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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Rosh Hashana Torah Reading

On Rosh Hashana the Torah reading is from the book of Genesis. Chapter 21 on the first day and on the second day Chapter 22. The first tells of the birth of Isaac the second tells of "Akeida." It is the dramatic recounting of Abraham's willingness to offer his one and only son to G-d, as he believed he was commanded.


Verse 21:1

And Hashem remembered Sarah as He said, and Hashem did for Sarah as He had spoken.


And Hashem remembered Sarah: RASHI; This section is placed here (right after the Torah speaks of Abraham praying to G-d to cure Avimelech who suffered punishment from Hashem) to teach you that anyone who asks for mercy for another and he himself is in need of the same thing, then he will be answered first. For it states "He [Abraham] prayed" ( two verses previously 20:17) and near it (it says) "And Hashem remembered Sarah." That is, He had already remembered her even before He had cured Avimelech.

Here Rashi is not dealing with a difficulty, he is using a midrash to explain the juxcaposition of the two sections - Avimelech's cure and Sarah's becoming pregnant.

The lesson is one teaching us to be concerned for the wellfare of others.


A Question: How do we see that Abraham was answered first? Avimelech was cured in Chapter 20 before Sarah's pregnancy, which is only described afterwards in Chapter 21?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi is sensitive to word order. The Hebrew is "VaHashem pakkad es Sarah." It does not use the more common wording "Vayifkode Hashem es Sarah."

Both of these phrases are in the past tense, both mean about the same thing: That G-d remembered Sarah by enabling her to become pregnant. What then is the difference? The word order change gives a subtle difference between the two nearly identical phrases. It is he difference between "G-d remembered" and "G-d had remembered." As the Torah has it, the noun (Hashem) comes before the verb (pakkad) this means it is the pluperfect tense. The action took place before the last mentioned event. In our case this means that G-d had ALREADY remembered Sarah even before Avimelech was cured. And that is exactly what Rashi says at the end of his comment.

This chapter is read on Rosh Hashanah because the Sages tell us that Isaac was born on Rosh Hashanah.

* * *


Abraham passes G-d's "test" of his faith and binds his son Isaac in preparation to offer him up to G-d. Then the angel stops him.

Verse 22:12

And [G-d] said "do not touch the lad, nor do anything to him, because now I know that you are G-d fearing and you did not hold back your son, your only one from Me."


From now on I have an answer to Satan and the gentile nations who wonder at My love for you. I now have justification for they can see that you are G-d fearing."


A Question: What is bothering Rashi on this verse that he has to suggest this unusual interpretation. The simple meaning of the verse is that since Abraham had in fact followed G-d's command and bound Isaac for sacrifice, this was clear indication that Abraham was G-d fearing. Do you see anything in this verse that requires Rashi's interpretation?

Your Answer:


An Answer: What does G-d mean when He says "NOW I know that you are G-d fearing"? G-d is all knowing. He knows man's inner thoughts and potentialities. He was certainly aware of Abraham's the inner strength and the degree of his obedience to G-d. He was not in need of "objective evidence." This is what was bothering Rashi.

How does his comment deal with?

Your Answer:


An Answer: As Rashi clearly implies, the test that Abraham was put through, was in order that the world should see Abraham's faith and trust in G-d. G-d did not need it for Himself, He needed it to show the world why Abraham was G-d's beloved.

So, "Now I know" means "Now I can show, Now I can make known" to the world this righteous man's faith.

This is read on Rosh Hashanah in order to take advantage of Abraham's "zichus" (merit) on this day when his offspring stand in judgement before Hashem.

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

The Institute is in the process of preparing the Devorim volume of "What's Bothering Rashi?" This volume will feature Rashi and the Ba'alie Tosephos. Readers interested in sponsoring a sedra in this volume are encouraged to contact us for further details at msbonch@mscc.huji.ac.il

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