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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Re'eh

In last week's parasha (Ekev) we asked:

Deuteronomy 11:25
"There will not stand up a man before you; Hashem, your G-d will place the fear of you and the awe of you on the whole land that you tread upon, as He spoke to you."


"There will not stand up a man etc." RASHI: I only know a man [will not stand up to you] a nation, a family or a sorceress with her witchcraft - how is this derived (that neither will they stand up to you- ? The Torah therefore teaches "they will not stand up" - in any case."

This is a typical Talmudic style deduction. But how can it be squared with what the verse actually says? It says "No man will stand up etc." In what basis does Rashi (and the Sages) derive more than just "a man" ?

An Answer:

There is a general rule in the literary analysis of the Torah: It is that order of words carries with a deeper meaning than one gains from a superficial impression of the Torah's words.

For example, when G-d announces to Abraham (Genesis 18:10) "I will return at this time next year and behold a son will be [born] to Sarah your wife." But after Sarah laughs at this prophecy, G-d reiterates His promise with these words (18:14) "at the appointed time I shall return unto you at this time and to Sarah will be [born] a son."

See how at first it says "A son to Sarah" but later it says "to Sarah a son." The order is reversed to emphasis that which needs to be emphasized. At first the big news was that a son would be born to Abraham and Sarah. Once Sarah felt she couldn't possibly give birth at her age, the message and emphasis was changed; "To Sarah ( and not another woman) will be born a son."

This rule of word order has many unexpected discoveries in store for anyone who uses it as a key to Torah interpretation (My book "Studying the Torah" Jason Aronson publishers has many examples of this.)

Back to our verse. which says "there will not stand up a man..." Here the verb "to stand up" precedes the noun "a man" Which means that the verb has more force than the noun. In other words, "stand up" has a broader inclusion than the narrow limitation of the word "man." So since the Torah phrased matters this way we assume that not only a "man" will not stand up before you, but all kinds of other obstacles will be removed. The word "a man" is just an example of the most common threat that could stand up before you, but it is only an example of a broader class.

This rule is used very frequently in the Talmud; what at first glance looks like an arbitrary rule of drash, turns out to be a very reasonable rule of literary interpretation.

Now to this week's sedra.

Parashas Re'eh

At the beginning of the parasha it says (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

"See, I give before you this day a blessing and a curse. The blessing that you should obey the mitzvos of Hashem your G-d which I have commanded you this day. The curse if you do not obey the mitzvos of Hashem your G-d and turn away from the way which I have command you this day to go after other gods which I have you have not known."


The blessing : RASHI: On condition that you obey.

Questioning Rashi:

What has Rashi told us with these few words?

Hint: Compare our verse with the next one about the curse.

Do you see any difference?

What is the difference that Rashi sees here?

Your Answer:

Next week, IY"H we will suggest an answer.

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