by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Yisro (71)
And Hashem said to Moses: "Behold I am coming to you in the thickness of the cloud in order that the nation will hear as I speak with you and also in you they will believe forever; and Moses told over the words of the nation to Hashem.
and also in you: Rashi : Also in the prophets who will come after you.
This is a drash. What would you ask?
A Question: Why does Rashi abandon the simple p'shat meaning of this verse and choose instead a drash - nowhere are the prophets mentioned in the text!
Do you see any difficulties in the simple p'shat interpretation of this verse that could be bothering Rashi?
I see two.
Hint: Read the verse carefully; do you see any redundancies?
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: The word 'also" ( in Hebrew "gam") in the phrase "the nation will hear as I speak with you and also in you they will believe forever" seems to mean that not only will they hear G-d speak with Moses but they will also believe in Moses. But that is strange because what verse means is that as a consequence of the People hearing G-d talk to Moses they will believe in him. So these are not two separate matters, they are one. So if the verse said: " the nation will hear as I speak with you and in you they will believe forever" nothing is missing - even though we omitted the word "also." So it really is unnecessary - redundant. This is one of the difficulties Rashi is dealing with.
Another problem is the word "forever". They will believe in Moses forever? Neither they nor Moses will live forever! So why say they will believe in him "forever"?
This too ("also"!) may be troubling Rashi.
How does Rashi's comment deal with these difficulties?
An Answer: Rashi tells us the word "also" does not come to add the idea that the people will also believe in Moses (Because that was understood, as we said, by the fact that they heard G-d speak with him) rather the word comes to add the future Jewish prophets - the People will also believe in them. In the same way the word "forever" is explained: not just now in Moses' time but also in the future - all the prophets who will arise in Israel in the future will be believed.
We see how Rashi chose a midrash to smooth out difficulties that his keen eye spotted.
A VERY INTERESTING NOTE - A PROPHETIC VERSE
Rabbi Chaim Hirschenson a big Talmid Chocham born in Tzfat over a 100 years ago and later a Rav in New Jersey makes a very interesting point in his brilliant commentary on Rashi (Nemukie Rashi). He points out that while both Christianity and Islam broke off and rejected Judaism they nevertheless continued to respect and honor Moses and all the prophets. And even in modern times the secular scholars who rejected Judaism nevertheless accepted wholeheartedly the lessons of the Jewish prophets. So Rashi's statement that the people will always believe in Moses and in the Jewish prophets is a verified truth to our own days!
ANOTHER INTERESTING HISTORICAL NOTE
The verse itself reflects an historical one-of-a-kind event. All religious prophecies are private affairs, experienced by the person himself and non others. The visions of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all individual communications from G-d. So too the prophecies of the Early and Later Prophets in the Tanach, were all individual prophecies. (The one exception, I believe, is the prophecy to the wife of Manoah and Manoah himself when the man of G-d tells them that she will bear a son - Samson. Judges chapter 13. )
This is even more strikingly so in the case of the prophecies the Gentiles claim their prophets experienced. Christianity began when three people saw that Yeshu's grave was empty three days after he died. They assumed he rose from the dead. According to Islamic beliefs Mohammad, at age of 40 retreated to a cave in the mountains surrounding Mecca for reflection and there, all by himself, he received his first revelation from God. So we see that all these religions began with reported miracles or revelations for which there were no witnesses. Judaism is the only religion that makes the claim (in our verse) that thousands heard themselves the prophetic conversation between Moses and G-d.
For those skeptics who believe the Torah's story of the revelation at Mt. Sinai is just another ancient legend, they must explain why such a grandiose spectacular revelation was never claimed by any other religion!
"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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