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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Mishpatim (71)

Rashi prefers drash to p'shat.

Exodus 22:`2

1) If the thief is found breaking in and he be smitten and die, there is no guilt of blood incurred for him.

2) If the sun shown on him (the robber), there shall be guilt of blood because of him. He shall surely pay; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for the theft.


If the sun shown on him: Rashi: This can only be understood as a metaphor: "If it is clear to you that he is peacefully disposed towards you." The metaphor is just as the sun brings peace to the world so too is it clear to you that he has not come to kill even if the victim will resist him, as for example a father who breaks in to steal his son's money, it is clear that a father has mercy for his son and he (i.e the father) would not kill him (the son if he resisted).

there shall be guilt of blood because of him: Rashi: He is regarded as a living man and it is murder if the homeowner kills him.


These verses discuss here the liability in the case when an intruder is killed as he stealthily enters another's home.

There are times when the homeowner who kills the intruder is guilty of murder (verse22:1) and there are times when he is not guilty (22: 2).

The difference seems to be whether "the sun shines on him" (the intruder) or not.

The interpretation of the words "the sun shines on him" is what Rashi and the commentaries deal with here.

How does Rashi understand these words?

Your Answer:


Answer: Rashi says the sun is not to be taken literally, if it were meant literally it would mean the theft takes place during the daylight hours. This would also imply that verse 22:1 was talking about a theft at night. So the simple meaning - not the metaphorical meaning - would be that if one kills the night intruder he is not guilty while if he killed the day time intruder he would be guilty. The reason for this is if the robbery was in daylight then the robber would certainly not kill his victim - he would fear being seen in the broad daylight and brought up on charges of murder and not just robbery. This is the way most commentators interpret our verse, including Rav Sadia Goan, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam and Rabbeinu Chananel.

Is this Rashi's understanding of these verses?

Answer: No! Rashi says the sun shining is not to be taken literally. Rashi understands the verse to mean: If you are certain the intruder is interested in peace and will not kill you (the homeowner) then you are not allowed to kill him. If you do kill him, it is murder.


A Question: Why does Rashi leave the p'shat, which so many other commentaries have chosen?

Hint: look at the verse carefully.

Your Answer:


An Answer: The verse says "If the sun shines on him"? Why the additional words "on him"? If the sun shines and it is daytime then it shines on everyone, good and bad alike, it doesn't just shine on him! Because of these words Rashi concluded that the verse does not mean "sunshine" literally, but rather must be taken as metaphor.

How does Rashi's comment deal with this?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Because of this question Rashi suggests that the "sunshine" is an analogy for peace. If in this case there seems to be peace between the robber and the victim (in a case of father and son respectively), then the robber should not be killed and if he is then the homeowner is guilty. Because of this, each case is different - and the "sun" does not shine on all alike.


Rashi says: "Just as the sun brings peace to the world so too is it clear to you that he has not come to kill even if the victim will resist him."

A Question: Why does Rashi say that the sun is the analogy for peace? One would have thought that the sun (in this case ) is an analogy for "clarity" - "if it is clear to you like the sun."

A difficult question:

Your Answer:

An Answer: As a matter of fact there are two sources for this Rashi. One is the Midrash Mechilta where it says "just as the sun brings peace ". The other source is in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 72a) where it says "as clear to you as the sun."

Rashi chose the Mechilta source and not the Talmudic source. The reason he chose the Mechilta may be simply because in his commentary on the Book of Exodus Rashi usually chooses the Mechilta for his non 'p'shat interpretations.

But there may be another reason he chose the Mechilta which emphasized "peace". The reason may be that it is Rashi's way to show the importance of peace in our lives. (See Rashi on Genesis 11:9).


Even when Rashi chooses drash, we must look for some basis for the drash in the words of the Torah. We have seen this lesson before, and it is justified.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"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.

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