rashihed.jpg (16002 bytes)

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)


by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Parashas Bo (64)

The final plague, killing of the first born Egyptian, strikes every home in Egypt. Pharaoh awakes in panic and finally is brought to his knees as he agrees to free the Jews. We read the following cryptic Rashi-comment. It is a subtle one-word comment that highlights the drama of the text.

Exodus 12:30

And Pharaoh arose at night, he and all his servants, and all Egypt. And there was a great outcry in Egypt for there was no home that there was no dead.


And Pharaoh arose: Rashi: from his bed.

You must have a question here!

Your Question:


A Question: At first glance this looks like a strange comment. On the one hand, this is such a mundane piece of information (that Pharaoh got up from his bed, after all, it was the middle of the night, were else would he get up from?!), we would ask: Why does Rashi trouble himself to tell us this?

A second question would be: What difference does it make?

We note that this is a very brief comment. It looks like a Type II comment, meaning that it's purpose is to help us clarify matters. We won't ask "What's bothering Rashi?"

Rather we'd ask : "What is Rashi clarifying?"

Your answer:


An Answer: Here is a subtle point. The word "Vayakam" in Hebrew literally means "and he rose up" but frequently it is used to indicate the beginning of another action. As in Genesis 4:8 where it says: "And Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him." Or in Exodus 2:17 when Moses meets Yisro's daughters at the well, it says: "And Moses rose up and saved them etc." In these, and many similar cases, the word "Vayakam" does not mean to rise up to a standing position.

How does Rashi know that in our verse the word is to be taken literally, actually to rise up?

Your Answer:


Answer: Rashi points out that here the word is to be taken literally, i.e. that Pharaoh actually, physically, arose. Rashi, being sensitive to this use of the word realizes that when the word "Vayakam" is not followed by another verb (like, in the case of Abel "and he killed him") he then draws his deduction that here it means literally to stand up. Thus his brief comment.

From where did he arise? From his bed, naturally.

What about our second question: What difference does all this make? Why must Rashi, and the Torah, tell us this trivial fact?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The sense one gets when one pictures Pharaoh jumping out of his warm, secure, King-size bed in the middle of the night, is one of all-consuming panic and confusion. See the other Rashi-comments on this verse and we see clearly that Pharaoh was terror stricken by the outcry from all these sudden deaths. The Torah, with Rashi's help, quietly conveys this message by mentioning that "Pharaoh arose from his bed at night..."

While literary style is not the Torah's purpose, it certainly makes use of style in a most sophisticated way to convey its messages.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The Rashi Institute is preparing a new, original volume of What's Bothering Rashi? We are in need of sponsors for this project. For those interested please write us and we will supply the details.

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to parsha@shemayisrael.co.il

Jerusalem, Israel