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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Ki Savo(66)

In this week's sedra Moses continues his oration to the People. He relates the mitzvah of the First Fruits and repeats the significance of the Covenant between Israel & Hashem. He also graphically depicts what will happen to the Nation should they not adhere to the Covenant. We read the Tochacha (Reproof) with all its gastly details.

Following is one of the verses from the Tochacha.

What is p'shat? Rashi & Rashbam differ.

Deut. 28:67

In the morning you will say "O, Would that it be evening". And in the evening you will say "O, Would that it be morning." Because of the fear in your heart which you will fear and from the sight of your eyes which you will see."


In the morning you will say 'O, Would that it be evening': Rashi: That it would be yesterday evening.

And in the evening you will say 'O, Would that it be morning': Rashi: This morning. Because the tribulations increase constantly, and every moment it (the curse) is worse than the previous one.


The verse tells of the people's distress who are suffering all the horrors of the Rebuke/Curse. They are so distraught that whenever they think of their situation they wish that the clock could be turned back and they would be freed of their travail.

Rashi adds that their desire in the morning is that it should be evening, means that the clock should be turned back to last night. It does not mean, as we might have expected, that the clock should be turned forward so that their trouble would already be behind them.

Why does Rashi reject the more obvious interpretation?

This, in fact is the Rashbam's interpretation.


'Would that it be morning': Rashbam: : According to the p'shat, [it means] the evening that will come, for such is the way of the sick.

The Rashbam points out that a person in distress always looks forward to the day he will be finished with his troubles. Just as a sick man looks forward toward his recovery.

But Rashi chose another way. Why?

Can you explain Rashi's view?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The Rashbam is right in that this is the way a person usually reacts to ordinary troubles - he looks forward toward the day that they will all be behind him. But Rashi's view reflects a deeper psychological despair, that of a person suffering from unrelenting and ever-increasing distress. There comes a point when a person loses all hope. If he has been subject to ongoing terror, terror with no reprieve, terror with no "light at the end of the tunnel," he realizes that his salvation hasn't come, in spite of all his prayers and hopes - then he can only look backward to "the good old times," because he no longer has any faith in the future. He is thoroughly depressed.

Rashi has grasped the true hopelessness of the Rebuke/Curse that Moses is describing.

Rashbam: : "According to the P'shat"

The Rashbam will often begin an interpretation with the words "according to the p'shat…". Often this in contradistinction to what other commentators have written, including Rashi. Rasbam feels that Rashi has not always chosen the path of p'shat even though he had declared (Genesis 3:8) "I have only come for 'p'shuto shel mikra."

Many times when we probe Rashi's meaning further, we find that his interpretation is, in fact, a better fit with p'shat than is that of the Rasbam. Our verse above is, I believe, a good example of this.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.

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