by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Re'eh (69)This week's sedra has many mitzvos, some already mentioned in the Torah and some not mentioned before. Among them: dealing with a false prophet; giving aid to the needy and again the holy days are mentioned.
Deuteronomy 11: 30
Are they not on the other side of the Jordan, after the direction of the sunset in the land of the Canaanite that dwells in the plain opposite the Gilgal near the plain of Moreh
After: Rashi: Much after the crossing of the Jordan and a distance beyond. And that is the meaning of the word 'achrei'; whenever it says 'achrei' it means greatly separated (in time or in place).
The direction of the sunset: Rashi: Beyond the Jordan towards the west. The accents in the verse prove that they (the word 'achrei' and the word 'derech') are two separate phrases; the word 'achrei' is accented with a pashta ( a separating accent) while the word 'drech' is accented by a maspal. Also it (the word 'derech') has a dot in it. But if 'achrei derech' ('after the way') were connected, the word "achrei' should have had a connecting accent and the word 'derech' with a pashta (a separating accent). And the word 'derech' would have no dot in it.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING ?
Rashi bases his interpretation on the musical accents in the verse and on a grammatical rule. The musical accents can be divided into two types - those that connect words and those that separate words. The grammatical rule that Rashi refers to is that when a word begins with the Hebrew letters BeGeD KeFeT" they have a dot (dagesh) in them. But when the words beginning with these letters is separated (in meaning) from the word immediately before it, then there is not dot in these six letters. So since the word "derech" has a dot in the daled this indicates that "derech" is separated from the word before it, which is "achrei".
A Question: Rashi gives the verse a meaning quite opposite what would seem to be the simple reading. What is the simple meaning, which Rashi rejects?
THE REJECTED P'SHAT
An Answer: The verse seems to say that there were to go after the way of the setting of the sun ('achrei derech m'voh hashemesh'). This is because whenever the word 'achrei' (after) is used in the Torah it is connected with the word following it. Examples abound. Just above, in verse 28, it says 'acharei elohim acherim'; which means "after foreign gods". Here as in most places the word 'acharei' is connected with the next word- 'after foreign gods.'
Why should Rashi avoid this interpretation for the one he gives?
The reason he rejects the apparent simple meaning is clear - he has found both grammatical rules and the musical accents pointing in a different direction.
A DEEPER LOOK
Let us delve more deeply and ask:
A Question: Why does the Torah itself, by musical notes and grammar reject what would seem to be the simple meaning? It would seem that the Torah considers Rashi's interpretation as the real p'shat.
Can think of an answer?
Hint: Reread the verse.
A DEEPER UNDERTSTANDING
An Answer: Reading the verse with what we thought was simple p'shat says "after the way of the setting sun". That literally means: after the sunset! Is that possible?! How can one go "after the sunset'? As Rashi has it (and the grammar) the instruction was to go after crossing the Jordan River. That is certainly reasonable and that makes most sense. But after the way of the setting of the sun, is impossible.
So it seems that Rashi has plumbed the deeper, true p'shat of these words.
Never put that past him.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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