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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Beshalach (71)

Rashi makes us aware of the time tense of verbs.

Exodus 15:17

You will bring them and plant them on the mount of Your heritage, the foundation of Your dwelling place that You, Hashem, have made; the Sanctuary, my Lord, that Your hands established


The foundation of Your dwelling place: Rashi: The Sanctuary below is directed opposite the throne above which You have made.


Rashi bases his comment on a Midrash which says the Temple in Jerusalem will be directly under (opposite) G-d's Temple Above.


A Question: Why the drash? Targum Onkelos explains the "Your dwelling place" as the Temple itself.

Why does Rashi choose the Midrashic explanation?

Your Answer:


Before answering this question we will give some relevant background information.

In the Tanach the time tense of verbs is not simple. Sometimes words conjugated in the past really mean in the future and vice versa. See the Song of the Sea begins with "az yashir" - the verb to sing ("lashir") is in the future tense, and thus literally means "then he (Moses) will sing." Even though it really means "then he sang." (See Rashi on that verse.) The Ramban explains the fact that many verbs are switched in this way in order to make the event seem real. He also says that these switches are usually in the context of a prophet's words where past, present and future are not less precise because his words are "above time."

In view of this can you see What's bothering Rashi?

Hint: Best to read the Hebrew.

Your Answer:


An Answer: There are four verbs in our verse: 1)You will bring them", 2) You will plant them", 3) You have made, 4) "Your hands have established". Notice that the first two verbs are in the future tense and the last two in the past tense. That itself is confusing! When the verse speaks of the "foundation of Your dwelling place" which refers to the Temple it uses the past tense ("You have made"; You have established"). Why would Moses speak of the past if there never was a Temple (Don't forget the Jews are just leaving Egypt. It will be nearly 500 more years until there will be a Temple in Jerusalem.) So Rashi usually takes the tense of the verb as it is. He doesn't seem to agree with Ramban that the tenses are interchangeable.

This is what is bothering Rashi.

How does his comment deal with this?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi tells us that the Sanctuary (Temple) referred to here is the Sanctuary Above - G-d's dwelling place. That already existed from time immemorial and certainly when Moses sang the Song of the Sea, so the past tense is appropriate.


We should note that Rashi's dibbur hamaschil (Lead Words) does not include the main words "that You, Hashem, have made" on which the difficulty was based.

This is not usually the case. Rashi's comment is usually based on problems related to the words in the dibbur hamaschil. Not so here. Why?

The answer is that Rashi does include the key word "made" at the end of this comment. But he adds the word "which ("asher") You have made." He does this to emphasize the past tense of the word ("pa'alta") "You made."

But the Midrash itself builds its interpretation, that this was opposite - directed toward - the Sanctuary Above, on the Hebrew word "machon" which is translated as "foundation." The word "machon" is spelled similar to "mechuvan" meaning "directed towards." And that is the basis for the drash and since Rashi took the idea this from the Midrash and he also used the key word for the concept in his dibbur hamaschil.

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.

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