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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Nitzavim (74)

Devarim 29: 20:

"And Hashem will separate him for evil out of all the tribes of Israel according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in "this sefer HaTorah."


That are written in this (masculine) Sefer Torah: Rashi: But above it says (28:61) In this (feminine) Sefer Torah, "also every illness and plague" etc. "Hazos" is feminine it refers back to the word Torah (which is feminine) . "Hazeh" (masculine) refers back to the word Sefer (which is masculine) . By means of the 'trop" (musical notes on the words which connect or separate the words in the verse) through divisions into clauses by these notes (which serve as punctuation) they are shown to be two different expressions. In the chapter of the curses the Tipcha ( like a comma) is placed beneath the word Sefer so the words "this Torah" are connected, therefore it says "zos" (feminine); but here the Tipcha (comma) is placed beneath the word " "HaTorah", so the words "sefer Ha Torah" are connected and separated from the word Hazeh (this).


Rashi explains the change between masculine to feminine for the same three words (Sefer HaTorah Hazeh or Sefer HaTorah Hazos), by showing that the accent (acting like a comma) explains the difference. When the placing of the comma brings Sefer and Torah together then the main word is Sefer and is thus masculine, but when the comma separates between Sefer and Torah then the main word is Torah and deserves a feminine direct object.

This should be clear enough.

But we can ask a fundamental question about the Torah's choice of words here.

Your Question:


A Question: why does the Torah write these words in two different ways?

This is not easy.

Your Answer:


An Answer: The Lubavicher Rebbe Zt"l (who has written extensively on Rashi's Torah commentary) suggests the following creative answer. The word Sefer (book) refers to what is actually written in the Torah. While the word "Torah" has a broader connotation - meaning all that can be derived by analyzing the Torah's words, (though, may not be explicitly written in the Torah).

Now let's see the first verse, 28:61 it says:

"Also every sickness and every plague, which is not written in this Sefer HaTorah' Note "which is not written" that is a clue to Torah which includes things not explicitly written. But our verse has "And Hashem will separate him for evil out of all the tribes of Israel according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in "this sefer Hatorah." So here 'that are written' refers to the sefer ( and is masculine).


The Rebbe points out another subtlety: The Lead Words of Rashi include the word "That are written" which is, on the face of it, unrelated to Rashi's comment. Because Rashi is focusing on the three words "this (masculine) Sefer Torah".

But, in fact, the word is crucial to understanding the Torah's words because "written" and "not written" was the basis for the Rebbe's distinction between the two verses. So it is very relevant and thus included in Rashi's Lead Word.

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.

Dr. Bonchek is publishing a new book on Rashi, called "Rashi: the magic and the Mystery" . It has a biography of Rashi & his special character traits. And outlines clearly Rules for interpreting Rashi in depth. We are looking for dedications to help publish this book. Those interested, please contact Avigdor Bonchek at Drbonchek@gmail.com.

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