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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Deut. 32:31

"For their mighty one is not like our Almighty, yet our enemies sit in judgement."

On this verse Rashi remarks:

"For their mighty one is not like our Almighty: Rashi: All this the enemies should have understood that Hashem delivered them, and victory is neither theirs nor their gods' for until now their gods were powerless against our Almighty (our Tzur), for their rock is not like our Rock . The word "tzur" in the Scripture always denotes a rock."

What Is Rashi Saying?

Rashi offers a simple explanation of these words. The enemies' victories over Klal Yisroel should have been understood by these very same enemies as a miraculous victory - one dictated by G-d, in as much as these enemeies where never able to subdue Israel in the past.

This is all very clear. But Rashi's last words are puzzling. He explains the meaning of the (quite common) word "Tzur"as rock. Not only is this word common one, but it has already appeared about six times in this sedra already! If Rashi thought we didn't know its meaning, why didn't explain it earlier?

This is a real puzzle, understanding it will show you Rashi's unique genius. Hint: Is this verse different from the previous verses, in any significant way?

Your Answer:

Understanding Rashi:

An Answer: The word "tzur" can mean either "rock" or "creator" as in "Yotzer ohr."Rashi makes it clear that it does not (in a p'shat sense) mean "creator. In all the previous verses when the Torah uses the word "tzur" it refers to the G-d of Am Yisroel. This is the first verse that the Torah uses the word "tzur" to refer to "their gods." Therefore this is the first time it is necessary for Rashi to be quite clear that the word does not mean "creator." That couldn't be so, since here the reference is to idols. But all previous uses of this word in our sedra referred to Hashem, therefore Rashi saw no need to correct any "misunderstanding" since if we translate 'tzur' as "creator" and not as "rock' that too would be appropriate, because G-d is The Creator.

We see here a very unusual sensitivity on Rashi's part to the student's understanding of the text. Rashi steps in only when he thinks it is necessary, and not otherwise.

Shabbat Shalom and A Gemar Chatima Tova.

Avigdor Bonchek

These Rashi analyses are a production of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Torah Commentaries.

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