From Where in the Torah do we Derive the Prohibition of Arrogance?

  • Rav Elchanan Samet
 
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IN LOVING MEMORY OF  
Jeffrey Paul Friedman
August 15, 1968 – July 29, 2012  
לע"נ 
יהודה פנחס בן הרב שרגא פייוועל
כ"ב אב תשכ"ח – י' אב תשע"ב 
ת.נ.צ.ב.ה
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I. The Two Dreams of R. Moshe of Coucy
 
At the end of the fifth millennium, R. Moshe ben Yaakov of Coucy (France) wandered among the cities of Spain and Provence and preached to the Jewish communities there. R. Moshe, one of the most important Tosafists of his generation, rebuked his audiences for their lax observance of certain mitzvot and guided them toward adopting good traits and distancing themselves from their wayward ones. His preaching made a deep impression on those who heard him and saved many of them from sin.[1]
 
Another result of R. Moshe of Coucy's extended journey was that upon his return to France he began to compile his Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (the Semag), considered one of the most important halakhic texts written in the Middle Ages.[2] This is what he writes in the introduction to his work concerning the circumstances that brought him to write it:[3]
 
And it came to pass, when I was brought by Heaven to wander among the lands to reprove the exiles of Israel, that I set my mind on orally arranging the mitzvot, each mitzva on its own… so that I make no mistakes in my rebuke. In several places, I was asked to write the foundations of the mitzva based on proofs and to make of this a book. I feared doing so, to publicize a work of Torah, for "surely I am brutish, unlike a man, and have not the understanding of a man" (Mishlei 30:2).
At the beginning of the sixth millennium,[4] the matter came to me in a vision in a dream: "Arise, compile a work of Torah in two parts!" I contemplated the vision, and there were two parts – to write a book of the positive commandments in the first part and a book of the negative commandments in the second part.[5]
Therefore, I Moshe ben Yaakov, set my mind to write the two books…
 
R. Moshe concludes the introduction to his book with an account of another dream:
 
Also with regard to the negative commandments, a vision in a dream came to me, saying: "You forgot the principle: ‘Beware lest you forget the Lord your God’ (Devarim 8:11).” For it had not been my intention to include this in the count of the prohibitions. Rabbeinu Moshe [ben Maimon, the Rambam] similarly did not mention it in his count.
I contemplated the matter in the morning, and, lo, it is a great foundation in the fear of God, and I included it among the great principles in its place.[6]
 
This second vision is a mystery that requires a resolution, and the author alludes to this resolution when he writes: "I included it among the great principles in its place." Let us proceed in the wake of R. Moshe's allusion, and see how the author resolved the mystery of his dream. 
 
II. Beware lest you forget the Lord” – Should this be counted among the 613 Torah Commandments?
 
In the first orations concerning the mitzvot in the book of Devarim, we encounter two similar verses. In Parashat Va'etchanan it is stated:
 
6:10-11: And it shall be, when the Lord your God shall bring you into the land which He swore to your fathers…
great and goodly cities, which you did not build, and houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, and cisterns hewn out, which you did not hew, vineyards and olive-trees, which you did not plant, and you shall eat and be satisfied,
12: then beware lest you forget the Lord, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
13: You shall fear the Lord your God; and Him shall you serve, and by His name shall you swear.
14: You shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the peoples that are round about you;
15: for a jealous God, even the Lord your God, is in the midst of you; lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and He destroy you from off the face of the earth.
 
And in Parashat Ekev it is stated:
 
8:7: For the Lord your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills;
8: a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey; 
9: a land wherein you shall eat bread without scarceness, you shall not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you may dig brass.
10: And you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. 
11: Beware lest you forget the Lord your God, in not keeping His commandments, and His ordinances, and His statutes, which I command you this day;
12: lest when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; 
13: and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied;
14: then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; 
15: who led you through the great and dreadful wilderness…
16: who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers knew not…
17: and you say in your heart: My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth.
18: But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He that gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.[7]
 
The two similar verses that we marked in bold in the citations above – "beware lest you forget the Lord" – are formulated as clear commands, as negative precepts. As R. Avin taught in the name of R. Ila'i (Eiruvin 96 and parallel passages):  "Wherever it says 'beware,' 'lest,' or 'do not,' this indicates a negative commandment."
 
Did the enumerators of the mitzvot include this prohibition in their count of the mitzvot?
 
III. Those who counted this prohibition and those who did not count it
 
Two main systems for counting the mitzvot are found among the Geonim and Rishonim who occupied themselves with this area of Torah study. The first is the system of the author of the Halakhot Gedolot, whose enumeration of the mitzvot in his book was widespread throughout the Diaspora over the course of many generations. Many enumerators of the mitzvot followed the Halakhot Gedolot's system, both in France and in Spain, as well as in Islamic countries.[8]
 
About two generations before R. Moshe of Coucy began to compile his book, the Rambam published his Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, which presented a new system for counting the mitzvot. This system is based on clear principles, which are formulated in the introduction to his book – the fourteen "roots."[9]
 
R. Moshe of Coucy was the first enumerator of the mitzvot who used the Rambam's system as the basis for his book of mitzvot, and there are only a few differences between their two counts.[10] In the body of his book, R. Moshe often mentions the Rambam and his rulings in the Mishneh Torah, to the point that it may be argued that the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol is the wide gate through which the Rambam's teachings entered the world of the French Tosafists.[11]
 
The Halakhot Gedolot, in his enumeration of the negative commandments (#150), counts as a mitzva the verse, "Lest you forget the Lord,"[12] but he does not explain the meaning of the prohibition.
 
R. Eliezer of Metz in his book, the Yere'im, in which he enumerates the mitzvot following the system of the Halakhot Gedolot, also counts this prohibition (no. 360 in the Sefer Yere'im Ha-Shalem edition), but he tries also to explain its content:
 
"Beware lest you forget the Lord" – It is written in Parashat Va'etchanan: "Beware lest you forget the Lord," which means that a person must not forget to accept upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven and that he must recite the Shema every day.[13] And according to the authority who says in Berakhot (21a) that the recitation of Shema is by Rabbinic decree, it means that a person must always remember his Creator and His commandments.[14] And "lest he forget" is a negative commandment, as R. Ila said: "Wherever it says 'beware,' 'lest,' or 'do not,' this indicates a negative commandment."
 
The Ramban, at the end of his strictures on the Rambam's Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, in the first of "the negative commandments that the Rambam forgot,"[15] counts this negative commandment in the wake of the Halakhot Gedolot:
 
That not one of us forget belief in God… for we were commanded in the first mitzva [positive commandments] about accepting the kingdom of Heaven… This is what the Blessed One said: "I am the Lord your God who has brought you forth from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage" (Shemot 20:2), which is the mitzva of believing [in God]… And He repeated a prohibition to deny this… This is what is stated: "Beware lest you forget the Lord (your God)[16] who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Devarim 6:12). He means by this that we must not forget the principle of God and deny or doubt it… And He offered proof for the aforementioned [positive] commandment and [negative] prohibition – the exodus from Egypt with signs and wonders…
And He repeated this prohibition again, saying: "Beware lest you forget the Lord your God, in not keeping His commandments, and His ordinances, and His statutes, which I command you this day" (Devarim 8:10). This is also a prohibition to forget belief in God, and to deny because of that the Torah and the commandments…
This mitzva from the verse: "Beware lest you forget the Lord your God" was mentioned by the author of the Halakhot [Gedolot].
 
According to the Ramban, this mitzva partners with the first of the Ten Commandments, the mitzva of "I am the Lord your God." In other words, it is a prohibition that complements that positive commandment. The content of the mitzva according to the Ramban is similar to the content of the mitzva according to the Yere'im.
 
The Rambam, however, does not include the verse in Parashat Va'etchanan or the similar verse in Parashat Ekev in his enumeration of the mitzvot. Why does he refrain from doing so, when these verses are clearly formulated as prohibitions?
 
The answer to this question seems to hang on the fourth principle in the Rambam's introduction to his Sefer Ha-Mitzvot:[17]
 
The fourth rule: that it is inappropriate to enumerate commands that include all of the commandments.
Some commandments and prohibitions in the Torah do not relate to a specific matter, but rather encompass all of the mitzvot, as if to say: Do all that I have commanded you, and take heed of all that I have prohibited to you, or: Do not disobey anything that I have commanded you. There is no room to enumerate such a command as a separate mitzva, because it does not command the performance of any specific action, that it be a positive commandment, nor does it prohibit any specific action, that it be a negative commandment.
 
In Parashat Va'etchanan, the verse does not explain what is included in the prohibition to forget God, but from what is written in the following verse in a positive formulation: "You shall fear the Lord your God, and Him you shall serve," we learn that forgetting God involves not fearing Him and not serving Him. If so, this is a general command that relates to many other commandments, and perhaps even to all of them.[18]
 
In Parashat Ekev, the verse itself, "Beware lest you forget the Lord your God," explains what is included in this forgetting: "in not keeping His commandments, and His ordinances, and His statutes, which I command you this day."
 
It is clear, therefore, why the Rambam did not count these verses as negative commandments, and it is also clear why it had not been R. Moshe of Coucy's intention "to include this in the count of the prohibitions," and in that way to follow in the footsteps of the Rambam.
 
IV. Resolving R. Moshe’s dream – The verse in Parashat Ekev in its context
 
But here comes the vision in the dream and informs R. Moshe: "You forgot the principle: 'Beware lest you forget the Lord your God.'" It is clear that in this dream R. Moshe is told that the verse in Parashat Ekev ­– the verse that is cited in the dream – has a new and unique meaning that is not found in other mitzvot. What is that meaning?
 
R. Moshe informs us that when he contemplated the dream in the morning, he understood that "it is a great foundation in the fear of God." He further informs us that he included this prohibition "in its place." All that we have to do, then, is look for where R. Moshe included the prohibition that is based on this verse in his enumeration of the mitzvot.
 
In negative commandment no. 64, R. Moshe writes:
 
"Beware lest you forget the Lord your God" – This is a warning against Israel becoming arrogant when the Holy One, blessed be He, bestows good upon them, and saying that they acquired all of this through their own effort and toil, and not showing gratitude to the Holy One, blessed be He, because of their arrogance. To this the verse in Parashat Va'etchanan answers: "And houses full of good things, which you did not fill… and you shall eat and be satisfied, then beware lest you forget" (Devarim 6:11-12).[19]
This explanation which we gave [at the beginning of this mitzva to the verse in Parashat Ekev] is explicit in the verses that [immediately] follow: "Lest when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied… then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt… and you say in your heart: My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth. But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He that gives you power to get wealth."
From here we derive the prohibition that a person not be arrogant about what he received from the Creator, whether wealth, or beauty, or wisdom. Rather, he must be humble and low-spirited before God and man, and thank his Creator for having graced him with that virtue.
 
R. Moshe proceeds to expand upon the matter by citing verses from the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings, and from the words of Chazal in praise of humility and in condemnation of arrogance. We learn from what he says that his remarks here summarize the sermons that he delivered during the days of his wanderings in the cities of Spain. He concludes by saying:
 
I preached in public about humility, but it was not my intention to connect it to this prohibition and to count it.[20] So too, R. Moshe [the Rambam] does not include this or mention it in his enumeration of the negative commandments.
When I reached the point of finishing the negative commandments, I saw in a dream in a night vision: "You forgot the principle: 'Beware lest you forget the Lord your God.'" And I contemplated the matter in the morning, and, lo, it is a great foundation in the fear of God, and I included it with the help of He who gives wisdom to the wise.[21]
 
What new understanding did R. Moshe reach in the wake of his dream? It seems that his new insight was that we must learn the meaning of our verse from the broader context in which it is found, and not from the verse itself. For in the verse itself, immediately following the prohibition to forget God, it says: "in not keeping His commandments, and His ordinances, and His statutes," from which it may be inferred that forgetting God means not keeping His commandments. This is apparently how the Rambam and how initially also R. Moshe of Coucy understood the verse, and therefore they did not count it as one of the 613 commandments. In the dream, however, R. Moshe was informed that this verse contains a great principle in the Torah, a new principle that was not stated previously in the Torah.
 
R. Moshe read the verse in its broader context and discovered that the explanation of the verse appears in the continuation of the Torah's words:
 
Verse 11
Verses 12-14
Beware lest
Lest when you have eaten and are satisfied…
you forget the Lord your God
and you forget the Lord your God…
 
 
 If so, forgetting God here means that your heart will be lifted up because of your success in the land, and you will say in your heart: "My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth."
 
The non-observance of the mitzvot, discussed in the latter part of the verse, is not an explanation of the first part ("you shall forget the Lord… in not keeping His commandments"). Rather, it notes the result of forgetting God,[22] of man's arrogance regarding his successes and his forgetting God's kindnesses toward him. The expected result of this mindset will be the cessation of observance of the commandments, for our commitment to them is strongly connected to our recognition of God's kindness toward us when He brought us out of Egypt and acquired us as His lot, bringing us to this goodly land.[23]
 
V. Is the meaning of the prohibition in Parashat Va’etchanan identical to that of the prohibition in Parashat Ekev?
 
            Is the parallel verse in Parashat Va'etchanan – "Beware lest you forget the Lord" – to be understood in similar fashion, as prohibiting a person to be arrogant about his achievements and to forget the acts of kindness that God performed for him?
 
            This is, indeed, the view of R. Moshe of Coucy, as he explains in his words in negative commandment 64 (cited in the previous section and discussed in note 19).
 
            The fact is, however, that there is no need to assume that the two similar verses are identical in meaning. The verse in Parashat Va'etchanan warns about forgetting God in a context that is entirely different from that in Parashat Ekev. We are not dealing there with achievements that a person reaches by way of his power and the might of his hand, which are liable to cause him to lift up his heart and forget God's kindnesses toward him. On the contrary, all the achievements there are those that God gave him as a gift, without his bothering with them at all:
 
6:10-11:
goodly cities, which you did not build, 
and houses full of all good things, which you did not fill,
and cisterns hewn out, which you did not hew,
vineyards and olive-trees, which you did not plant
 
We dealt with the meaning of that prohibition to forget God in our study for Parashat Va'etchanan, first series, and briefly noted it in our study of that parasha last week.
 
In any case, the explanation of the verse in Parashat Va'etchanan is irrelevant to the novel insight of R. Moshe of Coucy regarding the verse in Parashat Ekev, to which he was directed in his dream.
 
VI. The negation of arrogance in the Torah in the remarks of other Rishonim
 
Other Rishonim learned the evil nature of arrogance from other places in the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings, and from the words of Chazal.[24] The author of the Halakhot Gedolot, and in his wake the author of the Yere'im, counted in their list of the positive commandments the commandment to be "humble in spirit" (Halakhot Gedolot, positive commandment 165; Yere'im, no. 362). But the author of the Yere'im concedes: "But I did not find a source [in the Torah for this mitzva], other that the Torah's praise for the humble, as it is written: 'Now the man Moshe was very modest' (Bemidbar 12:3), from which we learn that there is a mitzva for a person to be modest and humble in spirit." Obviously, the Yere'im's source cannot serve as the basis for counting the mitzva among the 613 biblically ordained mitzvot, at least not according to the counting system of the Rambam and of R. Moshe of Coucy.
 
The Rambam deals at length with humility and its opposite – arrogance – in Hilkhot De'ot, chapters 1-2.[25] However, the mitzva in the Torah that he notes in Hilkhot De'ot is not specific to this attribute, but rather relates to all the traits discussed in these halakhot. At the beginning of Hilkhot De'ot, the Rambam sets the positive commandment, "And you shall walk in His ways" (Devarim 28:9) – "to emulate His ways," and in chapter 1, halakhot 5-6, he writes: "We are commanded to walk in these intermediate paths, and they are good and straight paths – as it is stated: 'And you shall walk in His ways.' … A person is obligated to accustom himself to these paths and [to try to] resemble Him to the extent of his ability."
 
The Ramban cites a specific source in the Torah for the prohibition of arrogance. In Parashat Shofetim, in the section dealing with the laws pertaining to a king, it is stated:
 
…And he shall write him a copy of this law in a book… And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the Lord… that his heart be not lifted up above his brothers, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left… (Devarim 17:18-20).
 
The Ramban comments about this (s.v. levilti rum levavo me-echav):
 
An allusion is made here in the Torah to the prohibition of arrogance, for the verse prohibits arrogance and an uplifted heart to the king, and all the more so to others, who are not fit for that… For arrogance is to God a contemptible and abhorrent trait, even for a king, for greatness and exaltation are God's…
 
The Ramban sees in this verse only an allusion, for there is no explicit prohibition here that can be enumerated among the 613 biblically ordained mitzvot. The words, "that his heart be not lifted up above his brothers," serves as the reason for the mitzva cast upon the king to write a book of the law and read it all the days of his life.[26] The Rambam already writes in his introduction to his Sefer Ha-Mitzvot in the fifth principle that "the reason for a mitzva is not to be counted as a separate mitzva."
 
Even the kal va-chomer argument advanced by the Ramban – "for the verse prohibits arrogance and an uplifted heart to the king, and all the more so to others" – is not certain. Perhaps the Torah prohibits arrogance specifically for the king, because of the damage that this quality could cause his functioning in Israel. But the arrogance of an ordinary person hurts nobody else but himself, and so perhaps we cannot learn from the prohibition applying to the king that it applies also to an ordinary person.
 
It turns out that finding an explicit verse that forbids arrogance to the entire people of Israel and to each of its individual members – a verse that can be included in the enumeration of the mitzvot – is the novel contribution of R. Moshe of Coucy in his Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, an insight that he merited from Heaven because of his humility.[27]
 
VII. Arrogance as a bad personal trait and arrogance as a sin of the people of Israel in the land
 
Is the arrogance that is forbidden based on the explicit source in our parasha the same arrogance that is discussed by the other Rishonim mentioned in this study (Halakhot Gedolot, Yere'im, Rambam, Ramban)? The answer to this question seems to be no.
 
The other Rishonim discuss the negation of arrogance as a personal trait of an individual, which corrupts his personality and harms the wholeness of his soul. The arrogance that the Torah negates in our parasha, in contrast, is discussed in a national-historical context: The Torah consistently addresses the people of Israel as a whole ("for the Lord your God brings you into a good land… then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt…"; and similarly in the continuation, though it is clear that the people of Israel is comprised of individuals to whom the Torah's warning relates. The cause of the negative arrogance of the Torah's addressee – the people of Israel – is its economic success in the goodly land, to which God brought it, success which it achieved through its toil; the content of its arrogance is forgetting "the Lord who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage"; and the cure for this is remembering the great historic kindnesses that God performed for His nation when He took them as His people and led them through the wilderness. The danger of this arrogance is also a general national danger – the cessation of the observance of the commandments and going after other gods.
 
In fact, even R. Moshe, author of the Semag, when he comes to define the prohibition at the beginning of his words in negative prohibition 64, formulates it in such a way that it corresponds to the meaning of the parasha:
 
This is a warning against Israel becoming arrogant when the Holy One, blessed be He, bestows good upon them, and saying that they acquired all of this through their own effort and toil, and not showing gratitude to the Holy One, blessed be He, because of their arrogance.
 
R. Moshe does, however, expand this prohibition of arrogance to each and every individual in all times and in all places:
 
From here we derive the prohibition that a person not be arrogant about what he received from the Creator, whether wealth, or beauty, or wisdom. Rather he must be humble and low-spirited before God and man, and thank his Creator for having graced him with that virtue.
 
In the continuation, he brings sources for the need for humility in the spirit of his last words, e.g., the verse concerning Moshe, "Now the man Moshe was very modest."
 
Despite the educational and religious truth of his words, it is doubtful whether they necessarily follow from what is stated in Parashat Ekev. It is difficult to see in the negation of the personal arrogance described in his words (arrogance regarding the wealth, beauty, or wisdom enjoyed by the individual) a biblical prohibition that is rooted in our parasha.
 
It is possible that even R. Moshe did not intend to equate the two types of arrogance, and therefore he writes: "From here we derive the prohibition that a person not be arrogant." That is to say, personal pride is not the arrogance banned by the Torah, but nevertheless the meaning of the biblical prohibition can be expanded to include it, even if it is not exactly what the Torah forbids.
 
To summarize, the Torah forbids the people of Israel with an explicit prohibition to act with arrogance with regard to their achievements in the land that God gave them, and to forget that these achievements were made possible by way of the kindnesses that God performed for them.
 
Personal arrogance is also a perverse trait, in all places and at all times and in every context, as we learn from various sources in the Torah. Some enumerators of the mitzvot count the opposite of arrogance – the trait of humility – as a positive commandment.
 
R. Moshe of Coucy's novel insight in his Sefer Mitzvot Gadol corresponds to the plain meaning of the verse, but only by combining his words regarding the special prohibition falling upon Israel as a nation – "You shall not forget the Lord your God" – with the words of the Rambam concerning the obligation falling upon the individual to perfect his character traits – especially in the matter of arrogance – will we come to a full appreciation of the Torah's attitude toward arrogance in all its contexts: "But the humble shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Tehillim 37:11).
 
(Translated by David Strauss)
 
 

* While writing this study, we made use of Yehuda Galinsky's article, "Pen Tishkach et Hashem ElokekhaLe-Pitaron Chalomo shel Rabbeinu Moshe Mi-Coucy," in a periodical published by Yeshivat Shaalvim, Sifra Ve-Saifa 44-45 (Summer 5753).
[1] R. Moshe left for Spain in 1236 and his journey lasted several years. The mitzvot that have a prominent place in his sermons are Torah study, tefillin, mezuza and tzitzit, the prohibition of marrying a non-Jewish woman, honest business practices, and the prohibition of deceiving a non-Jew.
[2] This book has been preserved in many manuscripts and was published in many editions. Prominent Rishonim and Acharonim wrote commentaries on it, and various arbitrators among the Rishonim relied on it in their rulings. R. Yehoshua Boaz included it together with the Rambam's Mishneh Torah, the Tur, and the Shulchan Arukh among the halakhic works that he references in his work, Ein Mishpat on the Talmud.
[3] All the citations from the Semag are from the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol Ha-Shalem edition, vol. I, published by Machon Yerushalayim and Machon Shlomo Auman, 5753.
[4] In the year 5000 (1240-1241). By then, R. Moshe had already returned to France. In that same year, he participated in the great debate with the apostate Donin, which was conducted in Paris at the court of the French king, Louis IX, along with three other Jewish authorities, headed by R. Yechiel of Paris.
[5] In practice, R. Moshe put the book of negative commandments before the book of positive commandments (in the spirit of "Turn away from evil and do good"), the opposite of the order in the Rambam's Sefer Ha-Mitzvot.
[6]  The inclusion of the story about the two dreams brings R. Moshe to conclude his introduction with the following emotion-filled words:
The Lord God knows that as far as I know I am not lying about the visions. And the Lord God knows that I mentioned them in this book only to strengthen Israel in Torah and rebuke, and that the purpose of the Lord might prosper by his hand.
[7] The similarity between these two passages is not simply in the verse that appears in both, but is rather much broader. We noted the relationship between them in our study for Parashat Va'etchanan, first series, "Ha-Shefa Ha-Chomri Le-Sugav U-Le-Sakanotav." The present study is connected to the conclusions reached in that study.
[8] a. The feature that characterizes the Halakhot Gedolot's system of enumerating the commandments is the division of the 613 mitzvot into four groups: 71 punishments (at the hand of man or the hand of God); 277 ordinary negative commandments; 200 positive commandments; 65 matters that are cast upon the community. This division does not accord with what is stated in the Talmud (Makkot 23b) that the 613 commandments are divided into 365 negative precepts – the number of the days of the solar year – and 248 positive precepts – the number of the organs in the human body. Many traditional commentators and academicians have attempted to reconcile the Halakhot Gedolot's list with the division in the Talmud, but failed to come up with a clear resolution.
b. The following enumerators of the mitzvot followed the Halakhot Gedolot's system: R. Saadya Gaon (on which R. Yerucham Perlow wrote his commentary); Rabbeinu Eliyahu ha-Zaken (end of the Geonic period); R. Yitzchak al-Bartziloni (contemporary of the Rif); R. Shelomo Ibn Gabirol (one generation later); the Azharot  of "Ata Hinchalta," the author and time of which are unclear, though some date it very early; R. Eliezer of Metz, a disciple of Rabbeinu Tam, in his book, the Yere'im; R. Chefetz ben Matzliach, fragments of whose enumeration of the mitzvot are extant; additional Azharot that have been partially preserved and attest to their authors' following the system of the Halakhot Gedolot.
Of course, there are minor and major differences among these different counts of the mitzvot, between themselves and between them and the count of the Halakhot Gedolot, just as in there are differences between different versions of the count of the Halakhot Gedolot itself. Regarding all this, see Halakhot Gedolot, ed. Hildesheimer (Jerusalem, 1987), vol. III, in the preface to "the introduction to Sefer Halakhot Gedolot," pp. 12-28.
[9] The Rambam divides the mitzvot into two groups – 248 positive precepts and 365 negative precepts, in accordance with what is stated in the Talmud. He does not count Rabbinic mitzvot, and he clarifies his decisions regarding the enumeration of various mitzvot, both in the introduction and in the book itself.
The disagreement between the Rambam and the Halakhot Gedolot and those who follow his system relates both to the method of counting and to the many dozens of mitzvot that are counted in one system and are missing in the other, replaced by other mitzvot.
[10] It is worth noting that R. Moshe was not familiar with the Rambam's Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, which was written in Arabic, but only with his abridged count of the commandments at the beginning of his Mishneh Torah and in the body of the book, at the beginning of each set of halakhot that bears a title.
[11] a. One generation before R. Moshe, one of the Tosafists, R. Eliezer of Metz, authored a work enumerating the commandments, but he followed the system of the Halakhot Gedolot.
b. R. Moshe's admiration for the Rambam, which led him to follow in his footsteps, is reflected in his introduction to the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, wherein he describes the development of the Oral Law from Moshe Rabbeinu to the Rambam, where he ends his account. This is how he describes the Rambam:
Later their words [of the Geonim and of the Rif] were also obscure, because the minds diminished, and there arose that great man, Rabbeinu Moshe bar Maimon. He was from Cordova in the land of Yishmael [Muslim Spain], and he composed a work from the entire Torah, an attractive and praiseworthy work, and he illuminated the eyes of Israel. He was a wondrous master of all wisdom; no one in recent generations was like him, and many were strengthened in Torah by way of his books, which spread through the land of Edom and the land of Yishmael.
[12] In the Hildesheimer edition of Halakhot Gedolot (Jerusalem, 5743), vol. III, "Hakdamat Halakhot Gedolot – Minyan Ha-Mitzvot," p. 51, and editor's note beginning on p. 50. It is not clear whether the Halakhot Gedolot is citing the verse in Parashat Va'etchanan or the verse in Parashat Ekev, in which it is stated: "the Lord your God" (and so indeed the verse is cited in a different version of the Halakhot Gedolot). It is possible that the reference is to both verses.
[13]  R. Avraham Abba Schiff, author of the To’afot Re’em commentary to Sefer Yere'im Ha-Shalem, explains the derivation of the Yere'im: "The verse in Parashat Va'etchanan… does not explain the situation to which it refers. Regarding this our master says that it may be derived from what is written before it – namely, acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of heaven through the recitation of Shema." The section of "And it shall be, when the Lord your God shall bring you" (6:10-15), in which our verse appears, follows the section of Shema (6:4-9).
[14]  The difference between the two explanations offered by the author of the Yere'im is not fundamental: The Shema contains an acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and the prohibition not to forget to recite the Shema is "that a person must not forget to accept upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven" – namely, "that a person must always remember his Creator and His commandments," as formulated in the second explanation. In practice, of course, there is a difference between the two explanations.
[15] Sefer Ha-Mitzvot Le-Ha-Rambam im Hasagot Ha-Ramban, ed. Chavel (Jerusalem, 5741), p. 395.
[16] The words in parenthesis do not appear in the verse that is cited, which is the verse in Parashat Va'etchanan.
[17] Based on the translation from Arabic to Hebrew by R. Y. Kafiah (Jerusalem, 5731), p. 18.
[18] This is how R. Yitzchak De Leon, author of the Megilat Esther on the Rambam's Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, explains the Rambam's decision not to include the verse in Parashat Va'etchanan in his count.
[19] The editor of Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, ed. Machon Yerushalayim and Machon Shlomo Auman, notes here (note 1) that these words imply that the Semag counts in this negative prohibition the verse in Parashat Va'etchanan (and only in the continuation of his words, in the next passage, does he relate also to the similar verse in Parashat Ekev). According to this, he suggests that we emend the wording of the verse brought at the beginning of this negative prohibition, and erase the words "your God," which appear only in the verse in Parashat Ekev.
However, Yehuda Galinsky in his article (see starred note at the beginning of our study) and in his response to the editor (Sifra Ve-Saifa, 45), is correct in his argument that the opposite is true: The Semag's point of departure is precisely the verse in Parashat Ekev, which he cites at the beginning of the mitzva and which was mentioned to him in his dream. With the words: "To this the verse in Parashat Va'etchanan answers," R. Moshe adds that also the verse in Parashat Va'etchanan should be understood in this sense. Immediately afterwards he goes back to the main verse discussed in his words – in Parashat Ekev – and he shows that the verses adjoining the verse, "Beware lest…," prove that this forgetting is the arrogance and the denial of God's goodness.
That this is the correct understanding of the words of the Semag follows not only from the considerations raised by Galinsky, but from the fact that only in Parashat Ekev does the context unequivocally prove that the issue under discussion is arrogance (see below in this section), whereas in Parashat Va'etchanan this cannot be proven from the context or from the wording. See further in section V below.
[20] There were two things that the Semag had not intended to do: a. to turn the trait of humility about which he had preached into a prohibition that forbids arrogance. b. to count the verse, "beware lest…," in his enumeration of the negative commandments.
[21] These last words, which appear in Aramaic in the original, are taken from Daniel 2:21, from Daniel's blessing of God for revealing to him Nevuchadnetzar's dream and its interpretation. These words of Daniel exemplify the appropriate human recognition that the wisdom, might, and glory that human beings merit are gifts from God, for which one must show gratitude. It is possible that it is for this reason, and owing to the context of dream interpretation, that the author of the Semag integrated these words into the conclusion of his remarks.
[22]  This is how the Ramban interpreted the matter in his words that were cited in section III. He explains the prohibition of forgetting as a prohibition to deny God, but when he explains in this manner also the verse in Parashat Ekev, he says: "This too is a prohibition to forget one's faith in God and to deny because of this the Torah and the mitzvot."
[23] This was stated in a previous oration in our book in Parashat Va'etchanan (6:20-25):
When your son asks you in time to come, saying: What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which the Lord our God has commanded you? Then you shall say to your son: We were Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand… that He might bring us in, to give us the land which He swore to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes….
[24] And as stated in section IV, even the author of the Semag, in negative prohibition no. 64, brings such sources, which clarify the negation of arrogance and the obligation of humility, and about which he preached in the years of his wanderings even before it occurred to him to enumerate as a negative precept the prohibition of arrogance.
[25] We expanded on the position of the Rambam regarding the traits of humility and arrogance in our article, "Ha-Harchaka Mi-Gova Ha-Lev U-Min Ha-Ka'asEl Derekh Ha-Emtza o ad Ha-Katzeh Ha-Acher? Iyyun Be-Hilkhot De'ot, Perakim 1-2," in our book, Yad Le-Rambam, pp. 9-28.
[26] So it would appear from the simple reading of the verses. This gives rise to the question: How does constant reading of the Torah ensure that the king's "heart be not lifted up above his brother"? (The continuation of the verse: "that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left," on the other hand, is quite understandable).
The Ibn Ezra, s.v. le-vilti rom levavo, answers as follows: "If he were free from the mitzvot." That is to say, a person's subjugation to the mitzvot serves as a barrier before arrogance. We already saw at the end of section IV that in the verse, "Beware lest…," in Parashat Ekev the connection is expressed in the opposite direction: A person's arrogance will lead him to stop observing the commandments. So too in the section dealing with the king, we can connect the two reasons that the Torah gives for king's obligation to read the Torah: If the king's heart is lifted up, he is liable to turn away from God's commandments.
However, the connection between the king's reading of the Torah and its preventing him from becoming arrogant can be understood in a different manner: It is not his observance of the mitzvot in itself that will prevent the king's arrogance, but rather the Torah's words of rebuke that will bring him to remember at all times God's acts of kindness toward Israel. It is precisely the passage under discussion in this study – the very passage from which the author of the Semag derived the explicit prohibition of arrogance – that is liable to have such an influence.
It seems that because of the difficulty with which we opened this note, Ri Bekhor Shor (and in his wake the Chizkuni) explained that the words, "that his heart not be lifted up above his brothers," do not serve as a reason for the king's obligation to read the Torah in the preceding verse (19), but rather for the prohibition, "neither shall he multiply to himself silver and gold," in the verse that precedes that (18). Only the continuation of the verse, "and that he turn not aside from the commandment," does he explain: "This is the reason for the book of the law that goes out and in with him."
Support for this interpretation may be brought from the fact that the Torah offers reasons for the first two prohibitions cast upon the king, "Only he shall not multiply horses to himself" and "neither shall he multiply wives to himself," but no reason is given for the third prohibition, "neither shall he multiply to himself silver and gold." According to Bekhor Shor, the reason is given below, in the words, "that his heart not be lifted up above his brothers." The connection between these two things finds expression also in our parasha (8:12-14): "Lest when you have eaten and are satisfied… and your silver and your gold is multiplied… then your heart be lifted up and you forget the Lord your God…."
[27] Rabbi Moshe's great humility is also expressed in the way he concludes his remarks in negative commandment no. 64 – the prohibition of arrogance:
A few days later, I examined the book in the first chapter of Sota (5a), and there it is explicitly stated: From where do we derive a prohibition for the haughty of spirit?... R. Nachman bar Yitzchak said: From here: ‘Your heart be lifted up, and you forget,’ and it is written: ‘Beware lest you forget the Lord (your God)’ [this is the reading in the common text]. And in accordance with what R. Avin said in the name of R. Ila'a: Wherever it is stated "beware," "lest," "do not," this indicates a negative commandment.
These explicit words of the gemara raise a question: Why didn't the other enumerators of the mitzvot, and even R. Moshe himself, take them into consideration? Why did he not remember them, to the point that he needed a vision in a dream to direct him to a verse cited explicitly in a Talmudic passage that explains it as a prohibition of arrogance?
The answer to this is that not in all places where Chazal say that a particular matter is subject to a negative precept or a positive precept should their words be understood literally as indicating that we are dealing with a Torah commandment. Sometimes they try to find Scriptural support for something that is not a Torah commandment. According to R. Nachman bar Yitzchak, there is another statement in the gemara that learns the "prohibition" from a verse in the Prophets: "From where do we derive a prohibition of the haughty in spirit? Rava said in the name of Ze'iri: 'Hear you, and give ear; be not proud' (Yirmeyahu 13:15)."
One who reads these two statements one after the other is likely to understand that like the first statement, the second statement was made in the manner of midrash, and not as a halakhic assertion of a negative commandment by Torah law. But following the dream of the author of the Semag, and after his reexamination of the verses in Parashat Ekev and his understanding based on the context that the plain meaning of "Beware lest you forget" is a prohibition of arrogance, the passage in tractate Sota became illuminated in a new light.
Indeed, R. Nachman bar Yitzchak does not bring as direct proof for his words the verse, "Beware let you forget the Lord your God," for at first glance that verse does not appear to be connected to arrogance. He begins by citing the verse after it, "then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God," and only then does he go back and bring the verse that precedes it and is explained by it: "Beware lest you forget." This is the very same process that R. Moshe underwent in his dream!