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|Hebrew Text: Chumash Talmud Chumash - Shmot|
(5750) Rashi (Num.15:22): "And if you should err and not fulfill" and (ibid:23): "All that the L-rd commanded".
The differences between Rashi to his commentary on the Talmud (Tal. Horiyot 8a), and his previous commentary in Mishpatim (23:13)
Three general aspects in the prohibition of idolatry; Explanation of the phrase "Avodah Zarah" (foreign worship)
1. On the verse (Num.15:22):
"And if you should err and not fulfill all these commandments, which the L-rd spoke to Moshe”.
Rashi states (From the Sifri on the verse):
“Scripture speaks of idolatry, or perhaps only to one of the other commandments? Scripture therefore states, “all of these commandments.” One commandment which is equivalent to all the commandments. Just as someone who transgresses all the commandments, casts off the yoke, violates the covenant, and acts brazenly, so one who transgresses this commandment, casts off the yoke, violates the covenant, and acts brazenly. Which is this? This is idolatry.
(וכי תשגו וגו' : בעבודת אלילים הכתוב מדבר, או אינו אלא באחת מכל המצות, תלמוד לומר את כל המצות האלה, מצוה אחת שהיא ככל המצות, מה העובר על כל המצות פורק עול ומפר ברית ומגלה פנים, אף מצוה זו פורק בה עול ומפר ברית ומגלה פנים ואיזו, זו עבודת אלילים:)
(בדפוס ראשון ועוד: ע״ז)
The following verse states:
“All that the L-rd commanded you through Moshe, from the day on which the L-rd commanded and from then on, for all generations”.
And Rashi comments
“All that the L-rd commanded: This tells us that anyone who acknowledges idolatry is considered as if he had denied the entire Torah and all the prophecies of the prophets, as it says, ’from the day on which the L-rd commanded and from then on’”.
(את כל אשר צוה וגו' :מגיד שכל המודה בעבודת אלילים ככופר בכל התורה כולה ובכל מה שנתנבאו הנביאים, שנאמר למן היום אשר צוה ה' והלאה:)
In other words, there are two aspects concerning the severity of Avodah Zarah (“due to which it is like all the Mitzvot and the entire Torah”):
The source of Rashi is (as aforementioned) from the Sifri on Torah.
However, in the Talmud (Horiyot 8a) it states;
“And when you act unwittingly, and do not perform all these commandments”. Which is the Mitzvah that is the equivalent of all the Mitzvot? You must say: It is the prohibition against idol worship.” (עבודת כוכבים)
Rashi there states:
“Whoever acknowledges it (idolatry) is considered as if he had denied the entire Torah”
(שכל המודה בה ככופר בכל התורה כולה)
Thus, in his commentary on the Talmud, Rashi explains that the reason that the first verse equates Avodah Zarah to all the Mitzvot (“And when you act unwittingly, and do not perform all these commandments”) is since
“Whoever acknowledges it (idolatry) is considered as if he had denied the entire Torah”.
This requires explanation:
What is different in Rashi’s comment on Torah, where he accepts (like the explanation of the Sifri on Torah), that there are two aspects in these verses here?
Previously in Parshat Mishpatim on the verse:
“Concerning all that I have said to you shall beware, and the name of the gods of others you shall not mention”.
“(this comes) to teach you that idolatry (ע״א) is tantamount to all the commandments (combined), and whoever is careful with it is considered as if he has observed them all”.
(ללמדך ששקולה עבודה זרה כנגד כל המצות כולן, והנזהר בה כשומר את כולן)
According to this, one must examine that which Rashi states here
“This tells (מגיד) that anyone who acknowledges idolatry is considered as if he had denied the entire Torah”.
For this implies that this aspect is specifically derived from here.
(It is problematic to say that the innovation here is just in the second detail of Rashi’s section here. Namely, that one who acknowledges Avodah Zarah denies (not only the entire Torah, but also) “all the prophecies of the prophets, as it says, ‘from the day on which the L-rd commanded and from then on’” - For from Rashi’s plain wording and style it implies that there is also an innovation in the first aspect that he cites, namely that one who acknowledges Avodah Zarah is as if he denies the entire Torah.
3. One must also examine:
“One commandment which is equivalent to all the commandments. Just as someone who transgresses all the commandments, casts off the yoke, violates the covenant, and acts brazenly, so one who transgresses this commandment etc.”
What are these three aspects that Rashi lists in the severity of “one who transgresses all the commandments” (and their example in serving idols)?
(For just as one who transgresses all the commandments (completely) casts off G-d’s yoke, so too one who transgresses Avodah Zarah casts off the yoke)
is sufficient to explain the reason that Avodah Zarah is like all the Mitzvot. Therefore, why is Rashi forced to also add “violates the covenant and acts brazenly”?
(Although this is also cited in the Sifri, nevertheless, it has already been mentioned many times that Rashi only cites, in his commentary, that which is related to the simple meaning of the verse).
3. One must examine the aspect of “acts brazenly” (“Megaleh Panim”), that Rashi lists plainly without explaining it.
The Rom here, cites from Rashi’s commentary in Tractate Keritot
(and the Talmud’s statement that according to the view of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Rebbi),
“For all transgressions that are stated in the Torah . . Yom Kippur atones (even without doing Teshuvah) except for one who divests himself of the yoke of G-d, by denying His existence, and one who brazenly reveals facets of the Torah (in a manner that is not in accordance with Halacha) (“Megaleh Panim”), and one who nullifies the covenant of the flesh, i.e., circumcision.”
that “Megaleh Panim”/“inappropriately revealing facets of the Torah” means ”expounding on Aggadot in a ridiculing way like Menashe (ben Chizkiah who would sit and teach flawed interpretations of Torah narratives. For example, “did Moshe need to write insignificant matters that teach nothing etc.)”
Many have questioned what relevance, his comment has to our case. “For is it necessary that one who serves idols must expound Aggadot in a ridiculing way?”
They cite from the explanation of Rabbeinu Hillel on the Sifri, who explains that “Megaleh Panim” means one who brazenly interprets Torah in order that it not be fulfilled”
(Similar to what is found in Rashi’s comment in Tractate Shavuot,
“’One who inappropriately reveals facets of the Torah’ means one who comes with Chutzpah and interprets words of Torah with revealed brazenness”).
However, it is seemingly difficult to explain so, in Rashi on Torah. For Rashi writes his commentary (as has been explained many times) in a clear style (without the need to add other explanations).
Therefore, if his intent in “Megaleh Panim” is to refer to the interpretation that one “comes with Chutzpah”, he should have expressly explained it. For if, in his comment on Talmud, he needs to explain so, how much more so, is there a need to explain it so in his commentary on Torah.
4. One can say the explanation of all this is:
In the three aforementioned comments in the aspect of equating Avodah Zarah to all the Mitzvot entirely, Rashi is speaking regarding three different aspects:
One could say that this is the difference between Rashi’s statement in Parshat Mishpatim:
“to teach you that idolatry is tantamount to all the commandments (combined), and whoever is careful with it is considered as if he has observed them all.”
and Rashi’s statement in our Parsha:
“This tells us that anyone who acknowledges idolatry is considered as if he had denied the entire Torah”.
In Parshat Mishpatim it states,
“Concerning all that I have said to you, you shall beware, and the name of the gods of others you shall not mention”
The reason that the verse warns regarding two aspects (keeping all the Mitzvot, and the warning for Avodah Zarah) in conjunction with one another is because it depicts the equating (ההשווא) of “all the Mitzvot combined” with the Mitzvah of Avodah Zarah.
This is why Rashi precisely states:
“(this comes) to teach you that idolatry is equal, corresponding to all the commandments (combined) (שקולה ע״א כנגד)”
For Rashi’s intent is to the second aforementioned aspect, that the severity of Avodah Zarah is equated to “all the commandments (combined)”.
Whereas in our Parsha, where it speaks solely regarding the Mitzvah of Avodah Zarah, and the verse delineates:
“that the L-rd commanded you through Moshe, from the day on which the L-rd commanded and from then on, for all generations”,
we derive from this that the lack of carefulness in Avodah Zarah impacts the carefulness in
“All that the L-rd commanded you etc.”
This is why Rashi states,
“This tells us that anyone who acknowledges idolatry is considered as if he had denied the entire Torah”.
His intent is to the first aforementioned aspect. For since one denies the Giver of Torah and the Commander of Mitzvot, one automatically “denies the entire Torah “. In other words, this is not just a description of the severity of the Mitzvah or its equating to other Mitzvot. Rather, it is a description of the reality (המציאות). Namely, that one who acknowledges Avodah Zarah is “as if he (actually) denies the entire Torah”.
(According to this, another difference is also understood. in Parshat Mishpatim, Rashi’s wording is
“corresponding (כנגד) to all the commandments (combined)”.
Whereas in our Parsha, he states:
“(as if he denies) the entire Torah”
For there, the emphasis is on the equating between one Mitzvah to all the Mitzvot. Whereas in our Parsha, where the emphasis is on the denial of the essence of all the Mitzvot. Therefore, he states, “as if he denies the entire Torah”.
For his intent is not just on the deed of the Mitzvot, but rather over all the aspects of Torah that were given to Moshe (like the continuation of Rashi’s words, that include “all the prophecies of the prophets”).
5. However, these two aspects are not sufficient to explain the wording of the verse,
“And if you should err and not fulfill all these commandments”.
For the simple wording implies that it is speaking of transgressing “all these Mitzvot”.
For since the severity of Avodah Zarah is “equal” to the severity of all the Mitzvot combined, one cannot say
“and not fulfill all these commandments”
Even due to that which,
“one who acknowledges idolatry is considered as if he had denied the entire Torah”,
it is, seemingly, not applicable to say, that one who transgresses Avodah Zarah did not fulfill “all these commandments”.
(For this is just an aspect of faith in one’s heart, that one who acknowledges Avodah Zarah is “as if he denies the entire Torah “. However, not that one who acknowledges Avodah Zarah is considered as if he did not do “all these Mitzvot “).
Therefore, Rashi states that there is an additional aspect in Avodah Zarah. Namely, that in the prohibition of Avodah Zarah there is the same theme (התוכן) that is in the nullification of all the Mitzvot. Namely, that:
“Just as someone who transgresses all the commandments, casts off the yoke, violates the covenant, and acts brazenly, so too one who transgresses this commandment, casts off the yoke, violates the covenant, and acts brazenly”.
The explanation of the aspect is:
There are three general aspects in the fulfillment of Mitzvot:
One could say that these are the three categories of Mitzvot – Chukim (statutes), Eidot (testimonies) and Mishpatim (laws).
One could say that these are the three aspects in the Rashi’s comment here. For one who transgresses Mitzvot:
where the intent is giving reason and explanation.
Alternatively, “face/panim” from the word “manners” (אופנים)
(Like Rashi’s wording in many places in his commentary on Torah:
“Megaleh Panim”/“inappropriately revealing facets of the Torah” means that one finds new “facets” and reasons (and alternative manners) with which he “warps” and twists (מעקם ומעוות) the logic of Torah – this corresponds to Mishpatim which are rational Mitzvot.
According to this one could say that that the reason that Rashi writes that one who transgresses Avodah Zarah,
“casts off the yoke, violates the covenant, and acts brazenly”
is not just because Avodah Zarah is connected with denying G-d, and therefore, there is, automatically an aspect of casting off the yoke, breaking the covenant and acting brazenly. Rather, that in the Mitzvah of Avodah Zarah itself, there are these three properties of “casting off the yoke”, “violating the covenant” and “acting brazenly”.
In other words:
The Mitzvah of Avodah Zarah is prescribed (מחוייבת) from all three levels of “yoke”, “covenant” and “brazenness” (Chukim, Eidot and Mishpatim).
For faith in G-d is demanded (מוכרחת) by intellect. And one who serves idolatry (and denies G-d) is “acting brazenly”, the opposite of proper intellect.
In addition to this, the verse emphasizes,
“I am the L-rd, your G-d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt”
Namely, that the acceptance of G-d’s Sovereignty is a sign and remembrance for that which G-d took us out of Egypt (like the aspect of “Eidot” and covenant).
Moreover, it states,
"Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”
(as Rashi emphasizes),
“The taking (you) out (of Egypt) is sufficient reason for you to be subservient to Me”.
The acceptance of G-d’s Sovereignty must be in a manner of Kaballat Ol, like a servant who accepts the yoke of his master, without differentiating whether he understands the reason or not etc.
* * *
6. Regarding Avodah Zarah there are many textual expressions (נוסחאות)
(Or alternatively, “Avodat Kochavim U'Mazalot” (abbreviated: Aku”m/עכו״ם) – “the worship of stars and the Zodiac”).
Although it is difficult to ascertain what the correct version is, and what was changed by censors etc., it is probable to say that the correct term is “Avodah Zarah”, like the name of the tractate in the Talmud.
(To note, from the statement of the Sages:
“He thought it meant actual idol worship, but that is not so. Rather, the term “Avodah Zarah” refers to labor that is strange to him”
(Note: the Talmud Bava Basra 110a, discusses Jonathan, a descendant of Moshe Rabbeinu, who become a priest for idol worship. When questioned how he could do so, he responded by stating. “I have a tradition that I received from the house of my father’s father: A person should always hire himself out to Avodah Zarah and not require the help of people by receiving charity, and I took this position in order to avoid having to take charity”. The Talmud comments: He, Jonathan, thought that “Avodah Zarah” referred to actual idol worship, but that is not so, that was not the intent of the tradition. Rather, here the term “Avodah Zarah”, literally: Strange service, is referring to service, i.e., labor, that is strange, i.e., unsuitable, for him. In other words, one should be willing to perform labor that is difficult and humiliating in his eyes rather than become a recipient of charity.)
One should examine the essence of this name “Avodah Zarah”. For seemingly, this name does not emphasize the severity of the aspect of the sin, as does the name “Avodat Elilim” – “the worship of idols” or “Avodat Kochavim U'Mazalot” – “the worship of stars and the Zodiac”.
Rather it is like a “Yisroel” is called a “stranger” (“zar/זר”) compared to a “Kohen”.
This can be understood according to Rambam’s words in the beginning of Hilchot Avodah Zarah, where he explains how the aspect of Avodah Zarah evolved in the world.
It began with the great mistake that people erred in the times of Enosh, where they said, since G-d honored the stars, making them servants who minister before Him. Accordingly, “it is fitting to praise and glorify them and to treat them with honor. (They perceived) this to be the will of G-d, blessed be He, that they magnify and honor those whom He magnified and honored, just as a king desires that the servants who stand before him be honored. Indeed, doing so is an expression of honor to the king”.
Seemingly one must understand:
What is the great lacking and defect in honoring G-d’s servants, whom G-d conducts the world through?
For as we see with earthly kingdoms, although all the power and strength of the king’s ministers is only derived from the king himself (and he has the power to exchange them etc.), nevertheless, regarding most of the aspects of the conduct of the country, one must specifically request from the ministers, and one may not go directly to the king himself (except when it is speaking of an extremely important matter).
The simple reason for this is that the heavenly ministers do not have free choice at all whether to effuse (להשפיע) or not. They are solely like the axe in the hands of the hewer, where one does not acknowledge the axe but rather the hewer.
(Whereas in the earthly kingdom, where although all the strength and power of the king’s ministers is derived from the king, nevertheless, they indeed have free choice and the wherewithal to change etc.)
However, it is known from the explanation of the (Neilah) prayer:
“Attribute of Mercy, turn to us, (and present our supplication before your Maker)” and so forth,
that this is similar to an advocate (סניגור) and so forth, even though, “You are sons to the L-rd, your G-d”, “Yisroel is My son, My firstborn”, and it states “For who is a great nation that has G-d close to it as (is) the L-rd, our G-d, whenever we call to Him?”, and the Sages state “We call to Him and not to his Attributes” (and how much more so not to the servants before Him).
Nevertheless, in a most subtle manner, this is the explanation of the expression Avodah Zarah. For when a Jewish person calls solely to G-d’s ministering servants, this is an aspect of strangeness (זרות) like a “zar”- “stranger”, that has no relation to the king himself. Whereas, Bnei Yisroel who are His close people (עם קרובו), request and call to G-d Himself (and the attribute of Mercy – solely in the role of an advocate). Therefore, G-d certainly fulfills their requests “like a son who nags his father and his father does his bidding without reprimand.”
M’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Shlach 5729
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