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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashat Emor

The Lubavitcher Rebbe unlocks a difficult Rashi comment

Leviticus 24:23

And Moses spoke to the Children of Israel and they took the blasphemer beyond the camp and they stoned him with a stone. And the Children of Israel did just as Hashem had commanded Moses.


And the Children of Israel did: Rashi: The complete commandment which it says regarding stoning, elsewhere [in the Torah] - casting down, casting stones, and hanging.


A Question: Why does Rashi comment here? What is bothering him?

Hint: Compare the two parts of this verse.

Your Answer:


An Answer: The verse says that the Children of Israel stoned the blasphemer and then it says they did what they were commanded to do. They were commanded to stone him! So we know that from the first part of the verse, which stated this. Rashi is bothered by this apparent repetition here.

How does his comment deal with this repetition?

Your Answer:


The following explanation is a shortened version of the Lubavicher Rebbe's commentary on this Rashi.

An Answer: There is a little noticed fact in this mitzvah which must be pointed out. Above in verse 14 it says: And all those who heard him shall lay their hands on his head and the whole congregation shall stone him.

So we have two groups "those who heard him" and the "whole congregation."

Those who heard him placed their hands on his head and the whole congregation stoned him.

Our verse has a curious phrase. It says "And they stoned him with a stone." The word "a stone" is strange; did they only throw one stone? What if that didn't kill him? The Rebbe explains this as follows: Those who heard him -They are the first to punish him - they place their hands on his head. They were to throw one stone, perhaps just symbolically. Then later the whole congregation threw stones in order to kill him. Notice that our verse which says they were to stone him with a stone - does not mention death. While verse 16 above says "The entire shall stone him and he shall be put to death" Amazing! We see that when the small group who heard him threw a stone it need not kill him but when the congregation stones him after that it must kill him.


We can now better understand Rashi. The verse "And the Children of Israel did what Hashem commanded Moses" refers to the stoning that they did (as opposed to the one -stone- stoning done only by those who heard the man curse G-d.) and all the other relevant laws that they were to fulfill.

This is why Rashi says the three acts they did were casting off, stoning and hanging. Rashi adds "stoning" even though the verse already said he was stoned. But now we realize the answer to all the puzzles. The first part of the verse refers to what the witnesses did (one-stone-stoning) the second part of the verse refers to what the whole congregation did - casting, many-stone-stoning unto death and then hanging.

So there is no redundancy here.

According this explanation each of Rashi's words makes perfect sense.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek "What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. All 5 volumes on What's Bothering Rashi? are available in Jewish book stores.

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