The parsha begins with the mitzvah of the offering of first fruits and ends with the blessing and the curse that will befall Israel if they follow or stray from the path of service to God. A series of blessings and curses were to be recited publicly once the Jews arrived in the Land. The two mountains, Mt. Eival and Mt. Gerizim, were chosen as the site for this ceremony. Among them is the following and Rashi's comment.

Rashi and Bechor Shor view the verse differently.

Deuteronomy 27:18

" 'Cursed is the one who misleads the blind person on the way'; and all the People answered 'Amen.' "

 

RASHI

Whoever misleads the blind - RASHI: One who is blind regarding a particular matter and he offers him bad advice.

Rashi takes this verse in a metaphorical sense, that is, not one who is physically blind, but one who is ignorant, regarding a particular issue. The prohibition is against intentionally giving bad advice to someone, ("lead him astray") since he cannot adequately evaluate the advice, as he is "blind" in this particular area of expertise. This is similar to Rashi's comment on Leviticus 19:14.

 

QUESTIONING RASHI

A Question: The simple meaning of this verse is not to lead a blind man in the wrong direction while he is walking on the road. Why does Rashi prefer the allegorical interpretation to the simple meaning?

Hint: See this verse in its context.

Your Answer:

 

WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?

An Answer: All the curses in this section (27:16-26) refer to transgressions done in secret, out of sight of potential witnesses. See verse 16 where it speaks of making idols and placing them "in a hidden place." And verse 24, which speaks of one who hits another "in a hidden place." All the other curses refer to transgressions which are either done at home or can be done in a surreptitious way. But our verse does not seem to fit in with that theme. It speaks of misleading a blind man "on the way." If we take the verse at face value, meaning misguiding a blind man as he walks on the road, that is an act done in full public view and would deviate from the list of hidden transgressions recorded in this section of accursed behaviors. Therefore Rashi looks for an interpretation that will fit the context.

How does his comment accomplish that?

Your Answer:

 

UNDERSTANDING RASHI

An Answer: Rashi transforms our verse into a "hidden transgression." No one can see another man's intentions - so that when he gives his misleading advice he can always claim that he did so innocently, with no devious intent. In this sense it is a "hidden transgression."

 

BECHOR SHOR OFFERS P'SHAT

The Bechor Shor, always in pursuit of the simple p'shat, has suggested something quite straightforward. He takes Rashi's idea a step further and thus brings it nearer to a p'shat interpretation. He says we should take the verse at face value. The man actually misled a blind man on the way. Nevertheless, this can rightfully be considered a "hidden transgression," since the perpetrator can always defend himself by saying he did so innocently; he didn't realize he was guiding him wrongly. Nobody can know another person's intention - it remains hidden.

Again we see how p'shat is available, if we only open our eyes to see it.

 

Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek