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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Korach(65)

This week's sedra tells us of the first major organized rebellion against Moses and Aaron from within the Jewish camp. It also teaches us about the motivations which ly behind them. Let us look at one of the Rashi-Comments.

Numbers 17:5

This is a remembrance for the CHildren of Israel so that that no foreign man who is not of the seed of Aaron shall draw near to offer incense before Hashem and it will not be like Korach and his congregation as the word of Hashem had been to Moses.


And he will not be as Korah: Rashi: [read this as] So that he will not be as Korah.

Questioning Rashi

What Type comment is this? How do you know?

Your Answer:

An Answer: Clearly a Type II comment, it is short and Rashi inserts his words 'kdei sheh' in place of the Torah's one letter 'vav'. Then he continues with the Torah's words And he will not be as Korah This means that he is guiding us away from a misunderstanding. Which misunderstanding? How might I have understood this verse otherwise?

Your Answer:

Which Misunderstanding ?

An Answer: The words And he will not be as Korah can have several different meanings

1) And he shall not be as Korah (a command).

2) And there won't be as Korah (in the future - a promise)

3) So that he will not be as Korah (an explanation of purpose)

Rashi rejects the first two options and has chosen the last - "so that he will not be as Korah. "

Why do you think he does so?

Your Answer:

A Correct Understanding

An Answer: Only the third option corresponds to the context of the verses. In verse 3 Moses is told to take the firepans and save them as a "sign" for the Children of Israel. Verse 5 refers to them as a memorial "in order that no stranger, who is not of the seed of Aaron, shall offer incense etc. 'so that that no foreign man who is not of the seed of Aaron'

Rashi tells us that the words 'lma'an asher' "so that" of verse 5 must also be applied to our verse. It is as if the Torah says "so that a stranger shall not offer …and so that he be not as Korah .." This explains the purpose of the fire pan memorial.

An Important Rule

This comment teaches us something very important in understanding Biblical Hebrew. The 'letter Vav isusally translated as "and" but in fact it has several possible translations. In addition to "and", it can also mean:

1) The letter that transforms a verb from the past tense to a verb in the future tense and vice versa. Example: yomar means" he will say" while va'yomar means " he said."

2) "so that" as in our case.

3) "or" as in mekallel aviv v'imo mos yumas which means "He who curses his father or (not 'and') his mother will be put to death." (Exodus 21:17)

Being aware of this helps us avoid many misunderstandings in the Torah and also clarifies some strange-looking Rashi-comments.. For example, see our analysis below (Numbers 18:32).

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

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