by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Ki Setzie (73)The Torah teaches us how to deal with a lost article that we find.
"If your brother is not near you and you do not know him, then gather it inside your house and it shall remain with you until your brother inquires after it and you shall return it you him."
Until you brother seeks : Rashi: And could imagine returning it to him before he seeks it? But, rather [it means], inquire after him lest he be a swindler.
Do you see what's bothering Rashi? He asks the question himself.
What is it?
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: The verse says, in effect - When you find a lost article, hold on to it until its owner comes looking for it; then return it to him. But of course! Could you possibly return it to him before he comes looking for it? Remember, the beginning of the verse says "you don't know him" -you don't know to whom this lost animal belongs, so how could you possibly return it to him, unless he shows up to claim it?
The verse could have simply said: When you find etc, then return it to your brother.
So Rashi is asking: What could the additional words "Until you brother seeks" possibly mean? How does Rashi's comment deal with this question?
An Answer: Rashi changes the whole sense of these words. We originally understood the phrase "until your brother seeks it" that the words "your brother" are the subject while "it" is the object of the phrase. Who is doing the seeking? Answer: "Your brother." What is he seeking? Answer: "it" (the lost animal). Rashi changes all this. Now "your brother" is the object, and "you" is the subject. Who is doing the seeking? "You." What are you seeking (that is: what are you investigating)? "your brother." You have to investigate this man - your brother - who comes to claim the lost animal. Maybe the lost article is not his and he's falsely claiming it. Maybe he's a crook. How can you determine this? By "seeking him out," by investigating him.
How would you do that? Get the F. B. I. Involved? No, simply by asking him to give some evidence that this animal is his. Does it have any distinguishing signs? If he can identify the article in a way that indicates that only an owner would know these signs, then it should be returned to him.
The Hebrew words "ad drosh achicha oso" are translated as if it said "ad drosh oso - achicaha." "Until you investigate him (who?) your brother."
The Bechor Shor learns P'shat
The Bechor Shor, always in search of the most straightforward interpretation, offers a p'shat understanding of the words "ad drosh achicha oso" , which bothered Rashi. He says the meaning is: Until your brother seeks you - but you are under no obligation to seek him. This means, the finder need not make a special effort to locate the one who lost this article. All he must do is keep it until his brother - the owner - finds it - the lost article.
We see how "a verse never loses it p'shat meaning," in spite of the instructive drash associated with it. Perhaps Rashi preferred the drash because of its practical lesson in living.
Rashi's comment derives directly from the midrash and the Talmud (Baba Metzia 28b). It is instructive to see how the Sages have taken an innocent phrase and turned it into an halachic stipulation which is to guide us to wisely and responsibly fulfill or obligation when returning a lost article to its owner. This is just one of many examples in the Torah which illustrates how the Oral Law, anchored in the Written Law, expands and elucidates the latter. Rashi's next comment is an even more striking example of this.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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