by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Devorim(66)This sedra begins the fifth and final book of the Torah. It consists mainly of Moses' final speech to the People before his death. Moses recalls history as he offers musar to the People. There are also new laws that are taught in the Book of Deuteronomy (meaning "The second law" in Hebrew: Mishneh Torah)
2:4 And the Nation command, saying: You are passing near the border of your brothers, the sons of Esau, who dwell in Seir; and they fear you, and you shall be extremely careful.
2:5 Do not provoke them, because I shall not give you of their land even a foot step, because as an inheritance to Esau have I given Mt. Seir.
RASHI: And you shall be extremely careful: Rashi: And what is this 'carefulness'? 'Do not incite them.' (these are the first words of the next verse.)
What Is Rashi Saying?
Rashi explains that the word (in Hebrew: "V'Nishmartem") "and you shall take care" or "be careful" does not mean what we might have expected - "take care of yourselves."( as it means in Deut. 4:15) Rather it means "take care not to harm the sons of Esau." Rashi derives this by connecting the last words of verse 4 with the first words of verse 5.
A Question: Why does Rashi prefer his interpretation of "be careful not to harm others" to its more usual meaning "take care of yourselves"?
Hint: Look carefully at the verses.
What Is Bothering Rashi?
An Answer: Verse 4 says "You are crossing the border of your brothers, the sons of Esau, who live in Seir. They will fear you, you must be extremely careful." The question is, if they fear us, why should we be careful?! They should be careful, since we can defeat them in battle. This apparent non sequitur, is what is bothering Rashi.
Do you see how his comment deals with this?
An Answer: Israel should be extremely careful precisely because Esau fears them. Esau's fear of Israel could provoke Israel's aggression. History has too many cases where a strong nation senses the weakness - "smells blood" - of a neighboring state and is tempted to attack. Israel is forewarned not act in this way. The reason: For Mt. Seir belongs to Esau. And G-d says "I will not give you of his land."
See how Rashi connects the two verses to gain maximum effect of its meaning. What should Israel be careful about? - "Do not provoke themů."
A Lesson: In warfare Israel must be careful not to harm those that Hashem says not to harm. Only when we fight "Milchamot Hashem" G-d's battles, do we have His protection. Isarael's present battle with Hizballa and Hamas, which is really a fight for Israel's survival, we pray has Hashem's blessings and that He will see us through to victory.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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