I've heard it said many times regarding Chumash and Gemara that Rashi comments only when there is a technical problem with the text, and isn't offering analytic answers to "why" questions. I'm wondering if there are any Achronim who make this observation/claim explicitly. Thanks!

  • Ah, Rashi, very very wise we should all learn from him. Most of the time we are asking why, is because we don't know what! Once we know what, the why falls away. Why are there mishpatim, chukim and edut, asks the first son. "What's that"? What's a mitzva? Once you know what a mitzva is, then the "chacham"'s questions all fall away (based on ma'amar of the Lubavitcher Rebbe). As for where is it stated, I don't know I've never heard it but I bet you can find everything you need in your nearest "What's bothering Rashi" sefer (see it in a lot of B"Ms)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 11, 2023 at 15:17
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    Maybe in כללי רש"י - Klalei Rashi, by the Lubavitcher Rebbe? See: hebrewbooks.org/30463 Klalei Rashi is the Rebbe's famous sefer on the principles of Rashi's commentary on the Torah.
    – Shmuel
    Jan 11, 2023 at 15:37
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    1) On page 67 "general principles" of the sefer כללי רש"י, the Rebbe explains that Rashi's commentary has one goal: give the peshat-meaning of a posuk, and to eliminate any difficulty that may arise for students in understanding. This is why Rashi passes over the more analytical insights. He won't give them, because Rashi tends to give commentary that a "five year old can understand", as the Rebbe writes many times.
    – Shmuel
    Jan 11, 2023 at 15:42
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    2) On page 75 "Rashi's way of interpretation" of the sefer כללי רש"י, the Rebbe explains that when Rashi does not point out the difficulty in great detail. He tends to just give the peshat-meaning. This maybe answers your question as to why Rashi does seem to not give answers to the "why" questions.
    – Shmuel
    Jan 11, 2023 at 15:46
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    3) Another reason why according to the Rebbe, Rashi does not give "why" answers, is because that sort of questions normally does not come up in a five year old studying Chumash.
    – Shmuel
    Jan 11, 2023 at 15:47

2 Answers 2


Rashi himself wrote about his approach and stated he was only trying to explain the simple meaning of the verse, and he would quote agadda that would settle the meaning of the verse.

See for instance in Bereishis 3:8

וישמעו. יש מדרשי אגדה רבים וכבר סדרום רבותינו על מכונם בבראשית רבה (יט ו) ובשאר מדרשות ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא ולאגדה המישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אפניו.

In fact, Ramban in Noach 8:4 uses Rashi's approach as an allowance for his own attempts to explain the text without the words of Chazzal

אבל כיון שרש"י מדקדק במקומות אחרי מדרשי ההגדות וטורח לבאר פשטי המקרא הרשה אותנו לעשות כן כי שבעים פנים לתורה (אותיות דרבי עקיבא) ומדרשים רבים חלוקים בדברי החכמים.

And of course there is the famous Rashbam in the beginning of Vayeshev stating Rashi had intended to redo his commentary with an even stronger focus on the simple meaning.


I would like to begin with what Rashi himself says (as mentioned in the first answer). He says:

I have only come to (arrive at or help explain) pshuto shel mikra, the plain meaning of the text, and to (bring at times) the agadic works that settle the words of the Torah, each word in its place.

Rabbi Tuvia Bloy in the sefer כללי רש"י - Klalei Rashi, the principles of Rashi, explains that the commentary of Rashi has one goal, namely: to give the peshat-meaning (simple meaning) of a posuk. Rashi also wants to eliminate any difficulty that may arise for a student, in understanding a posuk. This is why Rashi passes over the more analytical insights. He won't give them, because Rashi tends to give commentary that a "five year old can understand", as the Rebbe writes many times.

On page 75 of sefer כללי רש"י, the author explains that in his commentary, Rashi does not tend to give answers that goes deeply, in great detail, in explaining a posuk. That is why, on Bereishis 3:8, Rashi points out that he came to explain the posuk according to the most simple meaning.

In כללי רש"י it is also explained, and it builds on the fact that Rashi writes commentary that even a "five year old" can understand, that Rashi does not answers "why" questions, because a five year old does not come up with that sort of questions (usually).

The Rebbe wrote also a sefer on Rashi and his principles. The sefer is called "Biurim L'Peirush Rashi Al Hatorah". In the introduction, the author writes:

רש"י מפרש את המקרא כך שהוא מבאר ומסלק כל קושי בפשוטו של מקרא ולפי זה רש"י עובר בשתיקה על ענין מסויים או קושי בולט כאשר פשוטם של דברים מובנים למעיין אם מידיעה טבעית וסביבתית ואם מפסוקים קודמים או פירוש קודם של רש"י Rashi interprets the Torah in such a way that it clarifies and removes any difficulty in the simplicity of the Torah itself. According to this, Rashi passes over a certain subject if it can be understood by the simple meaning of it.

See also the Rebbe in Likkutei Sichos, vol. 5, p. 1, footnote 2, where the Rebbe explains why Rashi sometimes say "I do not know". This is explained in the answer of @Menachem on this post.

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