When I call out [and mention] the Name of G‑d / [Respond and] ascribe greatness to our G‑d.

-- Devarim 32:3

Classic Questions

How does one "ascribe greatness to our G‑d"? (v. 3)

Rashi: "When I call out the Name of G‑d"—when I call out and mention G‑d's Name, you should "ascribe greatness to our G‑d"—and bless His Name. From here, they derived that after a blessing recited in the Temple, one responds: "Blessed be the Name of His glorious Kingdom!" [rather than "amen"].

Sifri: From where do we derive that one must answer "amen" after a blessing is made? From the words, "Ascribe greatness to our G‑d."

Gur Aryeh: The verse cannot refer to answering "amen," since "amen" is not a phrase with which one praises the greatness of G‑d, and the verse stresses: "Ascribe greatness to our G‑d."

The Rebbe's Teachings

Ascribing Greatness To G‑d (v. 3)

What forced Rashi to conclude that at the literal level the words "ascribe greatness to our G‑d" refer to responding "Blessed be the Name of His glorious Kingdom!" after a blessing recited in the Holy Temple? Why did Rashi reject the apparently more straightforward and simple explanation of Sifri, that the verse is referring to the answering of "amen" when any blessing is recited?

Gur Aryeh argues that the words "ascribe greatness to our G‑d" could not be referring to the response of "amen," which is not a description of greatness.

However, this still does not explain why, at the literal level, Moshe would now be telling the Jewish people a law about blessings in the Holy Temple, which appears to be entirely out of context here, in Parshas Ha'azinu.

The Explanation

In Parshas Ha'azinu, Moshe was addressing the Jewish people on the very last day of his life, after leading them for some forty years in the desert.

So, on reaching our verse, Rashi was troubled: Why is Moshe teaching the Jewish people such a basic principle now: "When I call out and mention G‑d's Name, you should ascribe greatness to our G‑d and bless His Name"? Moshe had mentioned G‑d's Name on numerous occasions before this point, so why would he be teaching them how to respond now?

Due to this question, Rashi understood that our verse cannot be referring to an ordinary response made when hearing G‑d's Name (such as responding "amen," as Sifri suggests), but rather, that it must be referring to a more special and unusual response.

From an earlier comment of Rashi, the reader will already be familiar with the concept that G‑d's Name was pronounced in a special manner in the Holy Temple: "Permission was only granted to mention the Explicit Name in the place where the Divine Presence comes, which is in the Temple in Jerusalem" (Rashi on Shemos 20:21).

So, since we have a precedent here (at the literal level) for an unusual manner in which G‑d's Name may be mentioned, Rashi concluded that our verse must be referring to the principle that: "After a blessing recited in the Temple, one responds, 'Blessed be the Name of His glorious Kingdom!'"

And this also explains why Moshe made this statement at the end of his life, for it was only at this point that the Jewish people were poised to enter the Land of Israel and build the "Temple in Jerusalem" where this law would become relevant for the first time.

(Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Ha'azinu 5742)