Questions and Suggested Answers
Based on the writings of Nehama Leibowitz
“...and you will serve there other gods....” Deuteronomy (28-64)
Understand this according to Targum Onkolos: You will serve people that worship idols - not idols themselves. You will have to pay taxes to the priests of idols. Rashi
Why didn’t Rashi cite this comment on verse 36, which also speaks of the Israelites worshipping idols and Onkolos there gives the same translation as here in verse 64?
Rashi views verse 36 as referring to the period immediately prior to the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash when the land was occupied and the people were under the rule of Rome. Starting with Verse 63, the Torah describes how the Israelites are “plucked” from the land and dispersed among the nations for an extended period of bitter exile. In verse 36, the people actually served idols in mimicking their occupiers. In verse 64, amongst the nations, they ended up mainly serving idolaters but not idols themselves. Rashi makes the same comment on Deuteronomy (4-28) where the context is the exile from the land. While in the land, the Jews actually sinned with idols. While in exile, the Jews were punished at the hands of idolaters.
“... and you will serve there other Gods....” Deuteronomy (28-64)
The verb “eved” (ayin-vet-dalet) denotes being subjugated under a ruler and paying taxes to him. Proof can be deduced from Genesis (14-2) and Joshua (16-10). Thus there is no need to read extra words into the sentence. Rav Yaacov Zvi Mecklenberg Ha’ktav V’Ha’Kabalah
What does the comment add to the words of Rashi on this verse? How does he strengthen Rashi’s commentary? According to Rashi’s commentary, what additional word would have to be understood as part of the verse but according to Ha’ktav V’Ha’Kabalah is not necessary?
According to Rashi, the word worshippers (of idols) has to be understood in reading the verse. According to Ha’ktav V’Ha’Kabalah, the verse would read “you will be subjugated” (implying tax payments) to other gods, i.e. paying taxes to the priests and followers of idols. Rav Mecklenberg strengthens Rashi’s comment by showing how the text itself implicitly yields the interpretation.
Prepared by: Rabbi Mordechai Spiegelman veteran yeshiva educator (USA) now residing in Jerusalem