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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Rosh Hashanah

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.

Parashas Ha'azinu: Shabbas T'shuva

This Shabbas is called Shabbas T'shuva because it falls within the Ten Days of Repentence . It's name also derives from the Haftarah which begins with the words "Shuva Yisrael.."

This week we have chosen to look at a Rashi-comment on the Haftarah reading.

Hoshea 14:2.

"Return, Israel, to Hashem, your G-d, because you have stumbled in your sin."


To Hashem, your G-d: RASHI: We learned in Rabbi Meir's name 'Return Israel while He is yet Hashem, with the attribute of mercy, but if not, then "your G-d"

("Elokecha") with the attribute of strict law.' (Return) before your defense attorney becomes your prosecutor.


Rashi quotes Rabbi Meir (a Sage of the Mishnaic period). The two names of G-d used in this verse reflect different attributes of the Almighty in His relationship to the world. Hashem refers to His Mercy, while "Elokim" refers to G-d as Judge who follows the strict dictates of the law.

The drash is based on a play on words. The Hebrew is "ad Hashem" The word "ad" means "to." But with a slight change we have the word "od" which means "while still." So Rabbi Meir is saying - Return to G-d while He is still "Hashem" that is, Merciful, before He becomes Elokim -Judgmental.


A Question: When is that? When does Hashem turn into Elokim? When are we to do T'shuva, so that it occurs before this change in the Divine attributes takes place?

Hint: Look at the rest of the verse.

Your Answer:


An Answer: The verse goes on to say "because you have stumbled in your sin."

Perhaps its meaning is: Granted the person has stumbled (sinned) - and for that reason he must do T'shuva - but he must also pick himself up after he stumbled. If he remains down without making any effort to raise himself, no one can help him.

If he returns soon after he stumbles, then he is returning to Hashem and will receive His attribute of Mercy. But if he doesn't, if he remains down - in his sin - and time passes with no effort on his part to improve himself, then Elokim enters the scene and the person will inevitably suffer the just (justice) consequences of his sin.


What does Rashi mean when he says "before your defense attorney becomes your prosecutor"?

In light of what we said, can you think of an answer?

Your Answer:


An Answer: If a person does T'shuva soon after he sins, his defense may be that he slipped. He erred and requests another chance. Remember 'To err is human.' That is his defense attorney. He uses the fact that he sinned as part of his defense. He doesn't deny the sin, he acknowledges it but says it was a human slip. But if he does not "return" soon after his sin, rather he continues to sin. The fact that he sinned and continued to sin, now undermines any claim that it his sin was "just a slip." Now his sin itself prosecutes him instead of defending him.

Shabbat Shalom and wishes for a Gemar Chatima Tovah
Avigdor Bonchek "What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. A Hebrew translation of the Bereishis "What's Bothering Rashi?" is published. It is greatly expanded and is call "L'omko shel Rashi" look for it in bookstores.

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