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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Eikev(68)

This week's sedra continues with Moses' final oration to the People. He speaks of the special status of the Land of Israel, tells of its special fruits and obligations.

Deut. 11:18

"You are to place these, My words, on your heart and on your soul and tie them as a sign on your hand and they will for 'totafos' between your eyes.


You are to place these, My words: Rashi: Even after you are exiled, you should be distinctive with commandments, put on tefillin, make mezuzos, so that they will not be new (to you) when you return (from exile). And so it says: "Set these up distinguishing marks." (Jer. 31:21)


This paragraph is the second paragraph of the Shema which we say every day. The first paragraph of the Shema is found in last week's sedra, Va'eschanon (Deut. 6:4)

Rashi tell us, a midrash, that the verse implies that we are to keep the distinguishing mitzvos of tefillin & mezuza even while in exile, so when we return to Eretz Yisrael they won't be foreign to us.

The Rashi-comment is strange. But before we get to its main difficulty, we'll ask: The same idea that we should put on tefillin and attach mezuzos to our doors occurs in the first paragraph of Shema in last week's sedra. Why didn't Rashi make his comment there; why did he wait until this verse to comment?

Can you see why?

Hint: See the context of our verse.

Your Answer:


An Answer: See the previous verse where it says: "And you will be lost quickly from upon the Land." So Rashi (and the midrash) see a relationship between that verse and our verse "And you shall putů" The message being: When you are lost from upon the Land (meaning, being in exile) then also you will put on tefillin and attach mezuzos.

Rashi did not comment above in Va'eschanon on the similar verse because there is no statement about being in exile there, so it wouldn't be relevant.

But looking at this comment we find a real difficulty.

Can you see it? What would you ask?

Your Question:


A Question: How can Rashi say that the reason we put on tefillin and attach mezuzos in exile (galus) is so we won't forget them? These mitzvos are not connected with the land of Israel as are for example trumos and maaseros, these mitzvos are obligations of the individual, no matter where he lives - in Israel or in Boro Park! Rashi comment seems to say our obligations is basically in Israel and in exile we do them just so we won't forget them.

Difficult! Can you think of an answer?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The Ramban has a long discussion on this matter in his commentary on Leviticus 18:25. The Ramban was a fervent Zionist (he came to live in Israel the last years of his life (around 1260 C.E.) - in those days there was no Nefesh B'nefesh! He did it on his own.) In his commentary he points out how the Land of Israel has a direct connection to Hashem as no other land has. Therefore the responsibility when one lives here is greater and so too is the accountability. (A worrisome thought when one thinks of our people and leaders here, today, but... no matter!!). Therefore the idea is that in essence since the Jew is to live in Eretz Israel, therefore the 613 mitzvos were intrinsically given for us here (I'm writing from Jerusalem.). That is a on the deepest level. But practically G-d gave the mitzvos to be kept all over the world and not only in Israel. So Rashi is correct on the most basic level.

A midrash addresses this idea with the following parable. A woman is married to the king & he has given her all kinds of jewels, which she is flattered to wear. If the king should divorce her and she moves out of the palace, then wearing the pearls might not be appropriate, since the king is no longer her husband. But she continues to wear the jewels in the hope that some day he will take her back again as his wife and she will return to the palace.

Need I explain! (If I do: jewels = mitzvos; palace = Land of Israel; king = Hashem & wife = People Israel)

A beautiful thought.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

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

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