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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Bamidbar


The words Rashi quotes from Torah, the ones bases his comments on, are called, in Hebrew, Dibbur Hamaschil "Opening Words". Much emphasis has been placed on the significance of these words by Rashi scholars, and rightly so, because Rashi's comment relates to these words in a very precise way. A close inspection of these Opening Words sometimes reveals important subtleties in Rashi's comment. (See for example Rashi's comment on Genesis XX). The opening Rashi in Bamidbar is unusual. Do see why?

The Opening Words here are: And He spoke. In the Wilderness of Sinai. On the first of the month etc.

We have here three Opening Words. 1) And He spoke; 2) In the Wilderness of Sinai and 3) On the first of the month

Now we note an interesting aspect of Rashi's style. In every one of the Five Books Rashi's Opening Word is the very first word of that Book. Check out Bereishis Shemos etc.

A second point worth noting: At the beginning of every Sedra Rashi's first Opening Word is the name of that Sedra (not necessarily the first word. Rather the first identifying word(s) ) Rashi does not necessarily comment on these words. He usually does, but not always. Then Rashi goes on to comment on the words that are of interest to him. As an example of this, see the beginning of Parashas Beshalach (in Shemos) and of Parashas Vayelech (in Devarim).

A third point to be aware of: Rashi's first comment in every one of the Five Books is one that expresses, in one way another, G-d's love for the Children of Israel. Check it out. Here too we see that Rashi's first comment does this.

In the beginning of this Book we have a unique situation, which is not the case in any of the other of the Five Books. The first word of the Book of Bamidbar is "Vayedaber" And He spoke. Rashi notes that. Then the first identifying words are "Bemidbar Sinai" In the Wilderness of Sinai, Rashi notes that as well. Then come the words Rashi comments on "On the first of the month." These are his actual Opening Words. These too he notes, of course. This is the reason for Rashi's three-part Opening Word sequence.

Shabbat Shalom

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