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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Ki Sisa (71)

Exodus 32:34

And now go lead the nation to [ the place] of which I spoke to you, behold my angel will go before you and on the day I punish you I will punish you for your [Golden Calf] sin.


to [the place] of which I spoke to you: Rashi: Here [the word] 'to you' [Hebrew: 'lach') which is connected with the word 'to speak' (Hebrew: 'deber') is used in place of '(Hebrew) 'eilecha'. As also 'to speak to him about (Hebrew: l'daber lo al Adoniyahu') Adoniyahu" (I Kings 2:19).


Rashi is explaining a grammatical point here. The words 'dibarti lach' simply translate to 'to speak to'.


A Question: These words exist in the Torah several times. Why does Rashi need to tell us such a simple thing? And since there are other instances where they are found in the Torah, why does he need to cite an example all the way from the Book of Kings? Couldn't he have found examples in the Torah itself?


An Answer: As a matter of fact Rashi himself had translated these words differently. See his comment on Bereishis 28: 15. There G-d speaks with Jacob and says "For I will not forsake you until I have done that which I have spoken to you." Rashi comments there:

"For you (not 'to you') …and this is its meaning whenever we have the words 'to him ', to you', 'to them' connected with the word 'to speak'. It means 'concerning him', 'concerning you', 'concerning them'. And this verse (in Bereishis) proves this, for G-d had never spoken directly to Jacob before. (So it means He spoke 'concerning Jacob' and not 'He spoke 'to Jacob').

So we see that Rashi himself gives these words a different meaning elsewhere in the Torah.

How does his comment here deal with this?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi says clearly that this verse does not go according to the rule he taught us in Bereishis; this case is an exception to that rule. And this is also the reason he cited a proof of this exceptional meaning from the Book of Kings. Because only there do we find these words meaning to speak directly to someone.


Rashi in Berieshis says "Whenever we have - these words ". But we see that it is not strictly "whenever" because there are exceptions. The lesson is that while we should take every word in Rashi seriously, that does not mean we must always take him literally - there are exceptions! Of course the exceptions are not arbitrary exceptions - we must look at the context and interpret accordingly. If "speak to' makes sense, then that is its meaning; if "speak concerning' makes better sense, then that is its meaning.

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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