I'm having trouble understanding how Rashi is reading Tehillim 36:3 in his commentary on Deut. 4:19.

In Rashi's commentary on Deut. 4:19, he puts forward two possible interpretations of "asher chalak Hashem":

  • 1) Hashem apportioned the heavenly host to all the nations in order to give them light.

  • 2) Hashem apportioned the heavenly host to all the other nations as deities, in order that they be led astray and consequently driven from the world.

Rashi then brings down Tehillim 36:3 as a kind of proof-text. But it seems to me that Rashi is interpreting the pasuk from Tehillim in a somewhat unusual way.

Rashi writes:

אשר חלק ה'. לְהָאִיר לָהֶם (מגילה ט'); דָּ"אַ לֶאֱלוֹהוֹת, לֹא מְנָעָן מִלִּטְעוֹת אַחֲרֵיהֶם אֶלָּא הֶחֱלִיקָם בְּדִבְרֵי הַבְלֵיהֶם לְטָרְדָם מִן הָעוֹלָם, וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (תהלים ל"ו) "כִּי הֶחֱלִיק אֵלָיו בְּעֵינָיו לִמְצֹא עֲוֹנוֹ לִשְׂנֹא" (עבודה זרה נ"ה):

To give light to them (to all peoples) (Megillah 9b). — Another explanation: which God assigned to them as deities; He did not prevent them from going astray after them, but He allowed them to err (to slip) through vain speculations, in order to drive them out from the world. Similarly it states, (Psalms 36:3) "He (God) made him err (slip) through his eyes (i.e. through what his eyes behold) until his iniquity be found and he be hated” (Avodah Zarah 55a).

My understanding of this pasuk in the context of Tehillim 36 is that הֶחֱלִיק is referring to נְאֻם-פֶּשַׁע,the speech of transgression, which appears one pasuk earlier in the same psalm. In this way, I'm reading the pasuk as "for it (נְאֻם-פֶּשַׁע) caused him (לָרָשָׁע) to err..." but it seems like Rashi is reading הֶחֱלִיק as "He (ie Hashem) caused him (לָרָשָׁע) to slip/err".

Am I correct in thinking that this is the way Rashi is interpreting Tehillim 36:3?

Thank you and kol tuv, everyone!

  • 3
    Reuven F., welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for the intriguing question! I hope you get helpful answers. While you're waiting, I hope you'll look around and find other information of interest, perhaps elsewhere in our tehilim-psalms collection. I look forward to seeing you around!
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 13:53
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    Thank you for the warm welcome, Isaac!
    – Reuven F.
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 16:23

2 Answers 2


Rashi to Tehillim 36:3 seems to write the way you understand it (ie Hashem causes the rasha to slip/err):

כי החליק. הפשע על הרשע בחלקלקות בעיניו כדי שימצא הקב"ה את עונו לשנוא אותו:

Hashem has the wicked one sin through the smoothing over the transgression in [the rasha's] eyes in order that Hashem finds his sin to hate

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    I can't believe I didn't think to look at Rashi's commentary on Tehillim 36:3! How silly of me! Thank you so much for your help!
    – Reuven F.
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 14:43
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    @ReuvenF, alichat Incorrect. You mis-read Rashi. please read Rashi on verse 2, It's not god who do the "smoothing", it's the sin Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 7:50
  • @ReuvenF., alichat. this answer should be deleted, it's incorrect. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 13:29

Edit: after reading Rashi on Tehillim 36:2, It should be read like this:

He (The sin, Yetzer Hara) made him (the evil man) think that he is "covered/smooth", [but that's just] in his (of the evil man) eyes, [to make god] find his sin, and hate him (the evil man).

IMHO: it could be read:

He (הרשע) caused him[self] to smooth/cover [his own evil deeds]...

  • That's a good point, I hadn't considered that. Reading it as "to make smooth" in the sense of "to cover" makes sense in the context of the psalm, but I don't know if it makes any more sense of Rashi's reading of the pasuk. I'm thinking maybe Rashi is trying to force a reading of החליק as "caused to err/to slip", since his overall point is that hashem apportioned the stars to the other nations as deities in order that they would err. But the more I look at the pasuk from Tehillim 36, the more confused I become!
    – Reuven F.
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 14:31

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