by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Parashas Bamidbar (71)Numbers 2:2
Each man by his flag, with the signs of their father's house, shall the Children of Israel encamp; from opposite (Hebrew: 'mineged'), around the Appointed Tent, shall they encamp.
From opposite (Hebrew: 'mineged'): Rashi: from a distance of a mile as it says in the book of Joshua (3::4) 'But between you (Israelite) and it (the Ark) should be a distance of 2,000 cubits ' so that they could come on Shabbat; (because) Moses, Aaron, his sons and the Levites were encamped near it (the Ark).
(And they wanted to study with Moses, etc. on the Shabbat, so it had to be within the permissible distance (2,000 cubits) to travel on Shabbat.)
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
An Answer: Rashi tells us that the word "mineged' means 'from a far" and it does not mean "opposite" as it might reasonably be translated.
IS RASHI CONSISTENT?
But looking at an earlier Rash-comment we would have a question: See Rashi in Exodus 19:2 on the verse "And Israel camped "neged hahar" - opposite the mountain.
There Rashi says "to its East. Any place you find the word 'neged' (opposite) it means facing the East.
A Question: On our verse Rashi says the word "mineged" means from a distance while in Exodus he says the word "neged" always means 'facing East."
Why doesn't Rashi think that is what it means in our verse?
An Answer: The word "neged" means facing something from a certain angle, from a certain direction. The verse in Exodus tells us what the Children of Israel were facing - the mountain. In such a case we can understand that the word "neged" means 'opposite' from a particular direction. Rashi there tells us that the direction is always facing the East. But our verse says; "from opposite (Hebrew: 'mineged'), around the Appointed Tent, shall they encamp." The encampment is NOT from a particular direction, it is "around the Appointed Tent" because it is from all directions (around). In such a case we cannot speak of "facing the East"; rather the word must mean opposite, from a distance.
We have other evidence that the word "mineged" does not necessarily mean Eastward The Torah further on, when speaking of Moses not entering the Land of Canaan but could view it from afar, says: "Because "mineged" you will view the Land, but there you will not come". When we realize that Moses was on the Eastern side of the Jordan River facing the Land toward the West; so we understand that he was facing Westward - and not Eastward. There Rashi says "mineged' means 'from a distance'. In short, each time the word 'mineged' or 'neged' appears it must be seen in is particular context to understand its exact meaning.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and