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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashat Balak

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2) And Balak the son of Tzipor saw all that Israel had done to the Emori.

3) And Moab was very afraid from the nation -because it was numerous; and Moab was disgusted before the Children of Israel.


And Balak, the son of Tzipor, saw all that Israel had done to the Emori. Rashi: He said: These two kings whom we relied on, did not stand up before them (i.e. Israel), we certainly [won't be able to stand up before them]. Therefore And Moab was afraid.


A Question: Rashi tells us what Balak saw. But the verse itself says what he saw - he saw "all that Israel had done." Why has Rashi added his comment?

Can you understand why Rashi made his comment? What was bothering him ?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Balak certainly didn't really see all that Israel had done - he wasn't present during their battles and didn't see it on the evening news! So Rashi asks implicitly, What does it mean "Balak saw"?

How does his comment deal with this?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The word "saw" can also mean "to understand" (See Rashi on Genesis 18:2). In English we also say "Oh, I see what you mean." which means "Oh, I understand." Rashi's comment explains what Balak understood. He drew a logical conclusion from Israel's military victories over Emor and Bashan. Logic taught him that his country is in trouble because he had previously relied on Emor and Bashan.

There is another question that can be asked of the Torah's words as you look at the whole verse.


A Question: It says that Barak saw all that Israel had done, then it says Moab feared! Reason would dictate that either Barak saw and Barak was afraid, or Moab saw and Moab was afraid. Why is the subject changed in mid-sentence?

You Answer:


An Answer: Our original understanding helps make sense of this question as well. Since Barak understood ("saw") he could pass on this understanding to the leaders of Moab. So the verse says first Barak understood the danger then after discussing it, Moab feared the consequences.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek "What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. All 5 volumes on What's Bothering Rashi? are available in Jewish book stores.

Dr. Bonchek is publishing a new book on Rashi, called "Rashi: the magic and the Mystery" . It has a biography of Rashi & his special character traits. And outlines clearly Rules for interpreting Rashi in depth. We are looking for dedications to help publish this book. Those interested, please contact Avigdor Bonchek at Drbonchek@gmail.com.

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