This sedra is central in the events of the redemption from Egypt. The first seven plagues are related.
The sedra begins with a very significant prophetic message from Hashem to Moses. In it we laern of the different meaning of G-d's different names ion the Torah. I will focus on a "non-Rashi Comment".
And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as Almighty Shaddai, but my name Hashem I did not make known to them.
And I appeared: Rashi: To the Fathers.
This comment has lead to much discussion. The verse says "And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob " in place of this, Rashi comments "To the Fathers." The comment itself does not seem to add much, if anything, to our understanding of the verse.
The Gur Aryeh offers a complex interpretation of Rashi's intent, while the Mizrachi says simply that Rashi does this just to shorten the verse and get to his main commentary on the verse - that G-d's appearance to them was in the form of a promise (see the next Rashi-comment).
But according to the Mizrachi we could ask -
QUESTIONING THE MIZRACHI
What need is there to shorten the verse. Rashi could have simply began his comment with the words "as Almighty Shaddai." If the Lead Word "Va'eira ("And I appeared") and the names of the Fathers is unnecessary to his main comment, why cite it at all?
Can you answer this?
An Answer: Sefer Zicharon, an early commentary on Rashi, suggests that Rashi had no comment here at all. He cites the Ramban who quotes Rashi and in the Ramban's version he had "And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac & to Jacob" That is in the Ramban's Rashi text it names the Fathers (Abraham, etc.) and does not short-cut anything. On this basis Sefer Zicharon suggests that this was a copyiest change introduced after the Ramban's time. (The Ramban lived two hundred years after Rashi.)
So we have no need to interpret Rashi's intent in this strange comment. He never wrote it and therefore he never intended anything. All commentary here would thus be just "pilpul" for the sake of "pilpul."
But as you think of Rashi's words, even as the Ramban quotes them, you may still have a question.
THAT QUESTION AGAIN
A Question: Again we ask, why does Rashi cite all these words at all since he does not comment on them.
UNDERSTANDING RASHI'S LEAD WORDS
An Answer: There is arule about Rashi's use of Lead Words (Dibbur HaMaschil). At the beginning of every sedra Rashi write a Dibbur HaMaschil which contains the words that include the name of the sedra. Sometimes (usually) he has a comment these words - but sometimes he does not ! that is sometimes he will write the these words without commenting on them. It is as if he wants to demmarkate the beginning oif a new sedra by writiing Lead Woirds that contain the sedra's name. Rashi cites the name of the sedra about a dozen times in his Torah commentrary without any commentary on these words ! See for example sedras Vayelech in Devarim And B'ishalch in the book of Shemos for two examples.
So here too, Rashi write "Va'eira ' to the Abraham, etc, even though he has no comment on these woirds - just for the sake of demarkating the beginning of a new sedra.
By the way , Rashi does this, as well (and so does Tosefos), in his Talmud Commentary. He will cite the first words of the new Mishnah, even if he has no comment to make on them.
To summarize: Rashi has cited the words "Va'eira to Abraham, to Isaac", etc, even though he has no comment on them, because they contain the name of the new sedra. Then he goes on to cite words the words that he does have a commentary on - "The Almighty Shaddai."
Rashi has thus wrtitten "Va'eira to Abraham " etc. (And G-d appeared to Abraham etc. ) not because he has a comment on these words, but because they contain the name of the sedra - "Va'eira."
A simple point, not particularly profound. But one that helps us understand Rashi's Torah commentary. You will find many Rashi commentaries attempting to understand these Rashi "Lead Word" (at the begining of the sedra) even though they have no real "meaning." So knowing this rule gives us an important clue as to Rashi's style, thus we won'tatrempt to comment on his Lead Word, when no comment is necessary.
Look for the new volume of What's Botherting Rashi? On Megillas Esther, at your book stores
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