by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Va'eschanon (71)Deut. 3:24
24) Hashem /G-d, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand, for who is strong in the heavens and on the earth who can do as Your deeds and as Your strength?
Your greatness: Rashi: This refers to Your quality of goodness; as it says "And now, may the strength of my Lord be magnified (Hebrew: yigdal)." (Numbers 14:17).
What would you ask on this comment?
A Question: Certainly the word Your greatness (Hebrew "Gadlecha") is found previously (many times) in the Torah. Why does Rashi have to tell us it's meaning here - when he didn't tell us previously?
Another Question: Is that really what "Gadlecha" means - Your goodness? It would seem to mean Your Greatness; Your strength or many things other than Your goodness!
Why does Rashi give us this interpretation of this word?
Rashi quotes a verse in Numbers 14:17 to support his interpretation of 'gadlecha' as goodness. It is important to look at that verse and its context.
That verse was said by Moses, after the sin of the Spies when G-d had vowed to destroy the People. Moses implored G-d not to destroy the People. The next verse says: "Hashem slow to anger; abundant in kindness; forgiver of transgression and willful sin " etc. So clearly G-d's Strength here means His ability to control His anger. Similar to what we learned in the Sayings of the Fathers: "Who is a strong person? One who controls his urges." (Avos:4:1 ).
This is perfect support for Rashi's claim that 'strength' here means goodness.
But we can still ask a question.
But we may still ask: There are verses where 'Gadlecha" simply means strength. As for example "Hashem is great (Gadol) and greatly praised; to his strength ('gedulasoi') is beyond understanding." (Psalms 145:3); or "Hashem, my G-d, You are very great." (Psalms 104:1). These verses mean G-d is mighty. Why does Rashi choose the verse in Numbers were 'gadol' means conquering His anger and not the verses in Psalms and other places where it means mighty?
An Answer: Looking at the context within which this verse is placed answers our question. Moses is beseeching Hashem to rescind His decree that he may not enter the Holy Land. So Moses is stressing G-d's goodness, not His strength; His ability to overcome His punishing decree (as He did in the case of the Spies) and allow Moses to come into Eretz Yisrael.
The lesson here is important. Whenever Rashi explains a common word we must look deeper. There is always a reason for him doing this. It our job to discover that reason.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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