You Shall Set Up Large Stones

Coat Them With Plaster And Inscribe Upon Them All The Words Of This Teaching.

Professor Gerald Aranoff,

Judaism Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff

1.The Miracles God Does For Us Bring Converts

2.The Hammurabi Stones Support a Literal Interpretation

3. Terah Wrote the Words on the Hammurabi Stones

We read in this week’s parsha:

Moses and the elders of Israel charged the people, saying: Observe all the Instruction that I enjoin upon you this day. As soon as you have crossed the Jordan into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones. Coat them with plaster and inscribe upon them all the words of this Teaching. When you cross over to enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you—upon crossing the Jordan, you shall set up these stones, about which I charge you this day, on Mount Ebal, and coat them with plaster (Deuteronomy 27:1-4).

Gentiles Read the Large Stones and Converted

We see in the Bible that Moses and Joshua set up large stones with words of Torah inscribed on them.  In the midrash, it says that gentiles came and copied the words. Jethro and Rahab were righteous converts that probably read the large stones. According to the midrash there were righteous converts to Judaism throughout history because of God’s miracles. 

Tractate Sotah 35b:

“In consequence [of what is related in the Scriptures], you must conclude that there were three sets of stones: one which Moses caused to be erected in the land of Moab, as it is said: On the other side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound (באר) this Teaching... (Deuteronomy 1:5). Elsewhere it states: And on those stones you shall inscribe every word of this Teaching most distinctly (באר היטב) (Ibid. 27:8). The inference is drawn from the use of the analogous word [באר].  The second set was that which Joshua caused to be erected in the midst of the Jordan, as it is said: Joshua also set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, at the spot where the feet of the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant had stood; and they have remained there to this day (Joshua 4:9). The third set was that which he caused to be erected in Gilgal, as it is said: And Joshua set up in Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken from the Jordan (Joshua 4:20).  Our Rabbis taught: How did the Israelites inscribe the Torah? R. Judah says: They inscribed it upon the stones, as it is stated: And on those stones you shall inscribe every word of this Teaching most distinctly (באר היטב). After that they plastered them over with plaster. R. Simeon said to him, According to your explanation, how did the nations of that period learn the Torah! [Since the inscription was covered with plaster.] He replied to him, The Holy One, blessed be He, endowed them with exceptional intelligence; and they sent their scribes who peeled off the plaster and carried away [a copy of the inscription].”

Abraham and Sarah Converted Gentiles

In the midrash Abraham and Sarah converted gentiles while yet in the land of Haran.

Midrash Rabbah Song of Songs 1:22:

“Therefore it is said, Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the wealth that they had amassed, and the persons that they had acquired in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:5). R. Hunia said: Abraham used to convert the men and Sarai the women. Then why is it stated, that they had acquired in Haran [Why not state simply, the souls whom they converted in Haran]? It teaches that Abraham our father used to bring them into his house and give them food and drink and be friendly to them and attract them and convert them and bring them under the wings of the Shechinah (Divine Presence). You learn from this that if a man brings one creature under the wings of the Shechinah, it is accounted to him as if he had created him and formed him and molded him. R. Berekiah said: Israel said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, because Thou bringest light into the world Thy name is magnified in the world. And what is the light? Redemption. For when Thou bringest us light, many proselytes come and join us, as for instance Jethro and Rahab. Jethro heard the news and came, Rahab heard and came. R. Hanina said: When God performed a miracle for Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, many heathens were converted, as it is written, For when he—that is, his children—behold what My hands have wrought in his midst, they will hallow My name. Men will hallow the Holy One of Jacob And stand in awe of the God of Israel. (Isaiah 29:23).”

Jethro and Rahab Knew of God’s Miracles

Tractate Zevachim 116:

“R. Eleazar said: He [Jethro] heard about the dividing of the Red Sea, and came, for it is said, When all the kings of the Amorites on the western side of the Jordan, and all the kings of the Canaanites near the Sea, heard [heard here refers to the drying up of waters, it has a similar connotation in connection with Jethro.] how the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the sake of the Israelites until they crossed over, they lost heart, and no spirit was left in them because of the Israelites. (Joshua 5:1).  Rahab the harlot too said to Joshua's messengers [spies]: For we have heard how the Lord dried up the waters of the Sea of Reeds for you when you left Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings across the Jordan, whom you doomed. When we heard about it, we lost heart, and no man had any more spirit left because of you; for the Lord your God is the only God in heaven above and on earth below (Joshua 2:10-11).”

The Hammurabi Code

The discovery of the Hammurabi code supports a literal interpretation And on those stones you shall inscribe every word of this Teaching most distinctly (באר היטב). In an article published previously,  I gave my English translation of the entire prologue of the Hammurabi large stones in the British Museum today.

Hertz Chumash (Soncino, 1980) writes on Deuteronomy 27:2:

“great stones. As they were to contain all the words of this Teaching. Some commentators have held that only a brief summary of the Law could have been inscribed on the stones.  However, since the discovery of the Hammurabi Code, consisting of 232 paragraphs, with a lengthy introduction and conclusion, in all about 8,000 words, engraved on one block of diorite, it is seen that the laws of Deuteronomy, or even the whole Torah, could have been written on twelve stones.”

In the Midrash: Hammurabi is Amraphel is Nimrod

On (Genesis 14:1) “Now, when King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goiim” the Hertz Chumash, states:

“Amraphel. Usually identified with Hammurabi, a great and enlightened king of Babylon.  He finally united all the city-states of North and South Babylonia into one strong centralized empire, defeating the Elamites, and extended his rule to the shores of the Mediterranean.  He undertook the codification of Babylonian law, and his Code was rediscovered at the beginning of this century.”

Terah Worshipped Idols

When Joshua said to all the people, “Thus said the Lord, the God of Israel: In olden times, your forefathers— Terah, father of Abraham and father of Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and worshiped other gods.

My theory, based on Sefer Hayashar's description of Nimrod's reign, is that Terah, Abraham’s father, wrote all the words on the Hammurabi stones.  Terah, in the midrash, was a priest of idolatry, magician, astrologer, and seeker of power. Terah was a false prophet and a rebel for idolatry.  Terah obtained power when Hammurabi made him chief of his army and his head sorcerer/priest.

Sefer Hayashar 5765 edition Hebrew page 32:

“Thus when Nimrod returned from the war in happiness that he won over all his enemies, they all congregated, his brothers and those they knew him from before. They acclaimed him king and placed a kingly crown on his head.  He ordained officers, judges, and leaders over his servants and all his people as the law of kings.  He appointed captain of his army Terah son of Nahor and raised and elevated him above all his servants he had.”

Sefer Hayashar page 39:

"The King and all his servants and Terah and all his servants were foremost in those days of worshippers of wood and stone.  Terah had 12 large idols, gods of wood and stone., for the 12 months. He worshipped each in its month.  Thus month by month Terah brought offerings and libations to his gods and bowed to them and worshipped them.  Thus did Terah all his days.  Also did that whole generation, evil in God's eyes, each man with his god. They left God who created them.  In those days no one could be found which knew God, for every one each worshipped his god. Except for Noah and his household and all that were under his advising, knew of God, in those days.”

Terah Fled to Haran to Save his Life

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 78b;

"R. Simeon replied: If you think that Terah left Ur of the Chaldees in order to repent of his past life, you are mistaken. The truth is that he was running away for his life, as his fellow-countrymen wanted to kill him. For when they saw that Abram was delivered (from the fiery furnace) they said to Terah, "It is you who misled us with those idols of yours," and it was through fear of them that Terah left. When he reached Haran he did not go any further, as it is written, ‘Abram went forth as the Lord had commanded him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran’ (Gen. 12:4), but Terah is not mentioned.”

Terah Repented in Haran

Terah repented in Haran. Terah was one of the souls that Abram "made" in Haran.

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 78b:

“R. Simeon expounded in this connection the text, ‘Their light is withheld from the wicked, And the upraised arm is broken’ (Job 38:15). The words ‘Their light is withheld from the wicked,’ he said, can be referred to Nimrod and his contemporaries, from whom Abram, who was their light, departed. Or we may refer them to Terah and his household, whose light was Abram. It does not say light, but ‘their light’, viz. the light that was with them. And the upraised arm is broken’ refers to Nimrod, who led astray the whole of mankind.

"Therefore it is written 'lech lecha' (lit. go for thyself), to give light to thyself and to all that shall follow thee from now onwards. R. Simeon further discoursed on the text, ‘Now, then, one cannot see the sun [אור], Though it be bright in the heavens, Until the wind comes and clears them [of clouds] ‘(Job 37:21). Now they see not the light, i.e. Abram's family saw not the light  [אור]  when God said to Abram, ‘The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you (Genesis 12:1). ‘Though it be bright in the heavens’ means that God willed to make Abram cleave to that supernal light and to shine there. ‘Until the wind comes and clears them [of clouds] ‘ because subsequently Terah and all his household repented, as it is said, ‘and the persons that they had acquired in Haran’ (Genesis 12:5).  (Lit. made) in Haran, referring to Terah's household, and further, ‘As for you, You shall go to your fathers in peace; You shall be buried at a ripe old age. (Gen. 15:15), which shows that Terah joined Abram.”

Our Prayer

We pray that our enemies repent of their wickedness and of their evil intentions. Our main enemy today, the Ayatollah, swears to destroy us.  We pray for God’s miracles as He did for our forefathers.  This brings converts and peace and prosperity to us.  May all our enemies, even the Ayatollah, through God’s miracles to us, come to hallow the Holy One of Jacob And stand in awe of the God of Israel (Isaiah 29:23).