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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas B'shalach (from 66)

his week is Shabbat Shira, the parasha containing the Song of the Sea (Shirat Hayam) the song the Children of Israel sang with Moses when they escaped their Egyptian pursuers by crossing the Reed Sea. As is well known, the Egyptians drowned in the sea as it closed upon them in their mad pursuit of Israel.

Exodus 14:30

And Hashem saved on that day Israel from the hand of Egypt. And Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the shore of the sea.


And Israel saw the Egyptians dead: Rashi: The sea threw them onto the shore so that the Israelites should not say " Just as we have come up from the sea on this side, so too they are going up from the other side far from us and will yet pursue us."


A Question: Rashi says "The sea threw them onto the shore" but isn't that what the verse itself says? Why his need to repeat the obvious? He could have given his interpretation of why they were thrown onto the shore, but those first words themselves seem redundant.

Is something bothering him or is he clarifying something?


An Answer: The words "on the shore of the sea" are ambiguous. Who was on the shore? The Israelites or the Egyptians? The Rashbam and Ibn Ezra read the verse as follows: "And Israel, while on the shore (i. e. after they crossed over), saw the Egyptians dead." For these commentaries, Israel was on the shore, not the Egyptians. For Rashi, on the other hand, the Egyptians were on the shore - dead.

Can you defend the Rashbam's interpretation?

Your Answer:


An answer: While it seems to say that the Egyptians were dead on the shore, yet we know that they had drowned in the sea , not on the shore. Therefore, Rashbam and Ibn Ezra transfer the words " on the shore" to refer to the Israelites.

Rashi does not see these words as referring to Israel. But then he is confronted with the difficulty that the Rashbam saw: the Egyptians drowned in the sea and not on the shore.

How would Rashi answer this question?

Your Answer:


An Answer: After the Egyptians were drowned in the sea, they were washed ashore . There is thus no contradiction between them being drowned in the sea and their being found dead on the shore. Herein lies the strength of Rashi's interpretation. Can you find support and validation for Rashi's interpretation?

Hint: See the Lead Words (dibbur Hamaschil)

Your Answer:


An Answer: Precisely because the Torah says "Israel saw the Egyptians dead."

and not drowned , this indicates that they were already dead when the Israelites saw them. How could they see them in their dead state if they drowned in the water? Simply, they saw their dead bodies washed ashore. This is probably why Rashi's Lead Words quotes the verse just up until the word "dead" and does not include the words "on the shore", because Rashi saw the main difficulty with the word "dead."

All that was left for Rashi to do was to explain why this happened. His explanation puts matters in perspective. We are told that G-d did this in order to calm the fears of these recently freed slaves - that their former masters were indeed no longer a threat to them.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek "What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. A Hebrew translation of the Bereishis "What's Bothering Rashi?" is published. It is greatly expanded and is call "L'omko shel Rashi" look for it in bookstores.

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