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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parshas Lech Lecha

Genesis 15:6

And he believed in Hashem and He considered it for him as righteousness.


And he believed in Hashem: Rashi: He didn't ask for a sign to [confirm] this. But regarding the promise to inherit the land he did ask for a sign and asked "How shall I know [that I will inherit the land]?

Why has Rashi added the matter of asking for a sign, which is nowhere evident in the verse? What's Bothering Rashi?

Your Answer:

What Is Bothering Rashi?

An Answer: The statement that Abraham 'believed' Hashem is quite strange. Stranger yet is the statement that G-d considered this 'believing' an act of righteousness.

Of course Abraham believed G-d! Why not? G-d had spoken to him personally. If Abraham doubted that he experienced a true prophetic event, then why should he believe in his hallucination? But certainly the prophetic event was of the kind that brings with it a sense of certainty. So again we ask: Why shouldn't Abraham believe G-d's word? And why was such believing considered righteousness?

These are the questions that Rashi is dealing with.

How does his comment deal with them?

Your Answer:

Understanding Rashi

An Answer: Rashi takes for granted that Abraham believed G-d's words, for the reason we said above. Instead Rashi's interprets the words 'he believed' to mean he did not even ask for a sign, as he did in the promise of inheriting the land. It was not an issue of believing or not believing. It was rather an issue of asking or not asking for a sign.

But now we can ask: Why then did Abraham ask for a sign about the inheritance of the land? Didn't he have sufficient faith in that promise?

Can you think of an answer?

Hint: See Rashi's next comment on this verse.

A Fuller Understanding

An Answer: Rashi is certainly consistent. In his next comment, he says that Abraham did not ask for a sign to validate G-d's promise. Rather he asked to understand by what merit he would be given such a gift as the Land of Israel. The answer was, as Rashi says, by the merit of the sacrifices that the Children of Israel would offer to G-d in the land.

We can continue to ask: Why didn't Abraham ask on what basis G-d would fulfil His promise about offspring, as he asked in the case of inheriting the land?

Your answer: An Even Fuller Understanding

An Answer: I would say that the promise to have children needn't be based on special merit. Most people in the world have children. Abraham and Sarah were deprived of children up until that point. Having children would have put them equal with other people. Although having children is most certainly a special privilege, yet since most people merit it, Abraham had no need to ask for a sign of that merit.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the "Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Torah Commentaries."

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