It has been taught. R. Eliezer b. Jacob says: It is impossible to declare that Levi [was stationed] below since it is stated that he was above,13 and it is impossible to declare that he was above since it is stated that he was below;14 so how was it? The elders of the priests and Levites were below and the rest above. R. Joshiyah said: All [the Levites] who were qualified to serve [as bearers of the ark] were below and the rest above. Rabbi says: Both [the priests and Levites] and also [the Israelites] were standing below.15 They turned their faces towards mount Gerizim and opened with the blessing, and then towards mount Ebal and opened with the curse; for what means 'al?16 It means 'near to'; as it has been taught: And thou shalt put pure frankincense near ['al] each row17 — Rabbi says: 'Al means 'near to'. You declare that 'al means 'near to'; but perhaps it is not so and the signification is actually 'upon'? Since it states: Thou shalt put a veil 'al the ark,18 conclude that 'al means 'near to'.
THEY TURNED THEIR FACES TOWARDS MOUNT GERIZIM AND OPENED WITH THE BLESSING etc. Our Rabbis taught: There was a benediction in general and a benediction in particular, likewise a curse In general and a curse in particular.19 [Scripture states]: to learn, to teach, to observe and to do;20 consequently there are
Sotah 37bfour [duties associated with each commandment]. Twice four are eight1 and twice eight are sixteen.2 It was similar3 at Sinai and the plains of Moab; as it is said: These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses etc.'4 and it is written: Keep therefore the words of this covenant etc.5 Hence there were forty-eight covenants in connection with each commandment.6 R. Simeon excludes [the occasion of] Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal7 and includes that of the Tent of Meeting in the wilderness.8 The difference of opinion here is the same as that of the teachers in the following: R. Ishmael says: General laws were proclaimed at Sinai and particular laws in the Tent of Meeting. R. Akiba says: Both general and particular laws were proclaimed at Sinai, repeated in the Tent of Meeting, and for the third time in the plains of Moab. Consequently there is not a single precept written in the Torah in connection with which forty-eight covenants were not made. R. Simeon b. Judah of Kefar Acco9 said in the name of R. Simeon: There is not a single precept written in the Torah in connection with which forty-eight times six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty10 covenants were not made. Rabbi said: According to the reasoning of R. Simeon b. Judah of Kefar Acco who said in the name of R. Simeon that there is not a single precept written in the Torah in connection with which forty-eight times six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty covenants were not made, it follows that for each Israelite there are six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty commandments.11 What is the issue between them? — R. Mesharsheya said: The point between them is that of personal responsibility and responsibility for others.12
R. Judah b. Nahmani, the lecturer13 of Simeon b. Lakish, expounded: The whole section [of the blessings and curses] refers to none other than the adulterer and adulteress. [It states,] Cursed be the man that maketh a graven or molten image etc.14 Does it suffice merely to pronounce cursed with such a person!15 — But it alludes to one who has immoral intercourse, and begets a son who goes to live among heathens16 and worships idols; cursed be the father and mother of this man since they were the cause of his sinning.17
Our Rabbis taught: Thou shalt set the blessing upon Mount Gerizim and the curse etc.18 What is the purpose of this text? If it is to teach that the blessing [is to be pronounced] on Mount Gerizim and the curse on mount Ebal, it has already been said: These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people,19 and it continues, And these shall stand upon mount Ebal for the curse!20 But [the purpose is to indicate] that the blessing must precede the curse. It is possible to think that all the blessings must precede the curses; therefore the text states 'blessing' and 'curse, I.e., one blessing precedes a curse and all the blessings do not precede the curses. A further purpose is to draw a comparison between blessing and curse to tell us that as the curse is pronounced by the Levites so the blessing must be pronounced by the Levites; as the curse is uttered in a loud voice so must the blessing be uttered in a loud voice; as the curse is said in the holy tongue21 so must the blessing be said in the holy tongue; as the curse is in general and particular terms so must the blessing be in general and particular terms; and as with the curse both parties respond with Amen so with the blessing both parties respond with Amen.
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