What's Bothering Rashi? Parshat Re'eh: The Blessing
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Re'eh(Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)

The Blessing

Deuteronomy 11:27

"The blessing, that you heed the commandments of Hashem, your God, that I command you today."

 

RASHI

The blessing - RASHI: On condition that you heed.

This short comment is, what I call, a Type II Rashi comment. That means that Rashi has inserted just a few of his own words in between the Torah's words. In such cases, Rashi usually is not bothered by something in the verse; rather, he wants to guide us around a possible misunderstanding. But, I would say here that in spite of the style, Rashi is bothered by something.

What would you ask here?

Your Question:

 

QUESTIONING RASHI

A Question: What has Rashi told us here and why the need to comment at all? What prompted his comment?

Hint: Compare our verse with the next verse.

Your Answer:

 

WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?

An Answer: Verses 27 and 28 speak of the blessing and the curse that will follow as a consequence to those who follow God's word and those who do not.

Do you see the difference between the wording of these verses?

Verse 27: "The blessing: That you heed the commandments of Hashem..."
Verse 28: "The curse: If you do not heed the commandments of Hashem..."

We have highlighted the difference between the two verses.

"The blessing that you will heed..."
"And the curse if you do not heed..."

Why does our verse use the word "that" ( Hebrew "asher")? The conditional "if" ( Hebrew "im") would seem more fitting. This is what we have in the next verse. This is what Rashi is responding to.

How does his two-word comment help matters?

Your Answer:

 

UNDERSTANDING RASHI

An Answer: Rashi's use of the words "on condition" (Hebrew "al menas") has a precise meaning in the Talmud. The Sages tell us that whoever says "on condition that" is as if he said "from now."

This can be illustrated when we compare two sentences.

If I say to a car mechanic: "You have $100 on the condition that you repair my car."

Or if I say: "I will pay you $100 if you repair my car."

In the first case the money is given up front with the condition that the mechanic do the work. In the second case, no money is given unless and until the work is done.

With this in mind, let us look at these verses and see what difference this verbal nuance makes. What difference do you see?

Your Answer:

An Answer: The blessing is given "on condition," says Rashi. This means that God gives His blessing even before we have fulfilled His conditions. God is willing to give us of His bounty on credit; on the understanding that we will, in the future, fulfill His conditions. The curse, on the other hand, is not given "on condition"; it is not inflicted unless and until the people transgress God's commandments.

 

THE LESSON

This is an encouraging and benevolent picture of God's ways in this world. His blessings of food, shelter and security are basic givens of this world. He placed them here for us to enjoy. Only if and when we transgress his Torah - which is a Torah of Life - are we in danger of losing these blessings. The punishments, on the other hand, come only if (when) we don't follow His ways. We could say the punishments are inherent, natural, outcomes of straying from His path, from His Torah of Life.

This idea is, in fact, built into these verses. You may have noticed that even though we are talking about conditional phrases, nowhere are the consequences mentioned.

"The blessing, that you will heed the commandments of Hashem, your God..."

Notice that the blessing is nothing extrinsic (for example: becoming rich) to fulfilling God's word; it is identified with "heeding the commandments of Hashem." It is as if the Torah says: Doing good is its own reward.

Likewise, as regards the curse. The Torah says:

"And the curse, if you do not heed the commandments of Hashem..."

The curse, itself, is identified with not heeding the commandments. Again, the message is that doing evil is its own punishment.

The Sages in Pirkei Avos put it succinctly: "The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah; the reward of sin is sin."

 

Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek


Published: August 27, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 2

(2) Philip Rose, September 4, 2005 12:00 AM

keep up the good work

Victor Shalom , My son Shmuel said he met you in bayet vegan this past year a Keseeva Vcheseema tova mit gezunt and parnassa beleemud Torah pr

(1) Anonymous, August 29, 2005 12:00 AM

Summary
A blessing reflects the glory of God's existence while a curse lives outside the existence of God's sphere, separate from God.
Anonymous

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