What's Bothering Rashi? Parshat Ki Tavo: Misleading the Blind
click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​




Ki Tavo(Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)

Misleading the Blind

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


Published: September 2, 2006

Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.

Visitor Comments: 2

(2) EphraimSchoenholtz, September 2, 2009 8:46 PM

Aveira Hidden By Mitzva?

In addition to the elucidation offered by IsaacKight, I'd like to add that leading the blind, when viewed by other people, can be viewed as a mitzva, when they too are unaware of the intentions to mislead. To clarify, the individual leading the blind man can be viewed as someone who is providing help--a mitzva; when in reality he aims to deceive. We must keep in mind of the impact we have in the eyes of those around us. I'm not suggesting acting in a manner that serves a blind mass of people, but implying that when one leads a blind person with the intent to deceive and viewed as a "righteous individual" by the community, he's not just deceiving the blind person, but the community as a whole.

(1) IsaacKight, September 5, 2006 10:50 AM

Rashi Sees the Law, its Meaning and its Application

First we have the Law: do not lead a blind man astray. BOTH the immediate and implied law must be examined. As afore mentioned this section of Davrim deals with hidden transgressions, what is hidden about leading a blind man astray? It can be done in public, and in broad daylight. Beyond the immediate understanding there is a larger understanding: do not offer "bad" advice to someone as they may not be able to read your intentions. The person may be ignorant in general or simply unable to read your intentions and/or those of others. The application of the law is clear: act in an ethical way wherein you will offer sound advice, do so without discrimination or self-interest, and without deliberately misleading anyone (as always except to save a life). I believe each law further implies an active duty to go beyond the law, let us assist the blind by showing them their path if they have lost it, and let us arm the ignorant or easily swayed with knowledge so they too may find the path.

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.


  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment
stub
Sign up today!