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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Ki Sisa


Exodus 32:24

"So I said to them 'who has gold?' let them pull it off and they gave it to me ; I cast it into the fire and this calf emerged."


And I said to them: Rashi: Only one thing. 'who has gold?'. But they (on their own volition) hurried and unburdened themselves (of their gold) and gave it to me.

Rashi is certainly saying a strange thing. He is saying that Aaron's reply to Moses is that he only asked the people who has gold, but didn't tell them to remove it.

How does Rashi come to this conclusion, which seems to contradict what the Torah says here? It also seems to contradict what Aaron actually said to the people. See above 32:2 Where it says explicitly "And Aaron said to them "Pull off the pendants which are in the ears of your wives, sons and daughters and bring them to me."

Here Rashi says that Aaron didn't say that!

To summarize the difficulties:

1) Rashi seems to be changing the meaning of our verse, from Aaron's telling Moses that he asked the people to take off their gold jewelry to just asking (innocently) who has gold. And

2) this also seems to contradict what Aaron actually said to the people above.

What's Bothering Rashi?

It seems that Rashi is bothered by the fact that Aaron's "excuse" is no excuse. If he wants to excuse himself to Moses, he is actually accusing himself by saying "I asked the people to take off their gold." It certainly looks like Aaron is asking them to contribute to the golden calf.

Understanding Rashi

Rashi noticed that some fine point of the Hebrew grammar here shows a subtle point. The word "hisparaku" is not a command "take off (our gold)" (if it were a command it should have been spelled "hisparku" ) . Also the word "Vayitnu" means "and they gave" it is not part of the command from Aaron to give. If it were "and they should give" it would be "v'yitnu." For these subtle grammatical reasons, Rashi chooses to interpret the verse as he does.

But what about the contradiction with what Aaron actually said above in verse 32:2 ?

A Deeper Look

Some commentators say that Aaron actually lied out of fear of Moses' reaction. But we can give a an explanation that would be fairer to Aaron. Aaron above had said " take off (the gold) from your wives and children. But the people (the men) hurried and took off the gold from themselves ("Vayisraparku" is the reflexive, meaning they took off their own gold!) so there is no contradiction. Aaron had only asked them to take off their wives' gold (thinking this would take time to have the woman give up their jewelry) But instead the people rushed to take off their own jewelry, something Aaron did not anticipate. This was his excuse.

Rashi has made us aware of subtle points in the Torah's words, so that we get a more correct understanding of them.

A note to our readers: We are preparing to publish the Vayikra volume of "What's Bothering Rashi?" It will add another dimension to the study of Rashi - this time Rashi's creative use of the midrash.

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The previous volumes of "What's Bothering Rashi?" have been adopted for use in many schools and into many Jewish homes. Your sponsorship will make it possible to continue and enlarge this project. Those interested can write

Shabbat Shalom

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