by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas TezavehExodus 28:10
Speaking of the names engraved on the Avnei Shoham the Torah says:
Six of their names on the one stone, and six of their names on the second stone, according to their birth.
According to their birth: Rashi: According to the order as they were born: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naftalie on the one; and on the second: Gad, Asher, Yissaschar, Zevulun, Joseph Benjamin [spelled] fully for so they were written at the place of their birth, 25 letters on each one.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING ?
Rashi tells us that the order of "according to their birth" the names were written on these stones means according to the order that they were born.
But this is exactly what the verse says ! What has Rashi enlightened us about?
What is bothering Rashi?
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: Actually the word in Hebrew 'k'toldosam' (According to their birth') can be translated in several ways. See the beginning of parashas Toldos. There it uses the word 'Toldos' and there Rashi says it means the happenings, the historical events of Jacob.
So in our verse it could possibly mean according to their birth, meaning according to the mothers who gave birth to them. In other words, first, all the children of Leah, then all of Bilha, then of Zilpa, then of the Rachel. Or as the Mizrachi says "k'toldosum' could mean according to their number, the most numerous group first (Leah's children); this is the same as our first interpretation, because in both cases Leah is first.
How do Rashi words deal with this?
An Answer: Rashi changes 'k'toldosun' to 'the order in which they were born' (in Hebrew: k'seder sh'noldu') which more clearly specifies the order of their birth and not the birth of their mothers or the number of their mothers' birth.
A CLOSER LOOK
Rashi adds the words " Benjamin [spelled] fully as they were written at the place of their birth, 25 letters on each one." He means that the name Benjamin is spelled in Hebrew with two 'yuds', one after the letter 'nun' and again after the letter 'mem'. He does this to exclude the other possibility discussed in the Midrash that the name Yoseph was written on the stones as "Yehoseph'. Actually David in Psalms (51:6 the daily Psalm for the Thurs.) also calls him "Yehoseph". Thus if Benjamin is spelled with only one yud (non after the 'nun') then by adding the 'heh' to Yehoseph will still have 25 letters on each stone.
But Rashi does not go this way, because, as he says, the word 'Toldosum' also implies that their names were written on the stones as they were given to them at their birth 'k'toldosum.' And Joseph was called Yoseph and not Yehoseph.
AN ADDITIONAL POINT
Rashi here spells out the names of the twelve tribes. This may seem obvious but it is by no means obvious because later on in the Torah Ephraim and Menasha take the place of Joseph and Levi several times as the twelve tribes. Knowledge of this helps us answer a puzzle in Rashi that none of the commentaries can understand (See Rashi Bamidbar 1:17). Perhaps with this in mind you answer the difficult Rashi in Bamidbar!
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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