by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Vayikra (71)Leviticus 5:21
If a person will sin and commit a trespass against Hashem by lying to his neighbor regarding a safekeeping or a deposit or a robbery or has wronged his neighbor.
or a robbery : Rashi: That he stole anything from him.
Certainly a strange comment. Why?
What would you ask here?
A Question: The verse says "a robbery" and Rashi says "That he stole anything from him" ? But that is robbery! What has Rashi added to what the verse itself says?
Can you see what's bothering Rashi?
This question has bothered many Rashi commentators.
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: The verse says the man sinned by lying (denying his act) against his friend. The sin emphasized seems to be the lying. That makes sense in the case when his neighbor gave him a safekeeping or a deposit which he later denies having received. In this case his only sin was lying - because taking a safekeeping or a deposit is not a sin, but denying having received it is the sin. But in the case of robbery, the robbery itself is a sin - even without denying it.
So, Rashi is wondering why the Torah emphasizes that the denial is the sin. That is what is bothering him.
How does this comment deal with this?
An Answer: Rashi tells us precisely that! He says the sin is not the denial but the robbery itself. We have to read the verse differently than we did at first glance. At first glance it looked like the Torah was saying there are several cases of denying which are sinful. Then it lists them: denying having received a safekeeping; denying a loan; denying a robbery or denying a wrongful act toward ones neighbor. But this is an incorrect understanding of the verse. There are only two cases of sinful denying: the safekeeping and the loan. Then the Torah mentions other types of sins: robbery (as Rashi says : That he stole anything from him.) and a wrongful act to one's neighbor.
This is the Mizrachi's understanding of Rashi:
GUR ARYEH DISAGREES
The Maharal - in his commentary on Rashi - Gur Aryeh - disagrees with the Mizrachi for an obvious reason. The verse says he did a trespass against Haehem. Stealing alone without the denial is not called a trespass against Hashem. And the verses later (24 & 25) say he must pay a fifth more when he returns it and must also bring a sacrifice. All this is only if one denies, if one steals ordinarily with the denial there is no extra fifth to pay. So the verse must be talking about denial in addition to stealing.
The Gur Aryeh teaches us the difference between the Hebrew word "gezel" and the word "gezeila". (See verse 23). The latter is the object stolen; the former is the act of stealing. If the verse meant he denied stealing the particular object that was being claimed it should have used the word "gezeila" but by using "gezel" it means the man denied any act of robbery. And this is what Rashi means when he says: That he stole anything from him.
By close reading we better understand Rashi's subtle thinking.
"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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