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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas B'shalach 5768

This week's sedra tells of the final escape from Egypt. Included is the Song of the Sea which the nation sang as they reached the other side, free at last.

Exodus 14:5

And it was told to the king of Egypt that the People escaped and Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart regarding the People and said: 'What have we done, that we sent Israel out from serving us?"


Had a change [of heart]: Rashi: Changed from what it was. For he (Pharaoh) had said to them: "Get up & get out from among my people" His servants also had a change of heart for earlier they had said to him: "How much longer will this man be a menace to us?" and now they had a change to pursue them for their money which they had lent them.

What would you ask on this Rashi-comment?

Your Question:


A Question: Rashi says that the Egyptians changed their mind and decided to pursue the Israelites in order to retrieve their money! But the verse itself gives the reason: It says 'What have we have done, that we sent Israel out from serving us?" Clearly the Egyptians had second thoughts about freeing Israel from their slavery. Why does Rashi suggest a different reason for their remorse: that they wanted the money back, which they had given to the Israelites?

Can you think what bothered Rashi to prompt him to substitute the pursuit of money for what the verse seems to say?

A difficult question. It has stumped many Rashi commentators.

Hint: Read the verse and see if you see any difficulty (contradiction) in it.

Your Answer:


An Answer: First the verse says " king of Egypt [was told] that the People escaped"

Then it says: " that we sent Israel out from serving us?" If they sent them out why does it say they "escaped" And if they escaped why does it say it was the Egyptians sent them out?

This may be what was bothering Rashi.

How does his comment deal with this?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi first cites verses to prove that both Pharaoh and his servants had in fact voiced their desire to have the Jews leave Egypt.

But if they actually wanted them to leave, why does our verse say they "escaped"?

Hint: If you review the previous events you should be able to answer this.

Your Answer:

An Answer: Of course, the Egyptians let them leave, but Moses had asked for a three day holiday to serve G-d and the Egyptians let them leave only for the three day journey and then expected them to return. And as Rashi says in his earlier comment on this verse the spies saw that the Jews were not returning to Egypt after the third day, this is what convinced Pharaoh and his servants they had made a mistake allowing the Jews to go free. So they realized that the supplies (clothing and goods) that the Jews received from the Egyptians were not a loan but an outright gift. This they wanted to get back.


Another Question: But if that is true, then why does the verse say: "that we sent Israel out from serving us?" According to Rashi, it was the money, not the serving them that bothered them?

Can you think of an answer?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The Egyptians had in fact let them out from serving them, but only for a brief holiday. But after all the plagues and suffering they went through, they probably realized that the Jews would never again be their slaves. But the money still bothered them, it was like an extra slap in the face. So they were sorry they gave them the opportunity to escape by letting them out of serving them if only for a few days.

A strange Rashi but such comments always invite us to think deeply about What Bothered him.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" and the Megillas Esther volume can be purchased thru Feldheim on line at Feldheim.com

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