What's Bothering Rashi? Parshat Nitzavim: Foreign Gods
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Nitzavim(Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20)

Foreign Gods

This week's parsha brings us to the near final words of Moses to the People on the day of his death. He gives them a final warning and an opening for hope - the blessing of Teshuva (Repentance). We will look at one of the verses which speaks of Israel's wayward search for delusive divinities.

There is more to knowing than meets the eye.

Deuteronomy 29:25

"And they went and served other gods and bowed down before them - gods whom they knew not and who were not apportioned to them."

 

RASHI

Whom they knew not - RASHI: With whom they had never experienced any divine power.

What would you ask on this comment?

Your Question:

 

QUESTIONING RASHI

A Question: Why does Rashi not accept the more obvious meaning of these words - gods whom they did not know, foreign gods?

What is wrong with such an interpretation?

Your Answer:

 

WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?

An Answer: The verse condemns worshipping "gods they had not known." But if they worshipped them, in what sense can we say they didn't know them? They knew them enough to worship them! So these words cannot be taken at face value.

How does Rashi's comment deal with this?

Your Answer:

 

UNDERSTANDING RASHI

An Answer: According to Rashi "known" does not mean "being aware of." As we might say "I know who he is." Here it means "knowing these gods to be gods," that is, to be powers that have manifested their might to the benefit of their worshippers. But these gods do not have such power and the people could not have "known" them in such a god-like capacity.

 

Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek


Published: September 24, 2005

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