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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Balak (5762)

Bilaam goes to curse the People of Israel, against G-d's advice. On the way he is confronted by his ornery donkey, who has better spiritual perception than his master, Bilaam. The angel that blocked his way, then reveals himself to Bilaam and says:

Numbers 22:33

"The donkey saw me and turned away from me three times. Had it not turned away from me, also you would I have killed and let it live."


Also you would I have killed: Rashi: This is an inverted sentence. It is the same as "I would also have killed you." That is to say: Not only would this delay have happened to you because of me, but death also.


A question: Why would Rashi change the word order of this verse ?

What's bothering him?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The word (in Hebrew "gam") "also" seems out of place here. As a rule the word "also" can mean that the event described is in addition to another act or in addition to another person (or object).

An example of "also" in addition to another action:

When Lot fled Sodom, he asked the angel to allow him to flee to a city near by and not flee all the way to the mountains.

The angel replied:

"Behold I have granted you consideration regarding this also…" (Genesis 19:21)

Meaning that not only will the angel save Lot but he will also allow him to flee just to the nearby city.

An example of "also" including another object (or person):

Rebecca said to Abraham's servant at the well: I will draw water also for your camels…" (Genesis 24:19)v Meaning: not only will I draw water for you but I will draw also for your camels.

The question in our verse is, What does the "also" refer to here? The angel confronting Bilaam seems to say, had the donkey not turned aside, 'I would have killed you also - not only the donkey.'

But that certainly is not the meaning.

Why not?

Your Answer:

An Answer: Because the verse itself says explicitly "and I would have let her (the donkey) live."

So Rashi is rightfully bothered by these words: "Also you would I have killed. "

How does his comment deal with this?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The word "also" ("gam") includes not an object (the donkey) but an action. The meaning is: Not only the delay that you experienced (the action) but also you might have been killed as well. But using the word "also" in that way is only possible if the words are rearranged. Not "also you would I have killed" but rather "I would have also killed you." As we explained elsewhere, the word "also" enlarges on the word immediately after it. So Rashi says we must rearrange the Torah's words.

The next question should be obvious.

Your question:


A Question: Why, then, doesn't the Torah order these words as Rashi suggests?

Your Answer:

Understanding the Torah's Style

An Answer: Did you notice the parallelism in the two phrases?

"Also YOU would I have killed

and YOU would I have let live."

By means of this parallel phrasing the Torah makes a clear contrast between "You" and the donkey, "She," and between "I would have killed" and "I would let live." In order to highlight this contrast, the Torah had to override the usual rule of the use of the word "also" ("gam") . The contrast phrasing required that "also" come before "you" instead of before "killed."

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

What’s Bothering Rashi?” is produced by the “Institute for the Study of Rashi.” The Institute is in the process of preparing the Devorim volume of “What’s Bothering Rashi?” This volume will feature Rashi and the Ba’alie Tosephos. Readers interested in sponsoring a sedra in this volume are encouraged to contact us for further details at msbonch@mscc.huji.ac.il Thanking you in advance.

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