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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Ki Sisa (73)

Rashi interprets the Torah's grammar with surprising results.

Exodus 32:24

"And I said to them: Who has gold? Take it off from yourselves and give it to me. And I threw it into the fire and this calf came out."


And I said to them (Hebrew: "va'omar lahem"): Rashi: I said to them (Hebrew:
Omar lahem) one thing alone: Who has gold?" And they quickly took off (their gold) and gave it to me.


Rashi gives the verse a very different meaning from what we would have expected. The verse seems to say that Aaron asked them: Who has gold?" and then he said to them "take it off of yourselves and give it to me."

But Rashi says it doesn't mean this. Aaron only asked the people "Who has gold?" the rest of the verse is not Aaron's words. They just tell us what the people did - they took the gold off from themselves and gave it to Aaron.


But how does Rashi know this? On what basis does he change its simple meaning?

Hint: This depends of some subtle grammatical rules.

Your Answer:


An Answer: The Hebrew word "Hisparku" can mean either:

1) They took off (from themselves) or

2) (a command) Take it off (from yourselves)".

Rashi chooses # 1 and which means these are not Aaron's words. He rejects #2 which would mean these are Aaron's words.

But why does he do this?

Hint: Look at the next word "Vayitnu".

An Answer: "Vayitnu" means "and they gave"; while "V'yitnu" would be a command -means "and they should give."

So if it means "and they gave", it is a description and not a command. So too the word "hisparku" must be a description and not a command. Perhaps it is for this reason that Rashi concludes that Aaron never told them to take off their gold jewels.

And if we look at verses 32:2 & 3 above we see that Aaron told them "Parku" which means take off of someone, it is a transitive verb. But the next verse says the people "vayisparku" "took off of themselves.

Aaron had asked them to take the gold jewelry off their wives (thinking this would meet resistance and take time) But the people (the men) were so enthusiastic that they took off their own gold from themselves and this happened quickly since there was no resistance.

So Aaron is trying to acquit himself of guilt; he is not admitting guilt as it would seem at first sight. Which, of course, makes sense; Aaron wouldn't "explain" his actions by blaming himself.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek "What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. A Hebrew translation of the Bereishis "What's Bothering Rashi?" is published. It is greatly expanded and is call "L'omko shel Rashi" look for it in bookstores.

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