by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parshas Ki Tisa
After the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe confronts his brother Aaron and asks him why he "brought upon them such a great sin." Aaron's defense is a strange one. He says (Exodus 32:24)
"And I said to them: 'Who has gold? Remove it [the gold]' and they gave it to me and I threw it in the fire and this calf came out."
On that verse RASHI comments:
And I said to them: RASHI: I said to them (only) one thing - 'Who has gold?' and they hastily removed it and gave it to me.
This comment adds strangeness to strangeness! Is this in fact what Aaron is saying here and is this in fact what had happened?
Before we begin an analysis of this comment we should be aware of several things. First, Rashi often serves as a defense attorney for the righteous people in the Torah. So we would expect him to try to defend Aaron. Of course his defense must be a convincing one. Second of all, Aaron himself must be telling the truth. We wouldn't expect him to defend himself with a lie.
Now let us analyze at Rashi's comment.
We need the help of a little Hebrew grammar here. The word "hisparku" (translated as "they removed") is reflexive and actually means "they stripped themselves of." If we look back at the incident itself (Exodus 32:2) we see that Aaron said: "Remove the golden rings from the ears of your women…" But there the word "remove" is "parku." The difference between the two, is that "hisparku" means a quick and thorough removal, while "parku" conveys a less immediate action.
So Aaron is saying "I said to them, somewhat theoretically 'who has gold?' but they acted immediately and stripped themselves of their gold."
In our verse, itself, Rashi translates the word "hisparku" as "and they stripped themselves.." Meaning this is the past tense plural. Which it is. But it can also be the imperative ("you must remove") Rashi rejects this because the next word in the verse is definitely in the past tense plural - "vayitnu" which means "and they gave." So Aaron is not saying he commanded them to take off their earrings, rather the verse is telling us what happened "and they stripped themselves ..."
But you can ask: Aaron did tell them, in fact he commanded them, to remove the earrings. See the verse there and Rashi on that verse. The answer is that he did command them but he did so in a way that would cause hesitation and maybe even refusal of his command - he asked them to take the rings off their wives ears. This he assumed (wrongfully, it turned out) would cause resentment and the women wouldn't agree to this. Unfortunately they did. The rest is history!
In Summary: Rashi has found grammatical basis for his defense of Aaron. Of course, Aaron himself was defending himself against Moshe's accusation, and, in fact, Aaron had tried to slow down the people's rush to idol worship. Therefore his account is accurate in spirit, if not in every detail.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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