Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Or any of the host of the heavens, which I have not commanded": What is bothering Rashi? What did Hashem not command?

Summary: Rav Moshe Feinstein on how to interpret a Rashi (or a pasuk according to Rashi). And how Rashi might interpret that Rashi.

Post: In a post at Rambam, Maharal, et al., E-man is troubled by a Rashi and then notes how Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Netziv spot this difficluty and then solve it. The Rashi in question is as follows:

2. If there will be found among you, within one of your cities which the Lord, your God is giving you, a man or woman who does evil in the eyes of the Lord, your God, to transgress His covenant,ב. כִּי יִמָּצֵא בְקִרְבְּךָ בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה אֶת הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לַעֲבֹר בְּרִיתוֹ:
to transgress His covenant: which He made with you, namely, not to worship idols.לעבור בריתו: אשר כרת אתכם שלא לעבוד עבודה זרה:
3. and who will go and worship other gods and prostrate himself before them, or to the sun, the moon, or any of the host of the heavens, which I have not commanded;ג. וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיַּעֲבֹד אֱ־לֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ לָהֶם וְלַשֶּׁמֶשׁ אוֹ לַיָּרֵחַ אוֹ לְכָל צְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוִּיתִי:
which I have not commanded: to worship them. — [Meg. 9b]אשר לא צויתי: לעבדם:

There are two questions in play. The first is: what is guiding Rashi to comment as he does? The second is that, if Rashi is correct, what is guiding Hashem to make this statement?

Let us consider the first question. What guides Rashi to say this?

Well, Ibn Ezra, also explains it in this manner:
אשר לא צויתי -לעבדם ואם הם מעשי.

And Ibn Caspi:
 נ) אשר לא צויתי . דבק עם ויעבוד וישתחו:

Shadal explains it as:
ג אשר לא צויתי הכוונה שהדבר הזה הוא הפך ממה שציויתי על דרך שאומרים לא חכם והכוונה כסיל ואומרים לא טוב והכוונה רע , ( אוהב גר 369 ועיין למטה י " ח י " ב ).ש
Thus, the general consensus is like Rashi, that "which I haven't commanded" is that Hashem did not command us to worship them. This is the simple peshat. While this is readily apparent to any pashtan, Rashi can draw it from Megillah 9b:
אחרים אשר לא צויתי לעובדם
This one one of the changes that the 70 elders made when independently translating the Torah for Ptolemy, as we discover once we read the context in this gemara. Rashi explains what error people could make if not for this clarifying translation:
אשר לא צויתי לעובדם - שאם לא כתבו לעובדם משמע אשר לא צויתי שיהיו ויאמר א"כ אלהות הן שעל כורחו נבראו:
Had they not written "to worship them", it would have implied "which I had not commanded that they exist," and one would say, as a result, that they were Divine, for against His Will they were created. Rashi doesn't spell this out in parashat Shofetim but merely quotes the emendation.

(I would note that the Septuagint does not really have any of these changes mentioned, which is reason to treat as dubious the claim that it is the same translation by these 70 elders. It states there instead:
3 καὶ ἐλθόντες λατρεύσωσι θεοῖς ἑτέροις καὶ προσκυνήσωσιν αὐτοῖς, τῷ ἡλίῳ ἢ τῇ σελήνῃ ἢ παντὶ τῶν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, ἃ οὐ προσέξατέ σοι,
3 and they should go and serve other gods, and worship them, the sun, or the moon, or any of the host of heaven, which he commanded thee not to do,

This is not precisely the same, though there is a clarifying remark. Did not command becomes commanded to not.)

I would also note that Ibn Ezra makes this reverse concern more explicit. Recall that he wrote:
אשר לא צויתי -לעבדם ואם הם מעשי.

Thus, like Rashi, "I did not command to worship them", but he adds, "despite them being My creations."

This then resolves this first question, why Rashi says what he is saying. It is what Chazal say, and it is clearly correct as a matter of peshat.

We don't know that Rashi means anything more significant than this, especially as all he is doing is encoding the words of the gemara.

In terms of the second question, why Hashem describes it in this manner, well that is the second question. As I just noted, Rashi does not say anything about this. Shadal does. Recall that Shadal wrote:
ג אשר לא צויתי הכוונה שהדבר הזה הוא הפך ממה שציויתי על דרך שאומרים לא חכם והכוונה כסיל ואומרים לא טוב והכוונה רע , ( אוהב גר 369 ועיין למטה י"ח י"ב ). ש
Ignore the awkward phrasing. Biblical Hebrew sometimes functions in ways we would not expect, and he gives an example. "That I did not command" means that "the matter is the opposite of what I commanded", just like they would say "not a wise man" and the intent is a fool, and they say "not good" and the intent is bad.

I would say that although Shadal makes this explicit, this is more of less what Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Ibn Caspi, and so on intend. If we don't say this, then another alternative is that one might mistakenly think that one should worship them, just as the Dor Enosh did. Therefore, this informs us that this is not within what Hashem desires or commanded.

E-man brings a potential problem with this Rashi, and brings forth Rav Moshe Feinstein solution to the problem. (Though I write in a slightly combative mode, this is my mode of attacking the problem. Don't take it as more than that.) He writes:
The question here is, what the heck is this verse saying according to Rashi? Apparently, according to Rashi's explanation this verse is telling us that the reason people are not supposed to worship other gods, the sun, moon and the stars is because G-D did not command us to worship them. This seems odd because in many places throughout the Torah G-D says explicitly that we are forbidden to worship anything but Him. Why in the world does the verse tell us the reason is because G-D did not command us when the clear reason is that G-D commanded us NOT to worship anything but Him???
I would say that the answer to this is, yes, that too. In general, one is not supposed to worship any idol. And this is not an exception, even though one might think it is, for the reason offered. Or, alternatively, like Shadal, that the pasuk is saying nothing of the sort.
Surprisingly, Rav Moshe Feinstein read my mind (or vice versa). He had the same exact problem as I did with this verse according to Rashi. He says (In Darash Moshe) that this verse is coming to tell us that even those that erroneously think that G-D wants us to serve His most important creations (like the sun, the moon, and the ANGELS) are still transgressing the commandment of not to worship idols. For, one might think that since these people believe they are doing the will of G-D their transgression is not to be considered idol worship. This verse comes to tell us that since G-D did not command them to worship the sun, moon or angels, it IS considered idol worship. 
Nice, especially as derash, though I don't think that one needs to go that far. One can say that those people acting in ignorance are indeed acting in ignorance. But we have the Torah, which disabuses us of this false notion, that this worship would be the will of God. The derash is fine, though I am not convinced of it, and I dislike tying it in to Rashi, as if this were Rashi's true intent. This retrojects modern neo-midrash onto a Rishon, thus giving it greater stature. It is a derash, but it is Darash Moshe, from Rav Moshe Feinstein.

See the rest of E-Man's post, about Netziv, and how the command was that Hashem did not command the sun, moon, etc., to be moshlim. He draws a distinction between this and Rav Moshe Feinstein's derash. Aside from this, this seems another good peshat way of explaining the pasuk -- Hashem did not command them to be moshlim in this manner.

1 comment:

E-Man said...

Thanks for the insights. I agree with your analysis of the Rashi.

In the end of the day, it is probably just a machlokes between the Netziv and Rav Moshe as to how to answer this question.


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