by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Mikeitz (71)This week's sedra is the second of the three sedra's dealing with the Joseph drama.
And it was at the end of two years that Pharoah had a dream and behold he was standing on the river.
And it was at the end: Rashi: as it is in the Targum, 'at the end' and all language of 'keitz' means the end.
There are several questions one could ask on this comment.
Can you think of some?
A Question: The meaning of the word mi-keitz would seem to be quite simple. Why does Rashi need to teach it to us?
Another question: This is not the first time in the Torah that the word 'mikeitz' is mentioned. For example in Genesis 4:3 we have "And it was at the end of days (Hebrew "mikeitz yamim") and Cain brought an offering…". Why does Rashi comment here and not there?
BEGINNING TO UNDERSTANDING RASHI
An Answer: Let us take the first question. True, in most cases in Tanaach it seems obvious that mikeitz means "end" but this is not always so. A verse in Jeremiah 34:14 says "At the beginning of (Hebrew: 'Mikeitz') seven years each man shall send out his Hebrew brother which had been sold to you and worked for you six years and you shall send him out free …"
From this verse I would say the word mikeitz means "at the beginning of" because it says he "worked for you for six years. Now if mikeitz means at the end of seven years" Then it would have been seven - not six - years that he had worked for you. But this verse clearly contradicts Rashi's statement that mikeitz always means at the end of.
Can think of an answer:
An Answer: True enough, the verse in Jeremiah seems to mean "at the beginning of". But its meaning here is also "at the end of" because while it means "at the beginning of the seventh year" It is at the end of the seven year cycle. The Seventh year is the last year of that cycle. So here too it means "end."
So it may be for this reason (the verse in Jeremiah) that Rashi felt he needed to explain the simple word of mikeitz.
THE SECOND QUESTION REMAINS
But our second question remains: Why did Rashi wait until now to explain this word, when it already appeared in the Torah much earlier?
This is a difficult question.
So much so that Mizrachi (super commentary on Rashi) says that Rashi does this often in his commentary. Rashi may not necessarily comment on the first time a word appears in the Torah, he may wait and comment when it appears later on. So that he does so here is not a problem
I find this answer difficult to accept. Why would Rashi wait to comment, if a comment were necessary? In most cases, if not all, when Rashi comments on a word not the first time it appears, then a reasonable explanation for this can be found.
A suggested answer here is:
This verse is closely connected to the last verse in the previous sedra. There it says: "And the minister of drinks did not remember Joseph and he forgot him." This teaches us, as Rashi there points out, that one should not put one's trust in people - they often disappoint! Best to put one's trust in Hashem. So our verse points out how long Joseph had to wait for G-d's help (in the form of Pharaoh's dream). The word mikeitz here stresses that it was at the very end of two years (probably the last day of the second year) that this occurred. If it would have said: "And it was after two years…" This would not emphasize the length of Joseph's languishing in jail as much as the words "It was at end of.." do.
It is for this reason, perhaps, that Rashi did not comment in the case of Cain. There it only said 'mekietz' yomim' ("in the end of days"); that is no specific time designation. And it has no particular implication except that the murder took place much later.
This is an attempt to explain a perennially puzzling Rashi-comment.
"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
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