In relation to the passage of the Mishnah: "Moses received the Torah from Sinai [and transmitted it to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly]", it was pointed out that with regard to Moses, the expression "received" is used, whereas with regard Joshua, the expression "transmitted to" is used.

It would seem that it would have been more consistent either to speak of both of them as having "received" or as having been "transmitted to." Furthermore, the next two stages - the elders and the prophets - are not spoken of as having received or having been transmitted to. Finally, the prophets are said to have "transmitted" it to the Men of the Great Assembly. Why not follow the precedent and simply say, "and the prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly?"

..."transmitted to" implies being acted upon forcefully.

It was answered that "transmitted to" implies being acted upon forcefully. As it is written, "and [the conscripts] were handed over from amongst the thousands of Israel" in connection with [the conscription for] the war against Midian.

The word for "were handed over" (yimasru) is the same verb used in the Mishnah quoted for "transmitted" (masrah, masru).

The Jews had to be conscripted by force [to fight the war against Midian] since they knew that Moses would die thereafter. As it is written, "Avenge the vengeance [of the Israelites against Midian] and then be gathered [unto your people]."

...Moses had to transmit it to Joshua again forcefully...

Thus, the verb in question denotes involuntary transmission.

Therefore, inasmuch as our holy Torah "is longer than the earth [and wider than the sea]", Moses had to transmit it to Joshua again forcefully, for Joshua was unable to receive it all on his own. Only Moses had the power to receive it easily. But Joshua received it only on Moses’ power, beyond his ability.

As for "and Joshua to the elders": Since he was transmitting it to many people, his own power was not required, for amongst many people, one will remember most of what he learned, another most of what he learned [and thus they will all, together, cover the subject]. It is therefore not as difficult as it is with an individual who has to remember the whole Torah by himself.

The same pertains for "and the elders to the prophets," a transmission from the many to the many.

But as the generations wore on, human intellect diminished, until even transmission from the many to the many required power. It is therefore stated that "the prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly."

Thus, it never happened that one individual [was responsible for] knowing the whole Torah other than in the cases of Moses and Joshua.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Likutei Torah parashat Ekev; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.