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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Behar (5763)

Leviticus 25:18,19

Subtlties, subtleties, as deep as the eye can discern.

18) And you shall do My statutes and My laws you shall keep and do them and you will dwell on the land securely.

19) And the land will give forth its fruits and you will eat your fill and you will dwell securly on it (the land).


18. And you shall dwell on the land securely. Rashi: For through the sin of (not observing) the Sabbatical year Israel is exiled, as it says: ‘Then the land will be appeased for its Sabbatical years ... and be appeased for its Sabbatical years.’ The seventy years of the Babylonian exile correspond to the seventy Sabbatical years which they did not observe.

19.The land will give forth, etc. and you will live securely on it. Rashi: You shall not worry about a year of famine.

What Is Rashi Saying?______________________________________

In both of these comments Rashi is explaining the specific meaning of “security” in their respective verses.

Why need he do this?

What is bothering him?

What Is Bothering Rashi? _______________________________________

An Answer: Verse 18 says “and you will dwell securely on the Land.” Verse 19 repeats “And you will dwell securely on it.” Why the repetition?

This is likely what was bothering Rashi.

How do his comments deal with this problem?

Your Answer:

Understanding Rashi _________________________________________________

An Answer: In the first comment “security” means being secure from fear of being evicted from the Land, if they observe the Sabbatical year. In the second comment “security” means “having enough food not to worry about a famine.”

In both of these comments Rashi follows the same line of reasoning to determine what “security” means.

He sees the connection between the first half of each verse and its second half. In the first verse it says “and you shall do My statutes ...and you shall dwell on the land securely...” In the second it says , “and the Land will give forth its fruits...and you will live securely on it.” Clearly, there is a cause and effect relationship between the two halves of each verse. Keep the laws of the Sabbatical year...and you will live securely. The Land will give forth its fruit ...and you will live securely. It is a common rule of Torah interpretation, that when you have two halves to a verse, they are related in some way, either associatively or causally. The two parts of each of these verses are related one to the other, even if, at first sight, they don’t seem to have any connection to each other.

A Closer Look ________________________________________________

If we look closely at these verses we see something interesting which illustrates the Torah’s precision in wording. We have already mentioned a rule in Torah interpretation which teaches us that the order of words conveys its own meaning. That means that usually the first mentioned term is the one to be emphasized. (Many examples of this can be found in my book Studying the Torah published by Jason Aronson.)

Now notice something interesting as we compare these two verses.

One says:

“And you shall dwell on the land securely.”

The other says:

“you will dwell securely on it (the land).

Do you see that in the first verse “land” comes before “security”; in the second verse, “security” comes before “on it,” which refers to the land. The first verse emphasizes the point that the people will remain on the land, therefore “land” comes first. Land is the point of emphasis. In the second verse, the emphasis is on the productivity of the land which is its financial security. Therefore this, namely the financial security (the abundance), comes before the land is mentioned.

The Torah’s subtle way of making a point is sometimes overlooked. The benefits gained by a careful reading of not only what the Torah says but also how it says it, pays off in discovering new insights and gaining a greater respect for the Torah’s depth.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

Email: Rabbibonchek@netzero.net

“What’s Bothering Rashi?” is a product of the non-profit “Institute for the Study of Rashi and the Early Torah Commentaries.”

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