rashihed.jpg (16002 bytes)

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)


by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Parashas Beha'aloscha (5762)

Rashi teaches us what "this" is.

Numbers 8:4

And this is the work of the menorah, beaten gold, unto its base unto its flower it was beaten work, according to the pattern that Hashem showed Moses, so he made the menorah.


And this is the workmanship of the menorah. Rashi: For the Holy One blessed be He, showed him with His finger (how to make it) since (Moses) had difficulty understanding it. Therefore it says "v'zeh" "and this is".


Rashi is pretty clear about what he is explaining here. His comment (whose source is the midrash Sifrei) is based on the Hebrew word "v'zeh" . To appreciate this comment we must refer to the midrash.

The Midrashic Source

"Rabbi Akiva said: This is one of the three matters that Moses had difficulty with and Hashem had to show him with His finger. Likewise we find "This month "Hachodesh hazeh" is to be for you as the first month" (Exodus 12:2); and likewise we have "This is ("v'zeh lachem") unclean for you." (Leviticus 11:29 )

In each case the word "v'zeh" is interpreted to mean the illustration of a concrete object, and not a reference to an abstract idea.

We should point out that in addition to these three verses, there are others where Rashi interprets the word "zeh" in this way. See Exodus 30:13 "Everyone passing by to be counted must give this "zeh", a half shekel based on the Holy shekel, etc." On this verse, Rashi comments that there was a "finger-pointing" reference to a visualized coin. G-d showed Moses the likeness of a fiery coin whose weight was a half shekel.

But a little familiarity with the Chumash should raise a serious question on this interpretation.


A Question: Certainly the word "zeh" occurs in other places in the Torah where it does not carry this concrete connotation. Many examples can be cited, following are some:

1) "And this (V'zeh ) is what you must do for them to consecrate them to serve Me," etc. (Exodus 29:1)
2) "And this ( "v'zos") is the law of the Pascal offering" etc. (Exodus 12: 43)
3) "This (Zos ) is the law of the Torah which Hashem commanded saying…" (Numbers 19:2)

Why is the word "zeh/zos" not interpreted in these verses as Rashi interprets it in our verse and those verse Rabbi Akiva cited?

Do you see any difference between our verse and Rabbi Akiva's examples, on the one hand, and all the other verses where the word "zeh" is used but there is no drash ?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Clearly there is a difference between these two groups. When the Torah uses the word "zeh" and it refers to an object (like a coin, the moon, the menorah etc.) even in an abstract, generic sense, then Rashi interprets "zeh" in a concrete sense. However when the word is obviously used as an abstraction - regarding a law, for example - then he does not interpret it thus.


But there are some cases that fall in the middle, not clearly an object, nor an abstraction. This can lead to various interpretations. A famous example comes from a verse which is quoted in the Passover Haggadah.

See Exodus 13:8 and Rashi's comment on it.

"And you shall tell your son on that day saying 'It is because of this ("zeh") that Hashem did for me when I left Egypt.'"


For the sake of this: Rashi: For the sake that I should carry out His miztvos such as the Pascal offering, matzos and these bitter herbs.

The interpretation of this verse is open to controversy between Rashi and the Ramban.(For a fuller discussion of this Rashi see What's Bothering Rashi? Shemos pg. 74.)

But we will look at Rashi's interpretation, as cited above.

This is a strange interpretation. Rashi seems to be saying that we were brought out of Egypt so that we could keep the commandment of eating the Passover sacrifice, matzos and bitter herbs ! Certainly we eat these foods because we were freed from slavery, and not the other way around. But what interests us now is how Rashi understands the word æä in the phrase "for the sake of this." Here, it has for him a very concrete reference - the ceremonial foods that we eat at the Seder. This is in custom with Rashi's approach, as we have seen above. And this particularly in line with p'shat, because the previous verses speaks of eating matzos and keeping the mitzvos connected with Passover. So, it is most fitting here to interpret the word "zeh" in this concrete way.

The Haggadah records Rabbi Gamliel's saying "Whoever does not say these three things on Passover has not fulfilled his obligation. [They are] Pesach, Matza and Bitter Herbs." And as is known, when we say these words at the Seder we point conspicuously to the three objects (actually just two, because we do not point to the symbolic Pascal offering outside the Temple) . The very same three objects that Rashi mentioned in his comment.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

What’s Bothering Rashi?” is produced by the “Institute for the Study of Rashi.” The Institute is in the process of preparing the Devorim volume of “What’s Bothering Rashi?” This volume will feature Rashi and the Ba’alie Tosephos. Readers interested in sponsoring a sedra in this volume are encouraged to contact us for further details at msbonch@mscc.huji.ac.il Thanking you in advance.

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