Rashbam

Rashbam: Sins of the Satiated or Thirsty (Nitzavim)

In Deuteronomy 29, the terms of the covenant are laid out, and Moses warns the people of imagining they can get out of it:

When such a one hears the words of these sanctions, he may fancy himself immune, thinking, “I shall be safe, though I follow my own willful heart”—to the utter ruin of moist and dry alike (Deuteronomy 29:18, NJPS translation).

The last phrase has puzzled commentators for millennia. What exactly does “moist and dry” mean? Both Rashbam and Rashi take it to mean those who are satiated and those who are thirsty. However, the implications of those adjectives are up for debate.

Here’s Rashbam’s take:

Deuteronomy 29:18 TO THE UTTER RUIN OF THE SATIATED: [“The satiated” means] those who sin deliberately, those who sin despite the fact that they are sated. TOGETHER WITH THE THIRSTY: [means those who sin] because of [an unfulfilled] craving. They are not as evil as those who, despite the fact they are sated, sin malevolently. (Translation Martin Lockshin)

Rashi reads it precisely the opposite. As Martin Lockshin paraphrases: “‘The satiated’ are the ones less responsible for their actions; they have drunk their fill and have reduced responsibility for their own actions because of their inebriation.”

Which interpretation do you lean towards? Who do you hold more responsible?

For more about Rashbam, see my introduction.

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