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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Shemos

Exodus 2:23

"During those many days, it happened that the king of Egypt died and the Children of Israel groaned from the work and they cried out; their outcry because of their work rose up to G-d ."


And the king of Egypt died: Rashi: He became leprous. And he would slaughter Jewish infants and bathe in their blood.

Certainly a strange comment, which seems to have no basis in the Torah's words. Can you see why Rashi would have used this drash here?

An Answer: The Torah says the king died and the people groaned. That's a strange reaction. They should have been happy. This is likely what is bothering Rashi. Therefore, Rashi had to search for some reason that the "king's death" lead to the people groaning, an intensification of their suffering. Now the Talmud says that there are several living deaths - like poverty, being childless and also suffering from leprosy. Therefore Rashi choose the leprosy option (the king probably wasn't poor!) since it afforded an explanation for the increased suffering i.e. the king's "medical" advisors suggested an alternative medicine cure - killing Jewish infants and bathing in their blood!

But another answer has been suggested by the Vilna Goan. That is the throughout out the Tanach we never find the words "the King died." Because it says in Ecclesiastics 8:8 "There is no dominion on the day of death." So if a king dies he dies not as king but as a private all-too-human person. Like David or Solomon, and not King David or King Solomon, for example (See Samuel II 2:1)

A note to our readers:
We are preparing to publish the Vayikra volume of "What's Bothering Rashi?" It will add another dimension to the study of Rashi - this time Rashi's creative use of the midrash. We are looking for sponsors of this volume to enable us to publish it. Contributions can be made in Memory of or in Honor of close ones. The previous volumes of "What's Bothering Rashi?" have been adopted for use in many schools and into many Jewish homes. Your sponsorship will make it possible to continue and enlarge this project. Those interested can write msbonch@mscc.huji.ac.il

Shabbat Shalom

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