rashihed.jpg (16002 bytes)

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)


by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Parashas Devarim (69)

This week's sedra, the first in the book of Deuteronomy, is the beginning of Moses' last words to the children of Israel, spoken before his death and before they were to enter the Land of Canaan. It is historical overview of the events that happened to the nation, sprinkled with words of musar. This sedra always is read the Shabbat before the Ninth of Av, the day that commemorates the destruction of the Temples and the beginning of the long exile from the land of Israel. One of the reasons for Devarim being read now is that the story of the Spies and their evil report is recalled in our sedra. It was that event that forecast the eventual destruction and exile which came centuries later.

Deuto. 1:23

The idea (to send spies) pleased me and I took from you twelve men, one man per tribe.


twelve men, one man per tribe : Rashi: This tells that the tribe of Levi was not among them.


A Question: On what basis does Rashi conclude that Levi was excluded?

What is bothering him?

Your Answer:


An Answer: There is duplication here. If Moses took one man per tribe, then it is obvious that he took twelve men, because there were twelve tribes. So why did he have to say that he took twelve men?

That is what Rashi is focusing on.

How does his comment deal with the apparent redundancy?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Actually there are 13 tribes! Because, if Joseph is not counted and instead his two sons, Ephraim and Menasheh, are included, which they were; so one tribe must have been excluded to bring the number down to twelve. Rashi concludes it was the tribe of Levi that was excluded.

Why do think it was Levi that was excluded?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The spies were sent to see how to conquer the land and then it was to be divided up among the tribes to give each its portion. But Levi had no portion in the allotment of land, so it is reasonable that he would be the one tribe not to send a representative.


A Question: The commentators on Rashi ask a more obvious question: Why do we need to be told that Levi was excluded, when we already know this from reading Parashas Shelach. There it tells which tribes sent spies and Levi is not included. So why do we need this verse's redundancy to teach what we already know?

Can you answer this difficult question?

Your Answer:


A Suggested Answer: Rashi does not mean that the verse is to tell us that Levi was excluded; it is to tell the nation to whom Moses was speaking that Levi was excluded. But they certainly also knew this! Rather it was to emphasize to them this point, for them to hear the implied criticism. Which criticism?

Well, Levi was the tribe that Moses himself belonged to, so if he didn't send his own kinsmen, something is fishy. Although the verse says: "The idea (to send spies) pleased me..." yet it was apparently a qualified "pleasure" since Moses held back sending his own tribe. That should have alerted the people that maybe Moses was not all that enthusiastic about sending spies. If the people would have waited a moment and thought then maybe they would have asked Moses the reason for his excluding Levi and then he would have warned them about the dangers inherent in sending spies, when trust in Hashem should have been enough for them.

Perhaps this is what Rashi meant when he wrote "to tell them that Levi was excluded."

Shabbat Shalom and a meaningfull fast to all.
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to parsha@shemayisrael.co.il

Jerusalem, Israel