by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Chayei Sarah (71)The Sedra begins with Abraham's purchase of the mearas hamachpeila in Hebron from Efron the Hitite.
Genesis 23: 17, 18
17) And the field of Efron, which was in the 'machpeila' which was before Mamrei, the field and the cave which was in it and all the trees which were in the field which were on all of the surrounding border, was established.
18) To Abraham as a possession before the eyes of the sons of Chete and all that entered the gate of his city.
And the field of Efron… was established: Rashi: It had an elevation for it left the possession of a commoner and to the possession of a king (i.e. Abraham). But its p'shat meaning is: "And the field and the cave within it and all the trees came into Abraham's possession etc. "
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
We have here a comment with both drash and p'shat. Both interpretations focus on the Hebrew word "vayakam" which literally means "And it rose up." In the drash interpretation the field elevated its status - going from belonging to an ordinary man to belonging to Abraham, a "king".
In the p'shat interpretation, the field "was established" in Abraham's possessions i.e. changed ownership.
A Question: Why is the one interpretation considered drash and the other p'shat? One makes the p'shat interpretation more p'shat than the drash interpretation?
Before we search for an answer let us understand some background.
UNDERSTANDING RASHI - SOME BACKGROUND
The word "kam" in Hebrew has several, related, meanings. Its simplest meaning is to "get up" or "rise up".
But it could also mean to fulfill, as in the verse "asher lo yakim es divrei haTorah…" (Deutr 27:26). "yakim" is related to "kam." It can also mean to establish as in (Genesis 9:9) Behold I establish ("makim") My covenant with you…"
Which of these meanings does Rashi say fits with the p'shat interpretation?
An Answer: The last meaning - to establish - fits Rashi p'shat interpretation; meaning the sale between (Efron and Abraham) was established (finalized).
Let us return to our first question: Why is one interpretation p'shat and the other drash ?
Can you see why? Look at the first verse.
An Answer: Verse17 is an incomplete sentence. A close look at Rashi's p'shat interpretation shows that Rashi runs the two verses, 16 & 17, together. Because the first verse is incomplete Rashi shows the second verse completes it. The word "vayakam" in the first verse is to be attached to beginning of the second verse. "The field was established ( Next verse begins) to Abraham as a possession," etc. The only change Rashi makes in our reading of the verses is that he tells us to read them as two parts of one thought, not as two separate ideas.
The drash, on the other hand, accepts the first verse as complete unto itself without the need of attaching it to the next verse. When the first verse is read alone all it says is that the field "rose up." And this is the basis for the drash - the field rose up in value from being the field of a commoner to being the field of a king.
WHAT SUPPORTS THE P'SHAT?
The p'shat is supported by the usual meaning of the word "vayakam" which most reasonably means it was established to the new owner (Abraham).
WHAT SUPPORTS THE DRASH?
The drash is supported by the fact that a basic idea is not usually broken up into two sentences if it can be said in one complete sentence. So we should look at the first sentence as a complete thought, which the drash does but the p'shat does not.
Truth to tell it is a close call, which of the two is closest to p'shat, hey both have merits. Perhaps since the drash is so close to p'shat, Rashi cited the drash even before the p'shat.
Food for thought.
"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
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