The Lubavitcher Rebbe's view on Rashi is that he is completely and utterly pshat. His main source for this is Rashi's own statement (Genesis 3:8) "ואני לא באתי אלא לפשוטו של מקרא," "I only came to explain the simple meaning of the Torah" However, this same exact sentence continues "ולאגדה המיישבת דברי המקרא דבר דבור על אופניו," "and to Agada that answers questions on Pshat," this seems that Rashi has two approaches to his commentary, 1. Pshat, 2. Agada (Drash). Note that just a few words prior, Rashi called Bereishit Rabba an example of Agada.

How does this fit with the Lubavitcher Rebbe's explanations?

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    Alex once claimed that "Agada" here means non-halachic material which is still pshat. I strongly doubt his remarks are pshat. – Double AA Oct 29 '13 at 2:44
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    @DoubleAA, does the second question need to be asked separately? – Seth J Oct 29 '13 at 15:28
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    Got a source for your first sentence? Editing it in would greatly improve the quality of this question. – Hod - Monica's Army Oct 29 '13 at 15:36
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    @Efraim the second question should be independent – Shmuel Oct 30 '13 at 0:47
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    @Efraim You can ask as many questions as you want. Just click Ask Question in the top left of your screen. – Double AA Oct 30 '13 at 2:14

Shmuel Brin's answer really covers the question as asked. However, the concept was explored and developed much further, which you can access with the Sefer כללי רש"י by seeing the points and checking the sources that it brings. It also brings there that Rashi departs more from Peshat in his pirush on Nach, because the target audience (בן חמש למקרא) is older at that point.

However, a couple of pointers to help understand it a bit better. First, what does the Rebbe mean with there are different levels of Pshat? And what does Pshat mean, exactly?

On the first, I would compare it to the introduction to Ein Yaakov from Rabbi Avraham Ben HaRambam where he says there are 5 levels to drash similarly to Pshat, there are different levels to it (I'm not saying that they correspond to those 5 levels - I'm just illustrating the concept).

So what is Pshat? As I heard from Rabbi Elimelech Tzveibel, Pshat means the understand that comes from the text without adding concepts that are not required by the text - but the totality of the text, not just a specific verse in isolation.

So according to all of that, sometimes the plain text stands on its own. Sometimes, however, the plain text doesn't work on its own. It poses unanswered questions. This is the plain text telling you you need to add a level of hagada that is in harmony with the plain text, but isn't what the plain text (פשוטו של מקרא) tells you. So Rashi adds ולאגדה המיישבת דברי המקרא.

However, there are entire areas of אגדה which would be completely unrelated to pshat. For example, Berishis Rabba describes the beginning of Vayerah as Avraham sitting in front of Gehennom (like the heat of the day) keeping all those with a Bris out. That has no relationship to what is intrinsically understood from the text, and thus has no place in Pshat.

Sometimes such an Aggada would explain problems in the text, but it is still too far away from Pshat for Rashi to include it, although he may allude to it.

  • good answer, but i still feel that this really show's that rashi isn't pshat, because there are many instances where different parshanim (i.e. rashbam and ramban, which are classically known as pashtanim) explain pesukim through a seemingly pshat level, in which they don't bring midrashim – termsofservice Oct 30 '13 at 0:42
  • @Efraim It's a word game. If you call what Rashi does "pshat" then what he does is "pshat". Simple as that. Doesn't matter if some other Rishon had a different definition of "pshat". No rishon's definition is more right, although some may be more commonly used. – Double AA Oct 30 '13 at 3:42
  • At a superficial level @DoubleAA is right, but don't let that deter you from exploring exactly what defines pshat according to Rashi vs. the other Rishonim, and understand what Rashi considers Pshat. Anyway, if the Ramban is Pshat, Rashi is Pshat shebePshat (even if there are cases where the Ramban avoids a Medrash). I don't think you could get much more pshat than the Rashbam, though. – Yishai Oct 30 '13 at 13:39
  • yes, that seems to be my understanding to, Rashbam seems to be more "pshat" (however you define that) in the sense that he sticks to the text more than other parshanim – termsofservice Oct 30 '13 at 16:21

The Lubavitcher Rebbe himself pointed out that Rashi in the first (edited) Rashi Sicha (Likutei Sichot Vol 5, pg 13, footnote 2), and he said that there are a few levels of "Pshat".

He said that one cannot explain this to mean that Rashi will quote Medrash here and there, since there are times when Rashi says "I don't know the meaning of this verse" when there are explicit Midrashim which explain them (sometimes partly quoted by Rashi!).

Moreover, there are times when Rashi says "I don't know" when he himself explained it in his peirush on Gemara.

  • this doesn't answer the question, what does Rashi mean by "agada" – termsofservice Oct 29 '13 at 3:19
  • @Efraim if Pshat doesn't make sense, and the Drash can fit pshat, it's "drash" yet still pshat. – Shmuel Oct 29 '13 at 3:22
  • Is your answer that the Rebbe meant his claim about Rashi in a lav davka sort of way? Was he playing a semantic game where he uses pshat differently than everyone else uses it? What exactly did he think Rashi's derech is and how does he explain the full text of Rashi's comment noted in the question? This answer needs to be clarified, and you should be careful to explain precisely what you mean with words like Midrash, Peshat and Derash so that no one gets confused. – Double AA Oct 29 '13 at 3:26
  • @DoubleAA I understood the question to be on the Rebbe's claim. The Rebbe answered that there are a few levels of Pshat. – Shmuel Oct 29 '13 at 3:37

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