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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Rosh Hashanah (71)

Rosh Hashana falls out this year on Thurs & Fri. and is immediately followed by Shabbat Shuva. The Torah reading on the first day of Rosh Hashanah deals with the birth of Isaac. This was chosen because Sarah became pregnant with Isaac on Rosh Hashanah. (This is also the reason that the haftara tells of the birth of the prophet Samuel, because his mother, Hannah, also conceived on Rosh Hashanah.) The second day's reading is of the binding of Isaac - the Akaida. This was chosen because Abraham's magnificent act of faith in being willing to give up all he held dear and follow the word of G-d, is our "claim to fame." That is, our request to be forgiven for our sins and our request for a good healthy new year, are backed up by referral to Abraham's act of faith. The Jewish nation relies year after on the act of our forefather, Abraham, to be our "credit card" in our prayers for forgiveness and a bright future.

After Abraham passes the Akaida trial successfully we read:

Genesis 22:12

"And He (G-d) said 'Do not touch the lad, nor do anything to him; for now I know that you are G-d fearing and you have not withheld your son, your only one, from Me."


For now I know: Rashi: Now I have a response to Satan and the nations who wondered what is the reason for My love for you. Now I have justification, for they see that you are G-d fearing.


Why must Rashi reach for an interpretation - justifying to Satan and the nations? Why couldn't he accept the simple meaning, which is that now, after Abraham passed the trial of the Akaida, G-d knows that he is a man of unconditional and unbounded faith?

Why do you think he needed to interpret the verse as he did?

What's bothering Rashi?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The simple meaning - that now and not previously - G-d realized that Abraham was a man of unconditional faith, clearly implies that G-d didn't know this previously. This is not reasonable for several reasons. First of all, G-d is omniscient - all knowing, so "discovering" something new is not G-d's way. Second of all, G-d had already chosen Abraham; He "tested" him with the Akaida not to know if he would withstand the test, as the Ramban point out, (because G-d knew he would) but in order to have Abraham turn his inner, potential faith into an action which would outwardly express this potential.

If this is the case, then why does G-d say "Now I know that you are G-d fearing"?

This is what is bothering Rashi.

How does his comment deal with this?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi's comment explains the significance of "G-d' knowing." Not "Now I know" but rather "Now I can show the world the justification for My love of Abraham." His behavior at the Akaida is clear evidence of his faith in Me and thus clear justification for My love of him.


Abraham is the archetype of the Children of Israel; his faith is to be both our guide to faithful allegiance as well as our "credit card" before Hashem. He should see in every Jew who comes before Him a potential Abraham, and thus declare him acquitted on the Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgement.

May all Klal Yisrael have a Shanah Tova, May we all - individually and as a nation - continue to benefit from Hashem's protective eye.

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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