“See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I enjoin upon you this day; and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn away from the path that I enjoin upon you this day and follow other gods, whom you have not experienced [asher lo-y’datem].”
Devarim/Deuteronomy 11:26-28 (trans. from JPS/Plaut

Throughout Devarim/Deuteronomy, Moses has reminded the people, in essence, “you were there”: You saw. You heard. You covenanted. Etc. This portion introduces an additional idea: You “knew/experienced/[yod-dalet-shem]” God.

Alter translates asher lo-y’datem as “which you did not know”; Fox “whom you have not known.” (The verb, y’datem, by the way, uses the second-person masculine plural, which can address a male group or an inclusive one.) The Torah: A Modern Commentary includes a note on the verb:

Experienced. The word [yod-dalet-ayin] describes sometimes intellectual apprehension and at other times an intimate, living relationship; see Hosea 13:4 and, in sexual respects, Gen. 4:1 (and our commentary to Gen. 2:25-3:24, “Sexual Interpretation”).

Hosea 13:4:
Only I the LORD have been your God
Ever since the land of Egypt;
You have never known a [true] God but Me,
You have never had a helper other than Me.
— JPS translation; the verb, teida, is second-person masculine singular, addressing “Ephraim”

The comments on “sexual interpretation” referenced above note that the verb [yod-dalet-shin] “has the meaning of experience, especially of sexual experience. Note that the story of expulsion from Eden begins with a discovery of nakedness and sexual shame (Gen. 3:7).” The commentary goes on to explain that eating from the Tree of Life would have bestowed earthly immortality; instead, having tasted of the Tree of (Sexual) Knowledge:

Man must now perpetuate his species through procreation, in the same way as other creatures do. But being a man, his sexuality has a special dimension; his process of passing from childhood to adulthood, from innocence to maturity, is shot through with love and pain…As a child he lives in a garden of innocence; when he discovers his sexual impulse and grows up, he must leave the garden forever. — comments on “The Tree of Knowledge” from The Torah: A Modern Commentary, as noted above


Full citations and links for translations and commentaries referenced here can be found in Source Materials.

Posted by vspatz

Virginia blogs on Jewish topics at "A Song Every Day" and manages the Education Town Hall and #WeLuvBooks sites. More at Vspatz.wordpress.com

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