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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Yisro(69)

This week's sedra tells of the Revelation at Mt. Sinai. All else is secondary.

Exodus 19:5

And now if you listen to my My voice and you will keep My covenant, you will be a treasure for Me from among all the nations, for to Me belongs the whole earth.


and you will keep My covenant: Rashi: That I will make (literally: cut) with you on keeping the Torah.


Rashi is clearly relating the covenant mentioned here. Rashi asks (implicitly): Which covenant is the verse referring to?

His answer is that it refers to the covenant mentioned further on in verse 24:8, which took place after the Revelation.

Do you have a question?

Your Question:


A Question: The verse says "My covenant" as if we know which covenant is referred to. How can Rashi say it refers to a covenant that has not even been mentioned yet?

By the way, the Ibn Ezra offers this interpretation, as well.


The Ramban differs. He offers a another interpretation. He says it refers to the covenant with the Fathers (Abraham, see Genesis 17:7).

Can you see the reasoning of each of these commentators - Rashi (Ibn Ezra) & Ramban?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The Ramban seems to base his interpretation (that the covenant is the one G-d made with Abraham) on the force of the question we asked above: How can "My covenant" refer to a covenant yet to be made? So it must refer to one G-d had already made, i.e. the one He made with Abraham.

But, then, how do we understand Rashi's interpretation?

Can you justify it?

Your Answer:


An Answer: These commentators seem to have taken a longer look than the Ramban. The whole context here relates to the giving of the Torah, which is to take place soon. So the reasonable explanation is the covenant, which will accompany the Revelation. Even though the covenant had not yet taken place, but since it will soon happen, that may be reason enough for referring to it as "My covenant."

This is unusual. It is usually the Ramban who takes the longer view and Rashi who focuses primarily on the verse itself. Here their roles have been reversed. But to be fair, the Ramban, while offering the interpretation we cited above, also mentions the Ibn Ezra's interpretation (which the same as Rashi's) and he does not reject it. In fact, at the end of his comment, the Ramban adds these words: "On the way of the truth (which refers to a kabalistic interpretation): You should keep My covenant to cleave to Me, for if you listen to My voice and fulfill all that I say, then (the continuation of our verse): "you will be a treasure for Me from among all the nations."

So we see that the Ramban does seem to accept Rashi's view.

Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek

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

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