Rashi abandons p’shat to teach a lesson. The Ramban has a different view.
“Speak to the Children of Israel saying: In the seventh month , on the first of the month, there shall be a rest day for you, a remembrance with a shofar blast, a holy convocation.
A remembrance with shofar blasts. Rashi: A remembrance by means of Biblical verses which treat of the Divine remembrance and which have reference to the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn); that I may recall to memory for your sake the akaidah of Isaac in whose stead a ram was offered.
What would you ask here?
A Question: How does Rashi derive this from our verse?
Is something problematic here?
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: Some suggest ( the Sifsei Chachomim) that Rashi was bothered by the discrepancy between this verse and the verse in Numbers 29:1. There it says:
“In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, there shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall not do any laborious work it shall be day of shofar blasting for you.”
In Numbers 29:1 Rosh Hashana is called “yom t’ruah” “a day of [shofar] sounding.” Why then does our verse call the very same day “a day of remembering the [shofar] sounding”? Why the difference? This, says the Sifsei Chachomim, is what is bothering Rashi.
The difference between these two verses does raise a problem (the Sages asked about this in the tractate Rosh Hashana 29b.) But it is difficult to accept that this is what was bothering Rashi. Because it is not Rashi’s style to ask a question based on information which appears later in the Torah. Rashi wrote his commentary to deal with questions that might arise as we read the Torah in sequence. If this were the basis for Rashi’s comment, we would expect him make this comment in Numbers 29:1 where the contradiction is fully exposed.
We must look elsewhere for understanding what’s bothering him.
The answer may be much simpler.
WHAT IS REALLY BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: The words “zichron t’ruah” are strange. A ‘t’ruah’ is a blowing of the shofar. But what could “zichron t’ruah” - “remembrance of a blowing” possibly mean?
This, in all likelihood, is what Rashi is reacting to. We can see that his comment is meant to make sense out of these words “zichron t’ruah”
He tells us that the remembrance mentioned here refers to the inclusion of these verses in our prayers of Rosh Hashana.
But if that is the meaning of these words, then it leads to another question.
Can you think of it?
Some history may be of help.
SOME HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The Men of the Great Assembly (post-biblical and pre-talmudic era) instituted our formalized prayers. They organized the prayers for Rosh Hashana around three themes: Shofaros/Ram’s horn; Malchios/G-d’s Kingship and Zichronios/G-d’s Remembrances. For each of these themes, ten verses from the Scriptures are recited in the Amidah prayer. These are the verses that Rashi is referring to.
Knowing that, what would you ask on his comment?
THE RAMBAN QUESTIONS RASHI
A Question: The Ramban asks an obvious question. How does the Biblical verse refer to rules and regulations (the formal prayers) that were only instituted centuries later? To put it in more legal terminology: These prayers are of Rabbinical origination, and not a Biblical law. How, then, can Rashi say that the Torah verse refers to this?
The fact that the recitation of these verses is of Rabbinical (and not of Mosaic) origin was certainly known to Rashi. Why then did he explain the Torah’s words in this way? This is a super-question. There does not seem to be any way around it.
I would suggest an answer that gives us an insight about Rashi’s exegetical style.
UNDERSTANDING RASHI’S STYLE
Rashi never made explicit all his goals in commentary. But we can speculate. From the variety of his comments we can say that his Torah commentary has several goals. One, of course, is to explain the verses according to p’shat. But we have seen that he has other purposes as well. He uses midrash often to inspire, as we saw by his opening comment to the Book of Leviticus. (See our discussion there.) His commentary also includes many moral teachings, and they are not necessarily bound to a p’shat interpretation. Another goal may be to show the layman the foundations of his daily religious practice. All Jews were familiar with the High holiday prayers, and with their threefold message. Rashi’s comment here, while not being accurate from a p’shat perspective, was enlightening from a total Torah/Talmudic perspective. It has the effect of anchoring a familiar custom in the Torah’s words. This is a known Talmudical method, and is called an asamachta, meaning a Biblical textual support for a Rabbinical law. If the Talmud did, it is good enough for Rashi !
But if Rashi is not giving us p’shat, what might be the p’shat interpretation of the strange words “zichron t’ruah” ?
The Ramban analyzes this verse from several angles, among them is his p’shat understanding.
The RAMBAN’S P’SHAT INTERPRETATION
“Rather the expression “zichron t’ruah’ is like the verse “a day of blasting the shofar should be for you.” [Note: He sees no conflict between the two verses on a p’shat level.] Scripture states that we are to blow on that day and this shall be for us a memorial before G-d. As it says further on, ‘and you shall blow the trumpets and they shall be for you a memorial before your G-d.’ (Numbers 10:10)”
The Ramban is saying that the purpose of the sounding of the shofar is so that we will be remembered by G-d and our prayers answers. Other interpretations of the shofar blast have been given, such as “wake up you sleepers, ” this being a call to teshuva. Or trumpeting the King’s presence. But none of these meanings accords with use of the word “zichron” in our verse, as does the Ramban’s p’shat.
(See Ramban, Sefer Zikaron)
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