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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Rosh Hashanah 5767

This year Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbat and Sunday. We celebrate two days of Rosh Hashanah, the second day being a Rabbinical enactment observed both in Israel and throughout the Diaspora. The Torah readings on these days are found in Bereishis chapters 21 and 22. These tell of the birth of Isaac - born on Rosh Hashanah - and the intended sacrifice of Isaac. The latter is chosen as Abraham's act of faith in Hashem and serves as our security; we count on the merit of his willingness to sacrifice for G-d, to be seen as our merit when we are judged on these Days of Judgment.

Genesis 21:17

And G-d heard the voice of the lad (Ishmael) and an angel of G-d called to Hagar from the Heavens and said to her 'What is the matter, Hagar? Fear not for G-d has as heard the voice of the lad, as he is there.


As he is there: Rashi: According to his actions that he does now is he judged., and not according to what he is destined to do in the future. . Because the ministering angels were arguing against (Ishmael) and saying 'Master of the universe, he (Ishmael ) whose offspring are destined to kill Your sons with thirst (lack of water), will You cause a well to rise up for him? And He answered them: At the present moment, what is he righteous or evil? They answered 'Righteous' So He said to them 'According to his deeds at the present time I judge him.' That is the meaning of the words "as he is (Now) there."


An Answer: There is no real problem here. Rashi just gives us the meaning of the strange words (as he is there) at the end of the verse. The comment is a powerful statement for Jewish justice. Even if we know that in the future some evil will come from this person we do not allow that to interfere with a just response to his pleas.


But this leads to a difficult question.

Hint: See the verse in Deut. 21:18.

What would you ask?

Your Question:


A Question: In Devarim. 21:18, Rashi explains the law of the Prodigal Son (ben Sorer U'moreh). There he says that although the lad only ate and drank to excess, not actually violating any law, nevertheless he should be put to death because the Torah felt that this bode no good for the future. That is, eventually he would rob and kill to meet his exaggerated appetite.

So we see a person can be judged by his future behaviors, why, then, was Ishmael not judged on the basis of the future?

Compare the two situations - Ishmael and the Prodigal Son. Can you suggest an answer?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The Prodigal Son actually did something. He acted, behaved, in an uncontrollable manner. The Torah, in its wisdom, taught us that this uncontrolled behavior will, once he grows up and is physically strong, lead to destructive behavior. Therefore he was to be punished with capital punishment.

Ishmael, on the other hand had done nothing at this point. Some say that even if Ishmael had done some wrongs, he now was on the verge of death and praying and probably did T'shuva. But in any case, he cannot be held responsible for his offspring's guilty behavior.


In this period of T'shuva let us learn from Ishmael that when we cry out our cry will be heard by G-d and answered.

May we, and all Israel, be blessed with a New Year of health, Jewish satisfaction and most of all, Peace for Am Yisrael.

Shabbat Shalom and a K'siva V'chasima Tovah
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.

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