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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parshas Re'eh (70)

This week's sedra speaks of the blessing and the curse at Mt. Aival and Mt. Grizim in the land of Israel; the command to destroy the idols in the land; the choice of the location of the Temple; the laws of charity; the laws of kosher animals, of release of the seventh year ; it ends with laws of the holidays.

Deuteronomy 12:20

When Hashem, your G-d, will enlarge your borders as He had spoken to you, and you will say: 'I will eat meat'; because your soul desires to eat you may eat meat with all the desire of your soul.


When He will enlarge your borders, etc. Rashi: The Torah teaches us proper conduct. That a person should not desire to eat meat except [if he lives] in abundance and wealth.


When the Jews were in the wilderness they all lived near the Tabernacle. In that case individuals only were allowed to eat meat from their offerings on the altar. This would continue to be the law once they entered the Land of Canaan and the Temple would be built. But then families could possibly live throughout the Land at some distance from the Temple. This would make it difficult to eat meat because travelling to offer a sacrifice would be quite inconvenient. The Torah thus teaches us that this law was amended to say that a person would be permitted to eat meat even if it were not slaughtered for an offering in the Temple (see the next verse, 12:21).


A Question: The plain sense of the verse is that G-d has enlarged one's geographical borders, and thus he may be too far from the Temple to offer his sacrifice there.

Why does Rashi abandon this simple interpretation and instead offers a "proper conduct" message?

Can you see why?

Hint: Look closely at the next verse and its language.

Your Answer:


An Answer: When we compare this verse with the next verse we notice an important difference in language. Our verse says "When G-d enlarges ( Hebrew: Yarchiv) your borders" while the next verse says: "When the place is too far (Yirchak) for you"

Rashi notices this change in language and this is probably what led to his comment.

How does the comment deal with this difference in language?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The language "yarchiv" Rashi interprets as "rachvas yadyim' which conveys a psychological largeness. See Genesis 34:21 "they will dwell in the land and do business in it for the land is "rachvas yadyim". On these words Rashi says: "As a man who is large handed and giving.."

So the word "rachav" can have the meaning of a psychological sense of a feeling of expansiveness; which comes with wealth, having enough to afford and indulge one's desires.

Rashi is telling us two lessons of proper conduct.

1) One should live within one's means and live at standard of living (eating meat which is expensive) which he can afford. And

2) One may indulge oneself in permitted and affordable pleasures of this world.

Why do you think Rashi chose this interpretation instead of the simpler one, meaning geographical distance?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi probably chose the interpretation of proper conduct because the next verse deals directly with the matter of living at a distance from the Temple and there is no need for two verses to speak of the same thing.

The words "expand your borders" are now interpreted to mean your personal borders; "enlarge your fields and vineyards."

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"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.

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