by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Shoftim(68)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.
Do not pervert justice, do not display favoritism and do not accept bribery, for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and distorts the words of the righteous.
Do not pervert justice: Rashi: As its meaning.
A Question: Rashi tells us that we must understand these words according to their meaning! If so, why does Rashi mention this at all? I would understand the verse according to its meaning, in any event. Why do I have to be instructed to do what I would do without instructions?
Hint: Look at another Rashi comment previously.
Can you see why Rashi tells us the obvious?
A RULE IN RASHI'S COMMENTARY
An Answer: There is general rule about Rashi's use of the term 'as its meaning" ( in Hebrew 'k'mashmao'). As we asked, it's obvious to understand these words as their meaning, so why tell us to do so? But Rashi uses this comment whenever he interprets other words in the verse or nearby verses not according to its meaning - but rather according to a midrashic interpretation. Which words near by does Rashi interpret midrashicly and in what sense it that comment not its basic meaning?
An Answer: In his comment on the previous verse, Rashi comment on the words: "Who will judge the people" with the comment: "Appoint competent judges..." Rashi says these words are addressed to the people to appoint judges and not to the judges themselves, which would seem to be the simple meaning of the verse. It is not the simple understanding of these words, it is a midrash. Therefore Rashi tells us, in his comment on our verse, that these words are to be taken in their simple meaning - addressed to the judges and not to the people.
A DEEPER LOOK
Sometimes Rashi will comment with the word "k'p'shuto" that is: 'As its simple meaning'. The word 'k'mashmao' can be translated 'as its meaning." What is the difference between these similar terms? It is not always easy to tease out the difference, but we will give an example. If a mother says to her child: "I have told you a million times to put your toys away." P'shuto is that she really told him a million times; while 'Mashmao' is that she told him many times. That is the meaning of her exaggeration.
What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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