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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Shoftim (67)

This week's sedra deals with a variety of laws. Among them, judicial issues, the city of refuge; laws of war; keeping away from the evil influences of the nations in the land of Canaan and other topics. A very central idea of Judaism is also expressed in the sedra. We will examine it.

Deut. 18:13

You shall be perfect (wholehearted) with the Hashem, your G-d.


You shall be perfect (wholehearted) with the Hashem, your G-d: Rashi: Walk with Him wholeheartedly; put your hope in Him and do not investigate the future, rather whatever that may happen to you accept wholeheartedly, and then you be with Him and His portion.

Do you see anything to question in Rashi's comment?

Your Question:


A Question: Rashi gives our verse a particular - and not necessarily the only possible - interpretation of the words: "You shall be perfect (wholehearted) with the Hashem", He also adds on a reward for being wholehearted with G-d - "then you will be with Hand his portion." The verse does not appear to speak of a reward.


#1: Is Rashi's understanding of wholeheartedness here the only one possible?

# 2: Why does Rashi see a reward in our verse, when there is apparently no mention of reward?


Let us take Q #1, first. What is the meaning of wholeheartedness ("tamim") ?

It can mean being "whole", that is, being one, indivisible, in one's thoughts (inwardly) and in one's action (outwardly). In other words, a person is not duplicitous which means "double-dealing", says one thing and means another. Acts one way but thinks otherwise. He is 'tamim' perfect what you see is what he is.

But Rashi here gives a different meaning to the word "tamim." He says one who is wholehearted in his relationship with G-d, meaning, he does not try to outsmart G-d, so to speak. If G-d has something planned for him, it not "tamim" for the person to seek out ways to avoid this fate. He has not wholehearted, unconditionally, accepted G-d's relationship to him or his relationship to G-d.

Why does Rashi choose this meaning of "tamim" and the first one we offered?

Hint: See the context of this verse.

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi clearly was going with the context. The verses surrounding this verse speak of s?ances, soothsayers and necromancy - all ways of looking into the future. These are forbidden; they are the ways of the idol worshippers not the way of Israel. Rashi tells us that "tamim" here must be taken in context. Believe in G-d and accept what He gives you wholeheartedly; don't look into the future to figure out how to avoid what G-d has planned for you. Accept it.


Let us now look at our second question:

Where in the verse is reward even hinted at?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi sees a subtle point here. The commentaries (Mizrachi & Gur Aryeh) explain this by saying the verse should have just said: "Be wholehearted." Why add the words "with Hashem your G-d" ? The extra words tell us "Be tamim - then you will be 'with Hashem, your G-d.' "

But this is difficult to accept. The verse would not be fully understood without the last words. As we said, the whole point of the verse is to be wholehearted with Hashem, the last words are crucial to understanding the verse.

I would suggest another explanation for Rashi seeing the reward of 'being with Hashem' in the wording of our verses. Several people were considered "tamim" in the Torah. Jacob was an "Eish tam" (Genesis 25:26) Abraham was instructed to be "tamim" (Genesis 17:1) and of Noah it was said "Noah walked with G-d" (Genesis 6:9). This verse about Noah reads in Hebrew "Es ha'Elokim hishalech Noach" The word 'es" means 'with'. Our verse uses the word 'im" this too means 'with.' Both mean 'with', but 'es' is a subordinate "with", the relationship is not an equal or mutual one. "Im" on the other hand, implies a mutual, equal, relationship.

So, since our verse uses "Im Hashem" Rashi saw the mutuality of the relationship between man and G-d. If we are wholehearted with G-d then He too will be wholehearted with us - He will be with us and we will be His portion.

So the verse is to be read in a two way scheme. Be wholehearted with G-d (Tamim ti'heyeh im Hashem) and He will likewise be wholehearted with you ( Tamim ti'heyeh - then, im Hashem Elokecha).


This verse expresses the essence of Jewish belief. The world is run by G-d. He has a system; that system is reward and punishment. Man acts and receives his compensation - as a consequence of his actions. The magic approach (reading "signs" in nature and dealing with them) is not Jewish. It implies that whatever may have been in store for me from G-d because of my actions, can be changed by knowing the right "formula." By wearing a red ribbon on my wrist, for example, I can ward off bad things. But in Judaism one wards off bad things and prepares for receiving good things in one way and one way only - by doing G-d's commandments. There are no tricks, no short cuts, no magic. It all very simple! 'Keep My commandments" G-d says (over and over in the Torah) "and then you will blessed".

We will be blessed for the right reason, for following G-d's instructions - not for the make-believe, meaningless, reasons that the pagans believe in.

May we all merit being blessed for the right reason.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

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

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