by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Parashas Masei (71)Numbers 33:53
And you shall drive out of the land and you shall settle in it, for to you I have given the land to possess it.
And you shall drive out of the land: Rashi: And you shall drive out of the land its inhabitants and then you shall settle in it; you will be able to remain in it, but if not then you will not be able to remain in it.
We can best see Rashi's approach to this verse when we see what the Ramban says. Following is his comment:
"In my opinion this is a positive commandment; He commanded them to dwell in the Land and they shall inherit it (to their children) for it is given to them, and they should not despise G-d's inheritance And were it to occur to them to go and conquer the land of Shinar or of Ashur or other places and dwell there, they would be transgressing a Mitzvah of Hashem. …..But what Rashi comments: 'You shall rid the land of its inhabitants, then you shall dwell in it; you will be able to remain in it but if not you will not be able to remain in it.' But what we have explained is the main point."
The difference between Ramban and Rashi is that Ramban sees the two verbs - rid the land and dwell in it - as two mitzvos; while Rashi sees them and a mitzvah and a promise. The Ramban says settling in the Land is a mitzvah; while Rashi makes the point that settling in the Land is a consequence of ridding the Land of its previous inhabitants.
The question is how to translate the Hebrew word V'horashtem. It can either mean 'you shall drive out' (rid the land of) or it can mean 'you shall inherit'. If it means 'drive out' then we have to add the word 'its inhabitants' which the verse does not say. The previous verse does say this explicitly. This seems to strengthen the Ramban's interpretation. If, on the other hand, dwelling in the Land was the main point (and thus a mitzvah) of this verse as Ramban says, then it should have ended with the words 'for to you I have given the land to dwell in it' but not as it does, with the words 'to possess it.' This, says the Ohr Hachayim, puts the evidence on Rashi's side.
Take your choice.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and