Meshech Chochma on Ekev

The Meshech Chochmah always amazes me in his ability to intuit the basis of cryptic Midrashic moves by Chazal.  A particularly impressive passage appears in last week’s parsha.

The possuk reads

דברים פרק ז פסוק כה

פְּסִילֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶם תִּשְׂרְפוּן בָּאֵשׁ לֹא תַחְמֹד כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב עֲלֵיהֶם וְלָקַחְתָּ לָךְ פֶּן תִּוָּקֵשׁ בּוֹ כִּי תוֹעֲבַת יְקֹוָק אֱלֹהֶיךָ הוּא:

The simple understanding of this possuk is that one must burn idols and should not even desire the gold and silver on the idols, as this would lead to worshiping them.

Shemuel, however, has the following derasha:


תלמוד בבלי מסכת עבודה זרה דף נב עמוד א

ואידך? נפקא ליה מדשמואל; דשמואל רמי, כתיב: +דברים ז+ לא תחמוד כסף וזהב עליהם, וכתיב: ולקחת לך, הא כיצד? פסלו לאלוה – לא תחמוד, פסלו מאלוה – ולקחת לך.


Shemuel understands that there are idols that one can get keep and get benefit from – those that have been invalidated as idols. How does he get this?

The Meshech Chochmah understands as follows.  First, Shemuel has a gzeirah shavah to the following possuk.

דברים פרק יז

(א) לֹא תִזְבַּח לַיקֹוָק אֱלֹהֶיךָ שׁוֹר וָשֶׂה אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בוֹ מוּם כֹּל דָּבָר רָע כִּי תוֹעֲבַת יְקֹוָק אֱלֹהֶיךָ הוּא: ס

In this possuk, bring a sacrifice with a blemish is prohibited because it is “toavat Hashem Elokecha.”  In this case, he notes, that one can keep and benefit from the animal – it is only prohibited from being a sacrifice.  If so, despite the fact that the possuk regarding Avodah Zara implies that you cannot keep the idols, the gzeirah shavah tells us there must be some case where one can and it is only prohibited from being a sacrifice.  Thus, he assumes that if an idol was invalidated as an idol, it can be kept but not used as a sacrifice.  If so, we need to find a way to read the possuk with multiple understandings.

Shemuel then suggests the following structure:


]פְּסִילֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶם תִּשְׂרְפוּן בָּאֵשׁ[

פסילי  can mean two things – either that which is invalid, or those that were carven for idolatry.

Then the possuk is read A-B-A-B.

A.לֹא תַחְמֹד כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב עֲלֵיהֶם
B.וְלָקַחְתָּ לָךְ
A. פֶּן תִּוָּקֵשׁ בּוֹ
B. כִּי תוֹעֲבַת יְקֹוָק אֱלֹהֶיךָ הוּא:

You have two clauses:  לא תחמד כסף וזהב עליהם פן תוקש בו.  This, together with the definition of פסל that refers to carven idols, means that you cannot desire idols (or get benefit) from them, as they may ensnare you.

Then you have ולקחת לך כי תועבת ה אלקיך הוא – if it was made invalid (the other definition of פסל), then you shall take it for yourself, but not give it as a sacrifice as it is an abomination just like a korban with a blemish.

Thus, the Meshech Chocmah decodes a cryptic Halachic Midrash, revealing a bit of how Chazal read Chumash.


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