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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Shabbat HaGadol(65)

The Shabbat before Pesach is called Shabbat HaGadol. This year it comes the day immediately before Pesach. It is called HaGadol because the Haftarah contains the verse from the prophet Malachi 3: 4-24: " Behold I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and the awesome. day of Hashem. He shall restore the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with destruction.

The words "yom HaGadol" "the great day" is the basis for the name Shabbat HaGadol.

But the connection to our Shabbat is much more than just a semantic one alone. That Great day is the day when the Meshiach arrives. It is the beginning of the yearned for "end of days", the final redemption. The connection to Pesach is that Pesach was our first redemption from our first exile in Egypt and the Haftarah prophesies about the next and last redemption from our present exile.

Let us look at Rashi on the verse which says that Elijah will "restore the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers"

This is quite a significant verse. Aside from its idyllic view of family relations and the connection between generations, it is also the final verse in the Prophetic literature. Malachi was among the last of the prophets & this verse is his last statement from Hashem.


And I will restore the heart of the fathers to (Hebrew "al"): ( the Holy One ): Rashi: by means of (Hebrew: "al yedai") the sons. He ( i.e. .Elijah) will tell the sons by way of love and desire 'go and speak with your fathers to adopt the ways of the Almighty. And likewise, the hearts of the sons to their fathers: So I have heard in the name of Rav Menachem.


Rashi quotes an interpretation from Rav Menachem. The interpretation is quite different than an ordinary understanding of this verse. Ordinarily we would understand the verse to mean that Elijah will "return" the fathers to the sons and the sons to their fathers, meaning we would have family harmony instead of family friction, dispute or distance. In this sense the Hebrew word "al" would mean "to" - the fathers hearts would return to the sons etc.

But Rashi takes the word "al" to mean "al yedai" "by means of". He also adds a word (did you notice)? .Which word did he add by slipping it in between the prophet's words?

Your Answer:

An Answer: Rashi adds the words "The Holy One" and inserts them in between the words of the verse. This changes the whole sense of the verse. The hearts are returned not to the sons but to The Holy One , by means of the sons. In other words Elijah is told to go to the sons and have them help in returning their fathers to Hashem. And likewise the fathers are told by Elijah to go to their sons and help them return to Hashem.

Why would Rashi accept this interpretation which is seemingly so far from the simple sense?

Your Answer:

Hint: Read the whole verse.


A Possible answer: First of all, perhaps Rashi thinks the word "al" is better translated as "by means of" than by "to." But more to the point is the fact that the verse ends with the words "lest I come and strike the land with destruction." This is God's punishment for not having the hearts of the fathers returned to (or by means of) the sons. This seems like harsh punishment for family disharmony. Of course, one would want all families to live in harmony but "to strike the land with destruction" is a bit much.

On the other hand if the fathers and the sons do not return to Hashem (as Rashi's comment has it) Gods anger and punishment would be appropriate.


I would make an additional comment. Rashi says that "Elijah will tell the sons by way of love to speak to their fathers (and likewise the fathers to the sons) .

Rashi takes for granted that if Elijah is going to return people to Hashem, it will be done by way of love. Rashi's own personal life is a perfect example

of this. He dealt with all people and with his student only by way of love. Rabbi Berel Wein's video on Rashi's life shows this quite clearly. For Rashi this is a most fitting way to end God's prophesy to man, Malachi's last message to us. Teach people by way of love to return to Him.

When we do this, it will certainly be " the great and the awesome. day of Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

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