Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Decoding a Tora Cipher – Parashat Nitzavim – by Rabbi Yaakov Bieler

September 14, 2012 by  
Filed under New Posts

Scruitinizing variations in the appearance of portions of the Tora.

In addition to subjecting the verses of the Tora to close reading in order to notice the many subtle nuances of language upon which are based numerous literary, legal and theological inferences and derivations, variations in the appearance of the words and letters of the Tora also are objects of scrutiny and interpretation. Examples of divergent forms of texts, words and letters, include whole sentences written in alternate spaces and/ or on alternate lines (e.g., Shemot 15;[1] Shemot 20;[2] Devarim 32[3]), letters that are larger than normal (e.g., Devarim 6:4[4]), smaller than normal (e.g., VaYikra 1:1[5]), written in reverse (e.g., BaMidbar 10:35-6[6]), and which are dotted (e.g., in this week’s Parsha, Devarim 29:28[7]).

The Rabbinic interpretation of the dots.

Of the classical commentaries printed in the standard Mikraot Gedolot, only RaShI addresses the dots over the words Lanu U’LeVanainu Ad (to us and to our children until). At first glance, the commentator appears to do no more than paraphrase the relevant Talmudic passage:

Sanhedrin 43b

Why are the words: “Lanu u-levaneinu, [unto us and to our children] and the ‘ayin’ of the word ‘ad’, [for ever] dotted? — To teach that God did not punish for transgression committed in secret, until the Israelites had crossed the Jordan: this is the view of R. Yehuda. Said R. Nechemia to him; Did God ever Punish [all Israel] for crimes committed in secret? Does not Scripture say (Devarim 29:28) “forever”? But just as God did not punish [all Israel] for secret transgressions [at any time], so too did He not punish them [corporately] for open transgressions until they had crossed the Jordan.

RaShI follows a pattern that appears many times in his writings, when he basically quotes the primary Talmudic source, but also significantly edits the passage.

RaShI on Devarim 29:28

“There are dots on the words “Lanu U’Levanainu’ to suggest that even for the publicly committed sins (by individuals), He Did Not Punish the community until they had crossed the Jordan (R. Nechemia’s position), (specifically) from the moment that they took upon themselves the oath on Mt. Grizim and Mt. Eival and had thereby become responsible for one another.”

RaShI’s understanding of the significance of the dots over the Biblical passage is further clarified when one turns to his Talmudic commentary on the passage in question:

RaShI on Sanhedrin 43b, d.h. Elah:

“The dotted letters are to teach you that when it is written “VeHaNiglot Lanu U’LeVanainu” (the publicly committed sins are our and our children’s responsibility), this attribution of blame did not apply prior to this point in time (i.e., the moment when the people stands poised to cross into Canaan, as opposed to the prior forty years of traveling through the desert following the Exodus from Egypt), but rather only from this point going forward, since all dotted letters are coming to exclude the conclusion that would ordinarily have been drawn from the text,[8] and to state in this case, the collective community will not be punished for the commission of open sins on the part of individuals who are part of the group until after the crossing of the Jordan River into Israel.”

RaShI therefore understands R. Nechemia’s position in Sanhedrin to be, that had dots not appeared over the letters of the words in question, we would have understood Devarim 29:28 as maintaining a truism that had applied from the Exodus, i.e., that from the point that the Jewish people began to be considered a nation, as opposed to merely Yaakov’s extended family, hidden transgressions were God’s Business, whereas sins done publicly even by individuals, have always been the responsibility of the community as a whole to rebuke, bring to trial, and punish. The insertion of the dots over a portion of the verse in question, is designed to limit the scope of the latter clause and exclude from consideration for collective accountability the period prior to the time of Devarim, when Moshe is to pass away and the people are to enter the Promised Land. Consequently, we are forced to conclude that the transition of the Jews from a tribal family to a nation took place gradually, beginning with their redemption from Egypt, and only culminating upon their entry into Israel. Perhaps they can  first lay claim to being a true people when they assume total responsibility not only for one another’s transgressions, but also for obtaining food, fighting wars, and settling land, from which they were exempt during their wanderings in the desert.

Focusing upon the lesson of the dotted letters in Devarim 29:28.

Aside from the intriguing technical issue of how the Tora, while devoid of punctuation, nevertheless draws attention to particular parts of its contents by physically altering to various degrees, the appearance of its letters and words, the issue of collective responsibility in general, and the historical point at which it begins vis-à-vis the Jewish people in particular, is of interest. The dichotomy stated in Devarim 29:28 between transgressions which the nation is expected to enforce as opposed to those that are God’s Domain, could be understood to be the culminating verse in a section of the Tora that began with Devarim 27:9, found in last week’s Parashat Ki Tavo.

Devarim 27:9

And Moses and the priests the Levites spoke unto all Israel, saying: ‘Keep silence, and hear, O Israel; this day thou art become a people unto the LORD thy God.

On the one hand, v. 9 contends that the Jews have finally earned the appellation of “nation”, which could be construed as their needing to take collective responsibility for all that takes place in their midst, both public and private. Verses 11-26[9] are categorized by RaShBaM and Ibn Ezra as sins that take place without public knowledge, as is clearly suggested in v. 15 and 24. By having everyone publicly affirm the curses that will apply to anyone violating any of these rules, in addition to emphasizing to each individual that he will be personally responsible for all of his actions, does this ritual also suggest that the entire nation must ferret out such individual secret perpetrators and bring them to justice? Chapter 28 makes clear that rewards for not transgressing these rules (v. 1-14[10]), as well as the punishments that will be forthcoming as a result of their violation (v. 15-68[11]) will be God-generated, rather than humanly administered. The emphasis upon God’s Readiness to punish those who fail to conform to His Law continues in Chapter 29, with v. 1-14[12] describing the covenant between God and the people that originally was entered into at Sinai being once again ratified at Arvei Moav, and v. 15-24[13] placing particular emphasis upon the dire Divine Consequences of a reversion to idolatrous practices on the part of the Jews. Therefore, after so much discussion focusing upon how God Will Be the Enforcer of His Own Law even when it is violated secretly, it is understandable for the people and its leaders to think that they are being exempted from the need of any type of enforcement, and that God Will Take Care of all sinners, public and private. Devarim 29:28 can then be understood as putting such a misconception to rest, and iterating that while God Will Respond to the transgressors “beneath the radar”, the people must bring to justice those who publicly disrespect Tora law.

A Biblical incident that illustrates the expectation that the people will police itself.

The context for the discussion in Sanhedrin cited by RaShI, is the case of Achan, who deliberately violated a Divine Commandment, and took property from the city of Jericho, after it had fallen during the conquest of Canaan under the leadership of Yehoshua (see Yehoshua Chapt. 7[14]). The subsequent defeat of the Jewish army at the battle of Ai is attributed to this lone act, raising the question of collective responsibility for an individual’s transgression. Achan’s confession, v. 21 “and behold they are hid in the earth, beneath my tent” suggests that at least the concealment of the contraband, if not also the manner in which it was obtained, was secret. But wasn’t the point of R. Nechemia’s interpretation of Devarim 29:28 that for secret transgressions, the entire people would not be held accountable? The Talmud (Sanhedrin 44a) suggests an intriguing as well as troubling rationale: “Because his (Achan’s) wife and children knew about what he had done.” Apparently, a sin can only be considered private and secretive when it is exclusively Bein Adam LeMakom (between man and God.) (It should be noted that such a conclusion is difficult in light of Devarim 27:20,22,23, the sexual transgressions listed among those that are defined as secret sins, since by definition more than one person is consciously involved in these activities, and therefore assuming that only a single perpetrator is aware of what has transpired is problematic. On the other hand, it could be claimed that each of the partners in his/her own right is secretly transgressing vis-à-vis everyone else, and that these actions are viewed paradoxically as individual secretive actions that are enacted by two people simultaneously.) While emotionally, and even legally (Ishto KeGufo [one's spouse is like one's own self] — see e.g., Ketubot 66a) things that happen within an immediate family, would appear to be considered essentially private (the concept that an individual cannot testify against his/her spouse in a court of law because it is tantamount to self-incrimination reflects such an assumption), the case study of Achan is understood to posit that this is not true with respect to Tora transgressions and Divine Accountability. While the rule of Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh BaZeh (all of Israel are guarantors for/inextricably bound up with one another — see e.g., Sanhedrin 27b) applies to the Jewish people en masse, the mutual responsibility for one another’s actions within a family is apparently not lessened, despite being literal blood relatives.

While the above discussion focuses upon how a transgression is to be viewed after the fact in terms of attributing blame and assigning responsibility, it is possible to understand the Tochecha (the sections in the Tora in Parashiot BeChukotai and Ki Tavo) as serving as a deterrent for inappropriate behavior, as well as an incentive for those who anticipate such behavior on the part of individuals, to try to intervene and prevent it from taking place. The potential for a Divine Response that will apply either to an individual or an entire people should serve to give any potential sinners pause, as well as spur on their families, friends and community members to try to nip malfeasance in the bud. A positive spin on Areivut would maintain that we are all responsible for one another to try to assure that appropriate, spiritually uplifting and morally exemplary behavior take place, rather than wrestling with communal blame and soul-searching once individuals have acted unthinkingly and irresponsibly.


[1] לאמר          אשירה לה’ כי גאה גאה              סוס

ורכבו רמה בים                   עזי וזמרת קה ויהי לי

לישועה            זה קלי ואנוהו                    אלקי

[2] נתן לך                  לא תרצח                       לא

תנאף                   לא תגנב                         לא

תענה  ברעך עד שקר                                   לא

[3] האזינו השמים ואדברה      ותשמע הארץ אמרי פי

יערף כטל לקחי                        תזל כטל אמרתי

כשעירים עלי דשא                 וכרביבים שלי עשב

[4] שמע  ישראל ה’ אלקינו ה’ אחד    ואהבת את ה’

[5] ויקרא אל  משה  וידבר  ה’ אליו מאהל מועד לאמר

6 המחנה      L          ויהי בנסע הארן ויאמר משה קומה

ה’ ויפצו אויבך וינסו משנאיך מפניך ובנחה יאמר שובה

ה’ רבבות אלפי ישראל          L

[7] והנגלות ל˙נ˙ו˙ ו˙ל˙ב˙נ˙י˙נ˙ו˙ ע˙ד עולם לעשות את כל דברי התורה

[8] RaShI’s understanding of how dotted letters are exclusionary of the otherwise straightforward implications of a particular Biblical text should be investigated for consistency. Verses that should be scrutinized from this perspective are listed in BaMidbar Rabba 3:13, and are: Beraishit 16:5; 18:9; 19:33; 33:4; 37:12; BaMidbar 9:10; 21:30; and 28:21. It is possible that different implications are to be drawn for dotted sections, but RaShI does not indicate this in his comments to Devarim and Sanhedrin.

[9] And Moses charged the people the same day, saying: ‘These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are passed over the Jordan: Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin; and these shall stand upon mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice: Cursed be the man that maketh a graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and setteth it up in secret. And all the people shall answer and say: Amen. Cursed be he that dishonoureth his father or his mother. And all the people shall say: Amen. Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark. And all the people shall say: Amen. Cursed be he that maketh the blind to go astray in the way. And all the people shall say: Amen. Cursed be he that perverteth the justice due to the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say: Amen. Cursed be he that lieth with his father’s wife; because he hath uncovered his father’s skirt. And all the people shall say: Amen. Cursed be he that lieth with any manner of beast. And all the people shall say: Amen. Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother. And all the people shall say: Amen. Cursed be he that lieth with his mother-in-law. And all the people shall say: Amen. Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour in secret. And all the people shall say: Amen. Cursed be he that taketh a bribe to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say: Amen. Cursed be he that confirmeth not the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say: Amen.’

[10] And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the Voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His Commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will Set thee on high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the Voice of the LORD thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the young of thy flock. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy kneading-trough. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The LORD will Cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thee; they shall come out against thee one way, and shall flee before thee seven ways. The LORD will Command the blessing with thee in thy barns, and in all that thou puttest thy hand unto; and He will Bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God Giveth thee. The LORD will Establish thee for a holy people unto Himself, as He hath Sworn unto thee; if thou shalt keep the Commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in His Ways. And all the peoples of the earth shall see that the Name of the LORD is called upon thee; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the LORD will Make thee over-abundant for good, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, in the land which the LORD Swore unto thy fathers to Give thee. The LORD will Open unto thee His good Treasure the heaven to give the rain of thy land in its season, and to bless all the work of thy hand; and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow. And the LORD will Make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if thou shalt hearken unto the Commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them; and shalt not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

[11] But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the Voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His Commandments and His Statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee. Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy kneading-trough. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the young of thy flock. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The LORD will Send upon thee cursing, discomfiture, and rebuke, in all that thou puttest thy hand unto to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the evil of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken Me. The LORD will Make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until He have Consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest in to possess it. The LORD will Smite thee with consumption, and with fever, and with inflammation, and with fiery heat, and with drought, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish. And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The LORD will Make the rain of thy land powder and dust; from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed. The LORD will Cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies; thou shalt go out one way against them, and shalt flee seven ways before them; and thou shalt be a horror unto all the kingdoms of the earth. And thy carcasses shall be food unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and there shall be none to frighten them away. The LORD will Smite thee with the boil of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. The LORD will Smite thee with madness, and with blindness, and with astonishment of heart. And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not make thy ways prosperous; and thou shalt be only oppressed and robbed alway, and there shall be none to save thee. Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her; thou shalt build a house, and thou shalt not dwell therein; thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not use the fruit thereof. Thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes, and thou shalt not eat thereof; thine ass shall be violently taken away from before thy face, and shall not be restored to thee; thy sheep shall be given unto thine enemies; and thou shalt have none to save thee. Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day; and there shall be nought in the power of thy hand. The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed away: so that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. The LORD will Smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore boil, whereof thou canst not be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the crown of thy head. The LORD will Bring thee, and thy king whom thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation that thou hast not known, thou nor thy fathers; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone. And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all the peoples whither the LORD shall Lead thee away. Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather little in; for the locust shall consume it. Thou shalt plant vineyards and dress them, but thou shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worm shall eat them. Thou shalt have olive-trees throughout all thy borders, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olives shall drop off. Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be thine; for they shall go into captivity. All thy trees and the fruit of thy land shall the locust possess. The stranger that is in the midst of thee shall mount up above thee higher and higher; and thou shalt come down lower and lower. He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him; he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail. And all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou didst not hearken unto the Voice of the LORD thy God, to keep His Commandments and His Statutes which He Commanded thee. And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever; because thou didst not serve the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, by reason of the abundance of all things; therefore shalt thou serve thine enemy whom the LORD shall Send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things; and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee. The LORD will Bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as the vulture swoopeth down; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; a nation of fierce countenance, that shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favor to the young. And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy ground, until thou be destroyed; that also shall not leave thee corn, wine, or oil, the increase of thy kine, or the young of thy flock, until he have caused thee to perish. And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fortified walls come down, wherein thou didst trust, throughout all thy land; and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the LORD thy God hath Given thee. And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters whom the LORD thy God hath Given thee; in the siege and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall straiten thee. The man that is tender among you, and very delicate, his eye shall be evil against his brother, and against the wife of his bosom, and against the remnant of his children whom he hath remaining; so that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat, because he hath nothing left him; in the siege and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall straiten thee in all thy gates. The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil against the husband of her bosom, and against her son, and against her daughter; and against her afterbirth that cometh out from between her feet, and against her children whom she shall bear; for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly; in the siege and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall straiten thee in thy gates. If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and awful Name, the LORD thy God; then the LORD will Make thy plagues wonderous, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance. And He will Bring back upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast in dread of; and they shall cleave unto thee. Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the LORD Bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed. And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou didst not hearken unto the Voice of the LORD thy God. And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD Rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will Rejoice over you to Cause you to perish, and to Destroy you; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest in to possess it. And the LORD shall Scatter thee among all peoples, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou nor thy fathers, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou have no repose, and there shall be no rest for the sole of thy foot; but the LORD shall Give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and languishing of soul. And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear night and day, and shalt have no assurance of thy life. In the morning thou shalt say: ‘Would it were even!’ and at even thou shalt say: ‘Would it were morning!’ for the fear of thy heart which thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. And the LORD shall Bring thee back into Egypt in ships, by the way whereof I said unto thee: ‘Thou shalt see it no more again’; and there ye shall sell yourselves unto your enemies for bondmen and for bondwoman, and no man shall buy you.

[12] And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them: Ye have seen all that the LORD Did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; the great trials which thine eyes saw, the signs and those great wonders; but the LORD hath not Given you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. And I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot. Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink; that ye might know that I am the LORD your God. And when ye came unto this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, and we smote them. And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half-tribe of the Manassites. Observe therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may make all that ye do to prosper. Ye are standing this day all of you before the LORD your God: your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, even all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in the midst of thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water; that thou shouldest enter into the Covenant of the LORD thy God–and into His oath–which the LORD thy God Maketh with thee this day; that He may Establish thee this day unto Himself for a people, and that He may Be unto thee a God, as He Spoke unto thee, and as He Swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; but with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day–

[13] for ye know how we dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the midst of the nations through which ye passed; and ye have seen their detestable things, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were with them– lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go to serve the gods of those nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; and it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying: ‘I shall have peace, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart–that the watered be swept away with the dry’; the LORD will not be Willing to pardon him, but then the Anger of the LORD and His Jealousy shall be kindled against that man, and all the curse that is written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall Blot out his name from under heaven; and the LORD shall Separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that is written in this book of the law. And the generation to come, your children that shall rise up after you, and the foreigner that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses wherewith the LORD hath Made it sick; and that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and a burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD Overthrew in His Anger, and in His wrath; even all the nations shall say ‘Wherefore hath the LORD Done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?’ then men shall say: ‘Because they forsook the Covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which He Made with them when He Brought them forth out of the land of Egypt;

[14] But the children of Israel committed a trespass concerning the devoted thing; for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the devoted thing; and the Anger of the LORD was Kindled against the children of Israel. And Yehoshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth-aven, on the east side of Beth-el, and spoke unto them, saying: ‘Go up and spy out the land.’ And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him: ‘Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; make not all the people to toil thither; for they are but few.’ So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men; and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men; and they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them at the descent; and the hearts of the people melted, and became as water. And Yehoshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the Ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust upon their heads. And Yehoshua said: ‘Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast Thou at all Brought this people over the Jordan, to Deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to Cause us to perish? would that we had been content and dwelt beyond the Jordan! Oh, Lord, what shall I say, after that Israel hath turned their backs before their enemies! For when the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land hear of it, they will compass us round, and cut off our name from the earth; and what wilt Thou Do for Thy great name?’ And the LORD Said unto Yehoshua: ‘Get thee up; wherefore, now, art thou fallen upon thy face? Israel hath sinned; yea, they have even transgressed My Covenant which I Commanded them; yea, they have even taken of the devoted thing; and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have even put it among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel cannot stand before their enemies, they turn their backs before their enemies, because they are become accursed; I will not Be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. Up, sanctify the people, and say: Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow; for thus Saith the LORD, the God of Israel: There is a curse in the midst of thee, O Israel; thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you. In the morning therefore ye shall draw near by your tribes; and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD Taketh shall come near by families; and the family which the LORD shall Take shall come near by households; and the household which the LORD shall Take shall come near man by man. And it shall be that he that is Taken with the devoted thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath; because he hath transgressed the Covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought a wanton deed in Israel.’ So Yehoshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel near by their tribes; and the tribe of Yehuda  was taken. And he brought near the family of Yehuda; and he took the family of the Zerachites. And he brought near the family of the Zerachites man by man; and Zabdi was taken. And he brought near his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerach, of the tribe of Yehuda, was taken. And Yehoshua said unto Achan: ‘My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and make confession unto Him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide nothing from me.’ And Achan answered Yehoshua, and said: ‘Of a truth I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done. When I saw among the spoil a goodly Shinar mantle, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.’ So Yehoshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. And they took them from the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Yehoshua, and unto all the children of Israel; and they laid them down before the LORD. And Yehoshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the mantle, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had; and they brought them up unto the valley of Achor. And Yehoshua said: ‘Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall Trouble thee this day.’ And all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire, and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones, unto this day; and the LORD Turned from the fierceness of His Anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called the valley of Achor, unto this day.

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