by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas B'shalach 5767This week's sedra tells of the final stage of the Jews Exodus from Egypt. It contains the famous Song of the Reed Sea.
The following Rashi is a perfect example of his approach to commentary. He will make a comment that seems quite simple which actually deals with a subtlety that we would not notice.
Moses said to the people: Do not fear. Stand fast and see the salvation of Hashem which He will do for you today; because that which you see Egypt today you will not continue to see them again ever."
Because that which you see Egypt today: Rashi: That which you see them is only for today; Today is the day you see them and you will not continue again (to see them).
Looking at the comment, what would you ask?
Some Questions: This comment does not seem to say anything new. It seems to say, in Rashi's words, what the verse itself says. In the second half of his comment Rashi also seems to repeat himself.
Can you see what's bothering him?
Hint: You must read the verse slowly and closely to see how Rashi read it
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: The word "that" in the phrase "because that which you see Egypt today" is strange. We have said in the past that Rashi is "hung up" (excuse the expression) on the word "because" (in Hebrew "ki"). He always examines its usage very closely. What does it mean here "because that which you see Egypt today." Because they see them today they won't see them again? Where is the logic there? Where is the causality there? What has "seeing them today" got to do with whether or not they will see them tomorrow? This is what is bothering Rashi. His sensitive eye and ear alerted him to the strange wording here.
How does his comment deal with this?
An Answer: Rashi gives the verse a new reading. It is now read "Because that which you see Egypt -(is only) today. And (note that Rashi adds the small single letter "vav" to "you will not continue." Now it reads "and you will no longer see them". As if to say "Today, yes; tomorrow, no." Now the "because" makes more sense and the word "that" also. Because that (the fact that) you see them is only for today - therefore you will see them no longer.
Rashi has really brought us back to a simple understanding of the verse. But to get to the simple understanding he had to first clear a problem that most of us would never have even been bothered by. If we had sensitivity to the subtlety of language we would have sensed the problem too. We can't blame Rashi for thinking we are that sensitive! Even if we aren't.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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