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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parshas Ekev (70)

This week's sedra continues with Moses' talk to the People. Moses encourages the nation that they will succeed in taking over the Land of Canaan but emphasizes that the condition for this is their observance of G-d's commandments. The connection between living peacefully on the Land and fulfilling G-d's mitzvos is repeated in the second paragraph of the Shema which is found in our sedra.

We will look at a strange Rashi comment.

Deuteronomy 10:17

For Hashem, your G-d He is the G-d of the gods and the Lord of the lords, the great the mighty and awesome G-d, Who does not show favor and Who does not accept a bribe.


Who does not accept a bribe: Rashi: To appease Him with money.


A Question: How can anyone appease G-d with money? He is not a human judge that one can slip him some cash in an envelope! How would one transfer money to G-d?


As we think of "bribing" G-d, we can think of several possibilities.

1) Doing mitzvahs in order to atone for and hopefully nullify our sin. This might appease G-d so that He wouldn't punish us.

2) Giving money to charity. This is a mitzvah which, in a sense, is like giving money to G-d, since this act of kindness is one of His mitzvahs.

The first possibility is how both the Rambam and the Ramban understand our verse.


The Rambam in his commentary on Perkei Avos (Ch.4: 28) writes:

"This does not mean: He doesn't take a bribe to pervert justice, because such an interpretation is absurd, such a thing is far removed from G-d. It is something that cannot even be imagined, for how could He take a bribe? And what could possibly be the bribe? Rather the meaning is, He does not accept good acts (mitzvahs) as (compensation); for example, if a person has done a thousand mitzvahs and one evil deed , Hashem will not forgive him his one sin because of all his mitzvahs, as if to deduct one mitzvah in place of that one sin. Instead He will punish him for his one sin and reward him for all of his mitzvahs. This is the meaning of 'He takes no bribery.'


The Ramban offers an identical interpretation of "bribery" in relation to G-d to that of the Rambam. (The Ramban was thoroughly conversant with all of the Ramban's writings, so he likely adopted this interpretation.) He says on this verse:

"Even if a truly righteous man has transgressed, [G-d will not] accept from him, as bribery, one of His mitzvahs in order to atone for [the man's transgression]. Instead He will punish him for his sin and likewise reward him with all His good (for the mitzvahs he has performed)."


One wonders why this is considered bribery. The Rambam himself write in the Laws of Repentance that if a person has more mitzvahs than sins he is considered a righteous person. So why shouldn't the fact that the person has more mitzvahs than sins allow him to gain atonement for his sin?

But let us first return to Rashi's comment, which differs from the Rambam/Ramban answer.

Rashi's comment seems closer to the second possibility above, since it involves money. We must understand why Rashi rejects the first possibility and why the second (giving charity) is not an acceptable means of obtaining atonement for one's sins. This is not easy!

Can you understand Rashi's comment that G-d cannot be "appeased with money"?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi's comment may be better understood when seen in light of a verse in Proverbs (16:6): "Through kindness and truth will sin be forgiven, and with the fear of Hashem one turns from evil."

Here we have the formula for really "appeasing G-d" and having our sins forgiven - the crucial factors: "kindness and truth." By kindness may be meant acts of charity (giving money to a charitable cause). But what does "truth" mean here? The answer would seem to be that complete atonement and the achieving of appeasement from G-d, requires "truth." In the case of a sinner who seeks the revocation of his sins, the elemental truth would be to admit one's sins. "This above all, to thine own self be true." This is the first step in doing tshuvah. Rashi is telling us that bribery for G-d is to think that doing more of His commandments without at the same time confessing and regretting one's sins, will achieve G-d's favor. But G-d takes no bribery. No matter how much money is given for a good cause, no matter how many good deeds in account, unless and until a man asks forgiveness for his sin, G-d is not appeased. Unless and until he is "truthful" about his actions and does not try to sweep them under the rug by "appeasing G-d" with additional mitzvahs. This thought is from Rabbi Z. Sortzkin's Oznayim L'Torah.


Rashi interprets bribing G-d differently from the way the Ramban and Rambam do. For Rashi it is giving money (donating to charity) while for Rambam/n doing any mitzvah of Hashem may be considered bribery if it was done to appease Him.Why do you think Rashi chose giving money?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi is committed to interpreting close to p'shat. And in ordinary circumstances "bribery" is usually done by giving money, so Rashi chose that way of bribing G-d.

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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