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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Bo 5768

This week's sedra records the grand finale of the plagues. Pharaoh and his people at long last agree all too willingly to free the Israelites. The sedra includes the laws of Passover.

Exodus 12:16

On the first day it is a holy convocation and on the seventh day, a holy convocation it should be for you; all work must not be done on these [days] but that which is eaten by all people, it alone may be done for you.


must not be done on these [days] :Rashi: even by others.


Rashi tells us that not only are we prohibited from doing work on Yom Tov even others are prohibited from doing work for us. Rashi's source is the midrash-Halacha on the book of Exodus, Mechilta.


The Ramban asks a simple question: Who are these "others" that Rashi refers to? If they are Jews, why am I commanded that another Jew should not do work? He, himself, is commanded not to do work on Yom Tov (and, of course, on Shabbat) for he too is a Jew. If, on the other hand, the "others" who are prohibited from doing work for me, refers to Gentiles, this too cannot be, because the Torah does not prohibit Gentiles from doing work for a Jew. This prohibition is a Rabbinic law. So a law instituted by the Sages many years after Mt. Sinai cannot be inferred from the words of the Torah.

In sum: The Ramban wonders how Rashi can infer a Rabbinic prohibition from the words of the Torah. The Ramban's criticism goes even further. He wonders how the Midrash can derive this Rabbinical prohibition from the verse. And even if we were to say that the Midrash only implies that the prohibition is a Rabbinic one, the Midrash nevertheless should have been clearer about this. Rashi was not clear and this can be misleading.


Mizrachi a super commentary on Rashi, defends him against the Ramban's question. He says, in essence, no damage will come even if people mistakenly think that this is a Torah law. Since the law prohibits something permissible but does not permit something forbidden, no halahic problems will ensue.


The Mizrachi's answer may not be something the Ramban would accept. It is not only a matter of not transgressing a Torah or Rabbinic law. Understanding correctly the words of the Torah is what matters. This has value in and itself without reference to one's remaining far from committing transgressions.

But, in fact, a halachic error could result from thinking an act is prohibited by the Torah when it is actually a Rabbinic prohibition. In situations were we may need to be, and should be, lenient ("maikel") for example when a person is sick but not dangerously sick. Here a Rabbinic ordinance can be 'transgressed' to help the person whereas a Torah prohibition cannot.

So it would seem the Ramban's criticism stands. As a rule, Rashi does not clarify the differences between interpretations which of Rabbinic or Torah origin.

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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