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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Va'eschanan

The Parasha of Va'eschanan contains some of the fundamentals of Jewish belief. It also contains some enlightening insights into the psychology of belief as well.

Deut. 4:19

"Lest you raise your eyes heavenward and see the sun or the moon or the stars, all the host of the of heavens, and you will err and bow down to them and worship them, which Hashem you G-d made for the all the nations under all the heavens."


"Lest you raise your eyes" : RASHI: To speculate about the matter and to set your heart to err after them.


A Question: What has Rashi added to our understanding with this comment?

What is he clarifying? Is something about this verse that is bothering him ?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Is the Torah implying that one shouldn't look at the heavens? That certainly can't be its intent. In fact in this week's haftorah we have the following verse which encourages us to look heavenward to bolster our faith in G-d: "Raise your eyes on high and see who has created these…"(Isaiah 40:26 ) How does Rashi's comment deal with this apparent contradiction?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi makes it clear that what we are warned about is speculating with the intent to err. As Rashi says "to set your heart to err after them." In other words, when we view the splendor of nature with preconceived notions in order to validate our lack of faith - this is what the Torah forbids. So the verse in Isaiah does not contradict the verse in our sedra. The wondrous heavens are there for all to see. It all depends on how we view them - what preconceived ideas we have when we look at them. We can see their infinite beauty and stand in awe of their Creator or we can see their infinite magnitude and reflect on our infinite smallness and question the value of man's existence.


Shakespeare has written "Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so." As Jews we don't accept this relativistic view of ethics. But it is true when it comes to perceptions of reality around us. We usually conceive of "reality" as "real"- that is as an objective fact. But even the scientist's view of reality is colored by his preconceptions. He sees what he is psychologically oriented to see. It is because of this, that breakthroughs in science occur when an "innocent" unindoctrinated scientist comes along who has a new view of the "old" reality.

This is what Rashi is telling us. When we view the wonders of nature, the wonders of the real world around us - we can't help but to do so with some preconceived orientation. When we seek to find the absence of the Divine we will find ways to see "reality" that supports that orientation. But, as we would say, "for the same money" we can seek out the Divine in nature and find that the "Heavens proclaim the glory of the Almighty."

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

Someone offered to make a dedication to the new set of What's Bothering Rashi? which will be coming out soon IY"H. Will the person please contact me, I have lost the name. Thanks

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