by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Parashas Nitzavim-Vayeilech(66)These two sedros highlight some important parts of Moses' last oration to the Nation.
He again warns the People of the evils of idol worship and the destruction that will befall the Land if the people stray. The prediction of total destruction and the eventual spiritual return of the people have an authentic prophetic ring to it. Moses also encourages them to prepare for entering the Land and capturing it after his own death.
And you saw their abominations (idols) and their loathsomness - wood and stone, silver and gold, that are with them.
wood and stone: Rashi : Those of wood and stone you saw them in the open, for the gentiles did not fear them being stolen. But those of silver and gold are "with them" in paneled rooms because they were afraid lest these be stolen.
What would you ask here?
A Question: Why does Rashi differentiate between the idols of wood & stone and those of silver & gold?
Look at the verse. There are several grammatical or syntactical aspects of the verse that arouse questions. Do you see them?
WHAT'S BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: The words "wood and stone" are joined by the word "and." But the next words are not joined to them with an "and" It would seem reasonable that there would be "and" connecting "silver and gold' with "wood and stone." As the verse has it these are two groups of materials that the idols were made of.
This probably caught Rashi's eye. But the order of words is also questionable.
The words "that are with them" comes at the end of the verse; it would seem more reasonable to phrase the words thus:
"And you saw their abominations (idols) and their loathsomness, that are with them - wood and stone, silver and gold." But the Torah's phrasing implies that the words "that are with them" refer back just to "silver and gold."
How does Rashi's comment deal with this?
An Answer: Rashi (and the midrash which is his source) sees two groupings here. The "wood and stone" idols are connected to the words "which you saw" at the beginning of the verse. Therefore Rashi says "you saw them in the open" While "silver and gold" are connected to the words " that were with them" at the end of the verse, therefore Rashi said they were hidden "in paneled rooms."
The reason some were exposed while others were hidden is then logical - these inexpensive idols could be in the open for they were not valuable enough to steal, while the silver and gold idols had to be hidden for fear someone would steal them. But we could another question.
A Question: If the silver and gold idols were hidden in paneled rooms, how would the Jews see them? Hint: See above 6:10 and following.
A SIMPLE ANSWER
An Answer: The Torah said above (6:10 ) that when they invade the Land of Canaan, the Jews will "find homes full of all good things." So it was in such circumstances that they would find the hidden idols.
A DEEPER QUESTION
A Question: Did the people really believe in these wooden, stone, silver or gold idols? Ridiculous! How could they?! Moses spent so much time warning the nation not to follow these idols - you would think they had some strong, irresistible, attraction! ? How could any intelligent person be fooled into believing these idols had some - any - power?
Not only that, but we know that the Nation all the way through the generations of the Judges and the Prophets were drawn after these idols. Why?
A DEEPER ANSWER
An Answer: It was not the idols, per se, that attracted them, it was the religion of the idols that attracted them. The religion of the idol worshippers was a religion of cult - that means: Follow the cultist practices (animal sacrifices, serving each idol in its own particular way) and then do whatever your heart desires. The religion made no - absolutely no - moral or ethical demands. Look at the sin of the Golden Calf. Did they believe this molten image had any power? Certainly not. Compared to the G-d that brought them out of Egypt. So why did they worship it? Look at Exodus 32:6. They had an orgy as soon as accepted this new god.
Judaism makes demands, as in the Ten Commandments. On the other hand, one could worship the idols and feel he has done his duty. Now he believes the gods would protect him and he could WHATEVER he wants to do. This was the attraction. And this is the burden of Judaism and Torah. This was a revolutionary idea then ---and still remains revolutionary today. Be a good person - that is what Hashem requires. The rest is commentary, Go and learn, as Hillel the Elder taught us.
We sign off with best wishes for a good year for you and for us and for all Klal Yisrael.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and