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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas B'shalach (64)

This week's sedra recounts the final hours of the historic Exodus from Egypt. The Israelites left Egypt in a cloud of glory, literally. The splitting of the Reed Sea was the climactic event culminating in a miracle-packed year when Pharaoh and his culture of magic were soundly defeated by the G-d of the Hebrews. At the crossing of the Sea when Pharaoh and his choice army were drowned, Moses, and the People sang a praise to Hashem. The Song of the Sea. In it we read the following verse:

Exodus 15:3

Hashem is a man of war, Hashem is His name.


Hashem is a man of war: RASHI: [The Hebrew 'Ish Milchamos'] means the Master of Wars. As in (Ruth 1:3) 'Ish Naomi' The husband (or master) of Naomi. Similarly, in (Kings 2:2 when David speaks to his son Shlomo) "Be strengthened and be a man" meaning "and be a strong person."


Rashi is translating the word "Ish" which literally means 'man.' He gives it the meaning of 'master.'


A Question: Why is Rashi's translation - master - better than the simple meaning of "man." ?

What was bothering him about the translation "man"?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Describing G-d as "man" is problematic. G-d is not a man. As the verse says "G-d is not man " (Numbers 23:19). If He is not a "man" why then does the verse refer to him as "Ish milchama"? How does Rashi's brief interpretation help us? Your Answer: UNDERSTANDING RASHI An Answer: G-d is described here neither as a "man" in the sense of "man and not woman" nor in the sense of "man and not animal." The word is now translated as "master" one who is in charge of, in control of, wars. In this way we have avoided any possible anthropomorphism, that is describing G-d in human terms.

Can you see any other significance to Rashi's new translation?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The words " A Man of War" convey the idea of an aggressive G-d, one who's chief characteristic and who's main pastime, is making wars. This is not the Jewish view of G-d. But, in fact, it is the Christian view of the G-d of the Old Testament (i.e. as they see the Jewish view of G-d). It has often been said by gentiles that the Old Testament (the Tanach) conveys G-d as a cruel, unforgiving deity. A harsh disciplinarian. Many verses throughout Tanach can be cited that refute this claim. But this is the place to go into that. It is enough to see how Rashi's sensitivity to this point may have prompted him to make this comment. G-d is not a "man of war" in the sense that He is occupied and preoccupied with making war. He is rather the Master of wars, in the sense that if wars must be fought, then His battles, which are on the side of justice and righteousness, are in His control. He is the Master of these wars and after the dust of battle settles, then His values will prevail.

Let us be blessed to live to see such Divine victories.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The Rashi Institute is preparing a new, original volume of What's Bothering Rashi? We are in need of sponsors for this project. For those interested please write us and we will supply the details.

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