by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Vayeira 5767Genesis 18:20,21, 22
20) And Hashem said: Because the cry of Sodom and Amora is great and their sin is very serious.
21) I will go down now and see - if the outcry that has reached Me, they (in fact) have done - then they are finished. And if not I will know."
22) And the men turned from there and went to Sodom. And Abraham was still standing before Hashem.
I will go down now and see: Rashi: This teaches judges that they should not decide capital punishment cases except by observing (themselves) as I explained in the chapter of the generation of "dispersion." Another explanation: I will fathom the depth of their deeds.
What would you ask on Rashi's comment?
A Question: Why does Rashi need this drash? Why can't he accept the verse as is: G-d wants to go down and investigate?
What's Bothering Rashi?
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: Why does G-d, the Omniscient One, Who knows everything that goes on in the world, have to "go down" to know what is happening in Sodom?
This is the unwritten question that Rashi is asking.
How does his comment deal with it?
An Answer: Rashi says that while Hashem certainly didn't need to go down to learn something, He said He wanted to be an example to mortal judges to teach them that they too must investigate every case thoroughly.
LOOKING AT THE TEXT CLOSELY
Following is a close-reading examination of this verse, not directly connected with the Rashi-comment.
Let us look at the Torah's words closely. If Hashem said He would go down, we ask: did He? Do you think Hashem went down to investigate to see if the cry which reached Him was an indication of evil? Can you cite evidence one way or another?
Let us ask another question first and then return to this one. We assume that angels came to save Lot and to destroy the city of Sodom. If that was their mission why when they arrived in Sodom did they not immediately tell Lot to pack his bags and escape. Why did they refuse Lot's invitation and say "We'll sleep in the street"? (see 19:2) If they had come to destroy the city, what is this "sleeping in the street" business? Why did they wait so long to tell Lot to leave Sodom ? Can you make sense of this?
A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING
An Answer: To understand this matter we must look carefully at the Torah's words. G-d had said He would "go down now to see" the situation in Sodom. The very next verse (!) says "And the men turned from there and went to Sodom." These "men" were G-d's messengers to see what was happening in Sodom That's why they preferred to stay in the street to see how the people acted. A sociological study if you will. That is why they did not tell Lot to pack his bags until they determined that the place was really totally evil. (19:12) They decided to destroy the cities after they had seen that everyone, but everyone from "lad to old man from the extremes" (19:4) were evil people. This answered Abraham's question whether G-d would destroy the city if there were righteous people in it. Turns out that there was nary a one! G-d had said He wanted to know if "as their cry ( Hebrew; Haktzakasa) which comes to me". And in 19:13 the angels said "We are destroying the place because the cry ("tzakasa") is great. The verbal precision is amazing.
So we can say that G-d did "go down to see' - he sent His emissaries to check things out for Him.
Looking closely at the Torah's words always reveals its hidden wonders.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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