshe responded that he did not have the Torah. Hash-m said to Moshe, "Are you a liar?" Moshe replied, "The [Torah, which is the] beloved hidden treasure in which You take pleasure every day -- how can I be so audacious to keep it for myself?"
What exactly occurred in this interaction? What did Moshe Rabeinu answer to the Satan's inquiry, and how did he defend himself when Hash-m asked him if he was lying?
(a) The MAHARSHA says that the discussion revolved around Sodos ha'Torah, the deep secrets of the Torah. The Satan asked Moshe Rabeinu how he could keep the Torah, when he is a mere human who has a limited capacity for understanding and cannot fully comprehend the Torah. Moshe Rabeinu replied that the Satan is correct, for he, Moshe, understands only the revealed parts of Torah (Niglah) and not the hidden parts (Nistar). Hash-m then asked Moshe, "Are you lying? You also know the hidden parts of Torah!" Moshe replied than were it for his own ability, he would never have been able to understand the hidden parts of Torah; it is only because Hash-m spread his presence upon Moshe that he understood it.
(b) The Gemara in Nedarim (38a) says that Hash-m gave the ability to elucidate the Torah (Pilpul ha'Torah) to Moshe Rabeinu and his descendants, but in his generosity Moshe Rabeinu shared it with all of the Jewish people (see "Torah from the Internet," Parshas Ki Tisa). This is the subject of the discussion recorded here in the Gemara. The Satan wanted to take back the Torah by taking away the Neshamah of Moshe Rabeinu, thereby removing any trace of the Torah from this world. Moshe Rabeinu said that it was no longer in his hands (because he had given it to all of the Jewish people). When Moshe said to Hash-m, "Who am I to keep the Torah to myself," it was true that it was given to him, but he in turn gave it to the Jewish people. That is why Hash-m said that the Torah will be called by the name of Moshe -- because it was Moshe's decision to share the Torah with the Jewish people. (M. KORNFELD)


The Gemara relates that Yitzchak Avinu defended the Jewish people when Hash-m wanted to punish them for their sins. Yitzchak Avinu argued that a man's life span is seventy years. For twenty of those years, man is not liable to heavenly punishment (because one is not liable until he reaches the age of twenty). Of the remaining years, half are nighttime, which leaves twenty-five years, of which half are spent in prayer, eating, and taking care of one's needs. Yitzchak Avinu said, "Either You forgive them for those remaining twelve and a half years of sin, or I will take half and You take half!"
The KOCHVEI OR in the name of RAV YISRAEL SALANTER explains the Gemara here as follows. The Gemara in Berachos (17a) says that there are two things that prevent the Jewish people from doing the will of Hash-m -- the subjugation of the nations ("Shi'abud Malchus") and the Yetzer ha'Ra ("Se'or sheb'Isah"). When the Gemara says that Yitzchak Avinu suggested to take half of the responsibility for the sins of the Jews and let Hash-m take the other half, it means that Yitzchak Avinu was willing to accept responsibility for the sins of the Jews that were due to the Shi'abud Malchus, one of the two things that cause them to sin. When Yitzchak blessed Esav, he gave the descendants of Esav the power to rule over the Jewish people. Hash-m, however, is responsible for the other element that causes the Jews to sin -- the Yetzer ha'Ra (as the Gemara says in Berachos 32a), and therefore He should take responsibility for the other half of their sins.
QUESTION: The Gemara says that a person under the age of twenty is exempt from punishments b'Yedei Shamayim. This implies that a person under the age of twenty cannot be punished with Kares. However, there are other Gemaros that imply that a person is liable before the age of twenty (see, for example, Pesachim 93a)! In addition, if a person under the age of twenty is exempt from Kares, then he should also be exempt from the obligation to bring a Korban Chatas for an inadvertent transgression. Why does no one mention that he is exempt from a Korban Chatas?
ANSWER: The CHACHAM ZVI (#49) gives four explanations for the Gemara's statement here.
(a) The Gemara is Agadic in nature, and we cannot apply a teaching of Agadah to Halachah. Therefore, a person is Chayav to bring a Korban Chatas, even though he is under the age of twenty and is not Chayav Kares for a willful transgression.
(b) A person under the age of twenty is sometimes punished by Shamayim. The Gemara here means that sometimes he is not punished. In contrast, a person above the age of twenty is always punished by Shamayim.
(c) It could be that a person under twenty is punished for his sins in Olam ha'Ba, but not in this world. This is in contrast to a person under the age of thirteen, who is not punished for his sins even in Olam ha'Ba.
(d) A person under twenty is punished, but only if he does not do Teshuvah upon reaching the age of twenty. A child under the age of thirteen is not punished, even if he does not do Teshuvah (see REMA OC 343).