Pearls of Rashi – Acharei II

This week we will read the Torah portion Acharei. Near the end of the Parshah, we are taught the laws of prohibited relationships. The Torah first tells us that Hashem told Moshe to[1] “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them that I am Hashem your G-d.” Rashi cites the words from the verse “I am Hashem your G-d,” and explains as follows. “Rebbe[2] says, ‘It is openly known before Him, that they (the Jews) would eventually be scourged by (transgressing the laws of) immoral relations in the days of Ezra. Therefore (as a preamble to these laws), Hashem came to them with the decree, ‘I am Hashem your G-d!’ You should know Who is placing these decrees upon you; the Judge Who exacts punishment, but is also faithful to pay a reward.’”

We have discussed numerous times, that Rashi’s primary focus in his commentary is to explain the simple meaning of each verse. He does so in a manner which is understandable to a beginning student. How can we say that according to Peshat, the Torah would write something, in anticipation of an event that would take place centuries later!

Rashi does not cite the source of his comments often. When he does, it is in order to answer a question which may bother a particularly bright beginner. The above question falls into this category. He answers this question by writing that with his words, he is quoting Rabbi Yehudah Hanossi.

Among other things, Rebbe was the first to write the oral law; until his time Rabbinic teachings were passed down verbally from teacher to student.

Why was this so? There is a Halachah that[3] “The words which are written (meaning the Bible, which was given to us in writing) you may not say by heart. The words which were transmitted orally (the teachings of the Sages) you may not recite from writing.” There was an oral explanation which was given together with the Torah. This was not permitted to be written. However, Rabbi Yehudah Hanossi saw that in his time there was a danger of the oral law being forgotten. This was due to persecution, which made it difficult for the transmission of these laws to continue as before. Therefore, Rebbe permitted the writing of the Oral Law; citing the reason that[4] “a time to do for Hashem; they have made void Your Torah.

In other words, based on a verse in Tehillim which was written many centuries earlier, he was able to establish the Torah law. Hence, by citing Rebbe’s name, Rashi is answering our question.

As a result of our total allegiance to Hashem and His Torah, may we merit the complete and true redemption now!

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos and a healthy summer!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 12, Page 89

Mr. Sholom Moshe Hacohen
ben Reb Shlomo Meir Hacohen ע”ה Cohen
Passed away Shabbos Parshas Beshalach, 13 Shevat, 5779
May His Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
ר’ שלום משה הכהן בן ר’ שלמה מאיר הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטר ש”ק פ’ בשלח, י”ג שבט, ה’תשע”ט
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
יו”ל ע”י בני משפחתו שיחיו

[1]. Our Parshah, Vayikroh 18:2.

[2]. The name “Rebbe,” without any description or name, refers to Rabbi Yehudah Hanossi (the Prince).

[3]. See Talmud Gittin 60, b and Temurah 14, b.

[4]. Tehillim 119:126.

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