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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Nitzavim-Vayelech (73)

Deut. 30:15

See, I have set before you this day, the life and the good and the death and the evil .


Life and Good: Rashi: The one is dependent on the other : if you do good, behold there is life for you, but if you do evil behold there is death for you. And the Scripture goes on to explain: (see the following verses in the Torah).

Questioning Rashi:

A Question: Why does Rashi give this interpretation to these words? Why not say simply that these are four separate things: Life, Good, Death, and Evil. A person can choose any of these.

Your Answer:

What Is Bothering Rashi?

An Answer: It is reasonable that to say a person chooses good or evil, but it is not reasonable to say that he chooses life or death. While he may choose death in suicide, this is not usually a rational choice, but in any event, no one chooses life - it is given to a person without his being asked. So Hashem is not placing before us, for our choice, life and death.

Understanding Rashi

Rashi tells us that life or death is not part of the choice but part of the consequences of our choice; if we choose the good, we receive life and if we choose the bad then we receive death.

For a deeper understanding of these verses see verse 19:

"I call the heaven and earth as witnesses this day against you, that I have set before you the life and the death, the blessing and the curse, therefore choose the life that you and your offspring may live."

This is a strange statement: Choose life so that you may live! That is a tautology, it says the same in different words. Of course if you choose life, it means that you will live.

But clearly the Torah has something else in mind. The word "life" is used in two different senses in this verse. "Choose life" means choose something of lasting value, something that lives on and on and on. Choose values and behaviors that have "life" to them, meaning they contain within them eternal life-long significance. If you do this, then you will be given "life" real life in this world, a life of worth, a life of significance, a life of meaning. Evil means actions that have no enduring significance, that satisfy the passions of the moment cannot afford lasting pleasure., the consequence of such a life is death, a living death because it is a life of fleeting pleasures, of actions and values that have no long-term significance.

As Rashi says: Choose the good (life-values) and you will be given life.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek "What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. A Hebrew translation of the Bereishis "What's Bothering Rashi?" is published. It is greatly expanded and is call "L'omko shel Rashi" look for it in bookstores.

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