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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Pinchas (5762)

Hashem informs Moses that he will not lead the nation into the Promised Land. Moses' first reaction is recorded.

Numbers 27:15, (16)

"And Moses spoke to Hashem saying: May the Hashem, the G-d of the spirits, appoint a man over the community."


And Moses spoke to Hashem, etc. RASHI: To make known the virtue of the righteous, when they pass from this world they put aside their own needs and concern themselves with the needs of the community.


G-d had just told Moses (verses 12-14) that he was to prepare himself to die. Moses' immediate reaction was to ask G-d to designate a successor to lead the nation after his death.


A Question: We can ask: what else could he have done? What personal request might Moses have made?

Hint: Put yourself in Moses' place.

Your Answer:


An Answer: Moses could have asked G-d to allow him to enter the Land of Canaan, as he eventually did (see Deut. 3:23). In spite of this, he put aside his personal request, which stemmed from his strong longing to enter the Land of Israel. Instead, he dealt first with the community's problem - securing a leader for them to succeed him after his death.

Looking at the Dibbur Hamaschil of this comment, what would you ask?

Your Question:


A Question: Rashi's comment certainly refers to Moses' request in verse 16. Why then does he make his comment on these words from verse 15 and not on verse 16?

Hint: Look closely at this verse. Does it look strange?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The words in this verse are very similar to a familiar phrase, which is repeated over 50 times in the Torah - "And G-d spoke to Moses saying." But here we have the mirror image of that famous verse:

And Moses spoke to Hashem saying"

This phrase appears only once in the whole Torah - our verse! This is certainly a striking fact. It must have significance.

Perhaps we can say that just as the phrase denoting Hashem's communications to Moses with this wording, implied urgency and significance, so too was this communication from Moses to Hashem significant and urgent. According to Rashi, the urgency was that Moses wanted to immediately assure a successor to deal with the people's needs. Perhaps it was for this reason that Rashi chose these words to comment on. But notice that he adds the word åâå' "etc". This means that the continuation of the verse (in our case the next verse as well) is also included in the focus of his comment.

"To Make Known the Praise of the Righteous"

This unique phrase may explain another anomaly in Rashi's words. His opening words are - "to make known the praise of the righteous". What does Rashi mean by these words? If Moses, did in fact ask G-d to appoint a successor, then the Torah is just reporting what happened. Why is this considered to be "making known the praise of Moses' righteousness" anymore than any other story about his righteous acts as reported in the Torah?

But if we are aware that the Torah intentionally used the unique phrase "And Moses spoke to Hashem saying", this uniquely divine phrase, then maybe we can understand Rashi's meaning. The Torah used just these words, which are exclusively reserved for Divine communications, in order to show Moses' divine-like selfless concern for the needs of his flock. This, then, may be the reason that Rashi choose just these words as his Lead Words for this comment.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

What’s Bothering Rashi?” is produced by the “Institute for the Study of Rashi.” The Institute is in the process of preparing the Devorim volume of “What’s Bothering Rashi?” This volume will feature Rashi and the Ba’alie Tosephos. Readers interested in sponsoring a sedra in this volume are encouraged to contact us for further details at msbonch@mscc.huji.ac.il Thanking you in advance.

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