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V'etchanan(Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)

In The Eyes Of The Nations

This week's parsha as part of Deuteronomy, which is the Mishneh Torah (the Repetition of the Torah), has the Ten Commandments repeated as well as having the first paragraph of the Shema.

Let us examine an apparently simple Rashi and its deeper meaning.

Deuteronomy 4:5-6

"See that I have taught you laws and judgments as Hashem, my God, has commanded me, [for you] to do so in the midst of the Land into which you are coming there to possess it. And you shall guard and do them for it is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations who will hear about all these laws and they will say 'But this is surely a wise and understanding people, this great nation.' "

 

RASHI

For it is your wisdom and your understanding, etc. - RASHI: With this you will be considered wise and understanding in the eyes of the nations.

As you look at this comment what would you ask?

Your Question:

 

QUESTIONING RASHI

A Question: What has Rashi added to what the verse says? He seems to say exactly the same thing as the verse itself.

Can you see his point?

Hint: What type of Rashi-comment is this?

You may remember that I have pointed out on other occasions that there are two basic types of Rashi-comments. Type I deals with difficulties in the text (and we ask "What's Bothering Rashi?"), but Type II is less known though not infrequent, and deals with correcting a possible misunderstanding (here we ask: "What misunderstanding is Rashi helping us avoid?"). This latter type has a distinctive style. Rashi's comment is always a short one and he inserts but a few words in between the Torah's words.

See the comment above: Which of the two types is it?

Your Answer:

 

RASHI TYPE

An Answer: See the words "in the eyes of the nations" in Rashi's comment? They are a quote from the Torah's words. Rashi has inserted his own few words between the Torah's words. It is a Type II comment. So we ask, "What possible misunderstanding is Rashi helping us avoid?

Can you see?

Hint: What does the word "it" refer to in the phrase "For it is your wisdom etc."?

Your Answer:

 

WHAT MISUNDERSTANDING?

An Answer: An ordinary reading of our verse would lead us to think that "it" refers to the Torah. The Torah is our wisdom and our understanding in the eyes of the nations.

This is an incorrect interpretation, Rashi implies. He wants us to avoid this interpretation; he offers us a different one. What is it?

Hint: Look at the first half of this verse. What is Rashi's understanding of the word "it"?

Your Answer:

 

UNDERSTANDING RASHI

An Answer: Rashi says "it" refers to the words in the first half of the verse, "And you shall guard and do them." The wisdom, Rashi tells us, is doing the mitzvot, not just knowing or learning them. We will be considered wise by the nations when we do the mitzvot not just by the fact that we have the Torah. Having the Torah only means we possess it, but we are not yet wise until it is part of us, until we fulfill its words. That is the wisdom – doing, not knowing!

What evidence can you find that this is Rashi's intent here?

Hint: See the Rashi-comment on verse 4:9.

Your Answer:

 

VALIDATING THIS INTERPRETATION

An Answer: Rashi on verse 4:9 on the words "But guard yourself etc. lest you forget the things" - RASHI: Then when you do not forget them and you do them in the correct way, you will be considered wise and understanding [people], but if you distort them due to forgetfulness, then you will be considered fools!

We see clearly that Rashi says if we do the mitzvot, then (and only then) will we be considered wise and understanding people.

We find evidence for Rashi's interpretation that doing God's will is wisdom from the inspiring and enlightening words of the Prophet Jeremiah.

 

EVIDENCE FOR RASHI'S VIEW

In Jeremiah 9:22: "Thus said Hashem, 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; let not the strong man glory in his strength; let not the rich man glory in his wealth. For with this shall one who would glory, be proud – Being wise and knowing Me, for I am Hashem who does kindness and judgment and righteousness in the Land for in these I delight,' says Hashem."

Wisdom is in imitating Hashem, He who does kindness etc. Note Rashi on our verse uses the same word this verse uses, "For with this" when he writes, "With this you will be considered wise ..."

 

THE LESSON

Rashi's subtle comment teaches an important, perhaps the most important, message of the Torah. Knowing God's will is knowledge - Doing God's will is wisdom. And in this He delights.

 

Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek


Published: July 30, 2006

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