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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashios Netzavim/Vayelech (67)

Deut. 30:3

And Hashem your G-d will return (Hebrew: "v'shav") your captives and He will have mercy on you and will return and gather you from all the nations where Hashem, your G-d had dispersed you there.


And Hashem your G-d will return your captives: Rashi: It should have said "v'haishiv (meaning: will cause to return) your captives" Our Rabbis learned from this that the Holy Spirit, so to speak, dwells with Israel in their distress in exile and when they are redeemed, He writes redemption for Himself! - that He will return (from exile) with them. Another interpretation (of the use of "v'shav" - He will return): It can be said that the day of the Ingathering of the Diaspora is great and very difficult. It is as if He Himself will have to take the hand of each individual from his place (and bring him back from exile). As it says (Isaiah 27:12) "And you will be gathered one by one, you Children of Israel" And even by the other nations we find similarly (Jeremiah 48:47) "And I have retuned (Hebrew: "v'shavti") the captives of Moav".


Rashi identifies an awkward grammatical usage in our verse. It speaks of G-d returning the Jews to Israel, but the Hebrew word for "return" is in the intransitive construction - v'shav" which literally means: He himself will return. For the verse to mean: He will cause others to return, the Hebrew should have been "v'haishiv" the transitive construction of "shav". Rashi offers two interpretations for the use of the word "v'shav".

The interpretations are drash but they are, in sense, close to p'shat, as we will see. The first interpretation is that, in fact, G-d is in exile and therefore He himself will return together with the Jews when the day of redemption comes. He - His Shechina - is together with them in all their distress and all the vicissitudes of the exile.

The second interpretation is that G-d Himself must go into exile in order to bring back each and every Jew, since returning from exile is a difficult task for the exiled individual.

Can you see the main difference between the two interpretations?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The difference between the two interpretations is clear. In the first, G-d Himself is in exile; in the second He is not in exile, but He must go into exile to bring the people back.

Looking at Rashi's last words do you have a question?

Your Question:


A Question: Rashi says that not just Israel but also other nations receive this personalized attention from G-d. Is the Shechina also with gentile peoples who are in exile?! This question has bothered many.

How can you understand Rashi?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The simplest explanation is that Rashi's comment about the gentile nations refers only to his second interpretation. That is, G-d will go to bring them back to their lands; but Rashi does not mean to say that G-d's presence will be with them in their exile (his first interpretation).


When we compare our verse with the verse in Jeremiah 48:47 where it speaks of G-d's bringing back the captives of Moav, we see an important difference.

Compare the two verses:

The difference?


Our verse says "And Hashem, your G-d, will return your captives" The verse about Moav says "And I have returned the captives of Moav." Note: G-d's name is not mentioned. But His name is mentioned and emphasized in the verse about Israel - not so about Moav. What is the message?

I would say that when G-d's name is mentioned explicitly it means the return will be so miraculous that people will see G-d's hand in it. Whereas when He is not mentioned openly then the return of the gentile exiles will happen in a less dramatic more natural way.


I will point out what we all know but the significance of which we may not sufficiently be cognizant of. Our verse speaks of Israel returning from exile from "all the nations where G-d has dispersed us." Today - only Today - can we say this verse has been fulfilled. As recently as 30 years ago (when the doors of Russia were closed) there were many Jews who could not return to Israel if they wanted to. Today for the first time in history can Jews from all over the world return to Israel if they choose to.

This fact is truly amazing. There has never been a similar phenomenon in Jewish history or even in world history ! The fact that thousands of people, dispersed throughout the world, (North & South America; North and South Africa; Europe, Russia, India etc.) can return to their land after 3000 years is amazing.

The fact that this was foreseen and predicted over 3000 years is unspeakably astounding.

That is why G-d's name is mentioned explicitly when He returns the Jews to their homeland but is not mentioned when He causes the gentile to return to his homeland.

Only the Jew's return to his land is miraculous, it can be seen to be the act of G-d.


When we recite the Shemoneh Esrei, let us be aware that that our thousand year's prayer of "Teka b'shofar gadol l'chairusainu' has been fulfilled. G-d has gathered in the dispersed of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

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

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