Shimon Ha’amsoni (others say it was Nechemia Ha’amsoni) was explaining the significance of each and every time the word “et” appears in the Torah. However, when he reached the verse “et Hashem Elokecha tira” (Deut. 6:13) — fear the L-rd your G-d — he stopped. His students said to him, “Our Rabbi, what will become of your explanations of the word “et” that you taught until now?” He replied, “Just as I received reward for explaining, so too I will receive reward for abstaining from explaining.” Then Rabbi Akiva came and taught that the word “et” in the verse “et Hashem Elokecha tira” teaches to include Torah scholars (i.e., just as the verse teaches the mitzvah to fear G-d, likewise it teaches to fear Torah scholars).
This beraita on our daf is based on the idea that every word and letter in the Torah has meaning. Therefore, the existence of the word “et”, which does not have any particular translation, in any verse of the Torah, must be there to include something else that is not mentioned explicitly in the verse. This is why these Sages sought to explain what each “et” in the Torah is meant to teach. Shimon Ha’amsoni “feared” to equate the fear of anything else to the fear of G-d, and therefore could not attribute any meaning to the word “et” in the verse that appears in the command to fear G-d. (Rashi)
Since there is nothing superfluous in the Torah, including the word “et”, the Sage Shimon Ha’amsoni toiled to explain the meaning of each “et” in the Torah. Doing so was a show of the “honor of the Torah”. And likewise, when he abstained from attributing meaning to the word “et” in the verse commanding fear of G-d, his abstention was also a show of “honor of G-d and His Torah”. Rabbi Akiva, however, felt it correct to explain that the word “et” in this verse teaches to include fear of Torah scholars as well as fear of G-d, since fearing Torah scholars is also showing honor to G-d and His Torah, because Torah scholars dedicate their lives to the study of G-d’s Torah. (Maharsha)
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