by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parshas Va'eschanon (70)This week's sedra continues Moses' final oration to the People. Among its notable passages are the Ten Commandments and the first paragraph of the Shema. In discussion of the sins of Wilderness Moses mentions his punishment at the Waters of Strife.
And Hashem was angry with me because of you (Hebrew: 'lema'anchem').
Because of you (Hebrew: 'lema'anchem'): Rashi: You caused me [to be punished].
And similarly it says (Psalms 106:32) 'And they provoked at the Waters of Strife and Moses suffered because of them'.
What would you ask on this comment?
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: Rashi comes to clarify the meaning of the word 'lema'anchem'. This word usually means for the sake of. As in "For the sake of Zion I will not be silent.' (Isaiah 62:1). But this would be strange here. Could it possibly mean: "For your (Israel) sake G-d was angry with me"? That doesn't make sense.
Therefore Rashi tells us that the word 'lema'an' can have another meaning. It may mean "because of". This is appropriate here. Moses is telling them that because of their behavior (inappropriately requesting water at the Waters of Strife) Moses sinned when he brought forth water from the rock. Because of this sin, Moses was punished and not allowed to enter the Land of Israel.
This is what Rashi is teaching us.
There is another question that can be asked on Rashi's comment.
What is it?
FURTHER QUESTIONING RASHI
Another Question: If Rashi only wanted us to know the correct meaning of 'lema'anchem', it would have been sufficient just to say " You caused me [to be punished]." Why did he have to add the rest of this comment and cite the verse in Psalms?
A difficult question, but it is one that must be answered to fully understand Rashi's comment.
A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING
An Answer: Some say that Moses was punished because he said "Now, listen you rebels!" (Numbers 11:22) By calling the People 'rebels' he did them a disservice and accused them too harshly. So, if Rashi only told us that Moses said he was punished 'because of them' we might have thought that Moses was punished because he wounded their honor (by calling them rebels).
This understanding is appealing because this would make both understandings of the word 'lema'anchem' appropriate in our verse. It would mean both "for your sake" because it means that Moses was punished for the sake of the People, in order to defend their honor; it would also mean "because of you" since Moses was punished because of them.
Nevertheless Rashi adds the rest of his comment to show us that it was only the People's bad behavior that caused Moses to sin against G-d and not his sin against the People. Rashi therefore cites the verse in Psalms which makes it clear that it was the People's behavior that caused Moses' reaction and thus his punishment. So the People were the direct cause of his punishment.
"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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