See now that it is Me! I am the One!

There is no G‑d [to stand against] Me.

I cause death and I bring to life.

I injure and I heal.

And no one can rescue [those who sin against Me] from My Hand!

-- Devarim 32:39

Classic Questions

"I bring to life" ? (v. 39)

Talmud: Rava noted an inconsistency between two statements. The verse states, "I cause death and I bring to life," and then it states, "I injure and I heal." If He can bring to life, does it not go without saying that He can heal?

Rather, G‑d is saying: To the same person that I bring death, I will bring life, just as I heal the same person that I injure. [Likewise,] our Sages taught: When the verse states, "I cause death and I bring to life," you might think that it is speaking of the natural phenomenon that one person dies and another comes to life. Therefore, the verse states, "I strike and I injure," to teach you that just as one person is injured and then healed, so too, the same person who dies is brought to life. From here we have a proof from the Torah that the dead will be revived.

Another interpretation: First, I will bring to life those that I caused to die [and the injuries that they had when they died will temporarily persist]. Then I will heal the injuries that I caused (Pesachim 68a).

The Rebbe's Teachings

"I Cause Death and I Bring to Life" (v. 39)

The Talmud raises the question as to why the Torah states, "I injure and I heal," which would seem to be an obvious fact coming right after, "I cause death and I bring to life."

At first glance, this appears to be a question at the literal level. Why, then, does Rashi not address it?

The Explanation

Rashi did not find it necessary to address the Talmud's question here because with knowledge of Rashi's prior comments, the matter can be worked out with simple logic.

In Parshas Mishpatim, the Torah states, "If two men quarrel, and one strikes the other... he must [pay all] his medical [fees]" (Shemos 21:18-19, according to Rashi). From here, the reader will have gathered that, at the literal level of Scriptural interpretation, G‑d does not heal the sick directly, but rather, through the agency of a doctor.

Thus, our verse, "I injure and I heal," is not superfluous, for it teaches us a new piece of information: that, in some cases, G‑d heals an injury directly, without the intervention of a doctor.

And the distinction between these two cases is made clear by Scripture. When the injury is caused by man ("two men quarrel, and one strikes the other"), then the cure comes (from G‑d, but) via the agency of man, i.e., a doctor.

But when the injury is caused by G‑d ("I injure") as a punishment for sin, then the cure also comes directly from G‑d ("I heal").

Proof for the Revival of the Dead

In clarifying Rashi's approach here, we appear to have created another problem. For in rejecting the Talmud's interpretation, we also appear to have rejected the Talmud's conclusion, "From here we have a proof from the Torah that the dead will be revived."

Is it now the case that, at the literal level of Scriptural interpretation (adhered to by Rashi), our verse does not provide proof that the dead will ultimately be revived?

In truth, however, at the literal level, our verse must be speaking of the death and subsequent life of the same person, for otherwise the verse would not be teaching the reader anything new. The reader already knows that G‑d created the heavens and the earth (Bereishis 1:1), and that "there is none other besides Him," (Devarim 4:35), so if the verse "I bring to life" simply means that G‑d causes new people to be born in this world, then the verse is not teaching the reader something that he did not know already. Clearly, then, the verse "I cause death and I bring to life" must be referring to the same person, who first dies and then comes back to life.

So, in the final analysis, we do indeed "have a proof from the Torah," at the literal level, "that the dead will be revived."

But we are now left with a further problem. Now that we have proved that it is self-evident, at the literal level, that our verse refers to the revival of the dead, why did the Talmud need to devise an elaborate proof for this point?

The answer lies in the fact that the Talmud was written for a readership which was familiar with Talmudic teachings, whereas Rashi's commentary was written for those who were beginning their studies. Thus, the Talmud found it necessary to prove that our verse indicates that the dead will be revived, despite the fact that the matter appears to be obvious at the literal level, because there is another Talmudic teaching that might lead a person to think otherwise.

The Talmud states, "There are three keys in G‑d's hand that He will not place into the hand of any agent. And they are: the key to rain, the key to bearing children, and the key to reviving the dead" (Ta'anis 2a). Thus, the student of the Talmud might come to the conclusion that our verse comes to extend this teaching to the causes of death and continued life—that rather than handing these matters to an agent, G‑d says, "I cause death and I bring to life," directly. Consequently, if our verse has already been used to provide proof that G‑d does these directly without an agent, then it can no longer be used to prove another point, that the revival of the dead has a basis in the Torah.

Therefore, the Talmud was forced to contradict this notion and show (through an elaborate proof) that, to the contrary, our verse does provide support for the revival of the dead.

However, Rashi assumed that his readership would not yet be familiar with the Talmudic teaching, "There are three keys in G‑d's hand, etc.," so Rashi did not need to prove that our verse could have any other meaning than its literal interpretation—that the same person to whom "I cause death, I will bring to life."

Thus, in the final analysis, "we have a proof from the Torah that the dead will be revived" both at the literal level of Scripture, and according to Talmudic logic.

(Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Ha'azinu 5740)