rashihed.jpg (16002 bytes)

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)


by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Parashas Naso(72)

This week's sedra speaks of the dedication of the Mishkan and the offerings of each tribe at the dedication. It also contains some other laws like those of the Nazir and those of the Sota, the womam who is suspected by her husband as having committed an act of infidelity.

Numbers 5:12

Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them 'Any man when his wife goes astray goes astray and act deceitfully towards him.


When his wife goes astray: Rashi: Our Rabbis have taught: 'Adulterers never commit adultery unless a spirit of madness enters into them' as it is written "Ki "sisteha'' play on the word "sisteh" comparing it to "Shoteh" a madman.) And it says about the man adulterer 'Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding' (Proverbs 6:32). But the simple meaning of the verse is that it means 'if she deviates' from the path of modesty and becomes suspect in his eyes, as in 'turn aside from him and pass by' (Proverbs 4:15) or 'let your heart not turn to her ways' ( ibid. 7:25) .

Rashi gives two interpretations, the second he calls p'shat, the first interpretation, we can assume, is drash.

Questioning Rashi

A Question: Why does Rashi consider the first interpretation drash? According to the drash, a man does not commit adultery unless he is overwhelmed with a spirit of madness. This is certainly true. Not only is there Scriptural validation for this idea in Proverbs, it is also a psychologically sound concept. People often feel guilty, foolish and weak after giving in to such temptations. So why does Rashi relate to this idea as drash?

Your Answer:

Understanding Drash

An Answer: The difference between drash and p'shat is not that one is true and the other not. Both are true. Nevertheless, in our verse, Rashi considers this to be drash because it requires a distortion of the Torah's words. The word 'sisteh' is not etymologically related to the word "shoteh" . For one reason, the former is spelled with a "sin" while the latter is spelled with a "shin". Since these are two different words the connection between the two is considered drash.

"Strays from the Ways of Modesty"

Rashi tells us that the correct meaning of the word "sisteh' is "to go astray." He then adds "from the ways of modesty." Isn't this strange? This woman is suspected of adultery, this is certainly more than a mere deviation from "the ways of modesty" ! Why does Rashi use such pale terminology?

Hint: Think through the situation.

Your Answer:

Understanding Rashi

An Answer: We must remember, this woman is suspected of adultery, suspected only. There is no hard, incriminating evidence, there are no witnesses. Her husband is laboring under a state of suspicion. His suspicion is based on his wife's actions; she was seen alone with another man. It is precisely this deviation from the path of modesty that has nurtured the seed of suspicion in her husband's mind. But at this point in time, the woman is innocent, and remains so until proven guilty. So Rashi's terminology is precise - she has deviated from the path of modest behavior, by being alone with a man her husband had forewarned her about, and in so doing, she has reinforced her husband's suspicion.

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.

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to parsha@shemayisrael.co.il

Jerusalem, Israel