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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parshas Devarim (70)

This week we begin the last of the five Books of the Torah, the Book called in English Deuteronomy meaning the Second Torah. This based on and is the translation of the Hebrew term for Devarim, which is "Mishneh Torah". This Book is different from the first four Books in that this is comprised of Moses' speech to the People and not G-d's commands.

Deut. 1: 16

And I commanded your judges at that time saying: Hear [arguments] between your brothers and judge righteously between a man and his brother and between his stranger.


And I commanded your judges: Rashi: I said to them: Deliberate in judgment. If a case comes before you once, twice or three times, do not say 'This law has already come before us many times..' ( and therefore we need not examine again closely]

Rather discuss it thoroughly [even the third time].

What would you ask on this comment?

Your Question:


A Question: Rashi's comment seems to be 'out of left field' and not really relevant. Why does he ignore the simple meaning of this verse? That would be "Command them to hear the petitioners that come before them"? That is more or less what the verse says. Why does Rashi need offer a different meaning to these words?

What is bothering him?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Taken simply, the verse says to command the judges to hear the litigants who come before them. But that is obvious - they don't have to command them to do that. When the judges sit in judgment and litigants begin speaking, of course, they will hear them. So this cannot be the real meaning of these words. Rashi is asking implicitly asking: What was the command to the judges?

How does his comment deal with this?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Because the simple meaning is not acceptable, Rashi (and the Midrash) searched for a better meaning. With Rashi's comment we now understand that "Hear [the argument] between your brothers " means listen carefully. That was the command; and that is not self-understood (as would be to just listen). So the judges had to be commanded to do this.


: Again we see, after close analysis of Rashi's comments, that nothing is for naught. No comment comes out of thin air; it has some reason based on the words of the Torah.

Shabbat Shalom
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.

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