Worshipping Foreign Gods
V'etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11 )
Making sense of the Targum gives us a better understanding of the verse.
"And you will serve there (in exile) gods, the works of man's hands, of wood and stone, [gods which] cannot see, nor hear nor eat nor smell."
And you will serve there gods - RASHI: As the Targum says ("and you will serve there the nations that worship idols"). Since you will serve those (pagans) who worship them (idols), it is as if you are worshiping them (the idols).
What would you ask on this comment?
A Question: Why does Rashi interpret this verse so differently from its apparent simple sense? The verse clearly says that the exiled Israelites will worship foreign gods in the land of their captivity. Why did Rashi wander so far from simple p'shat?
Can you see what led him to this interpretation? What is bothering him?
Hint: Notice the context of this verse.
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: If we look at the previous verses, we can see what is bothering Rashi:
"When you have children and have grown old in the Land ... and you will make a statue ... and do that which is evil in the eyes of Hashem your God.... You will be swiftly removed from the Land and Hashem will disperse you among the nations ... and you will serve there man-made gods..."
As we look at these verses, we see that our verse is part of God's punishment meted out to Israel for worshipping idols! So the simple meaning cannot be that Israel will (again) worship idols. Is that a punishment!? It makes no sense to say that worshiping idols will the punishment for worshiping idols.
It is for this reason that Rashi sought a different understanding of these words.
How does Rashi's comment make sense of this verse?
An Answer: Rashi realized that this verse, as understood at first glance, did not fit in with the general tenor of the surrounding verses. It was a continuation of the dire consequences that the people would suffer in exile, one of them being their servitude to their gentile hosts. These gentiles would be idol worshippers and Israel will have to serve them as a punishment for serving the idols themselves. With a look backward over the centuries of Jewish Exile, we see that history unfortunately attests to the veracity of this prophecy!