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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Lech Lecha 5767

This week's sedra begins the story of our Forefathers, Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, which continues through to the end of the Book of Genesis. It recounts Abraham's coming to the Land of Canaan at G-d's behest and his entering into the Covenant of the Pieces which is the basic covenant between G-d and the Jewish nation. Abraham endured many trials in his lifetime. When he and his wife Sarah go down to Egypt because of the famine in the Land we learn of one of them

Genesis 12:14,15

14) And it was when Abram came to Egypt that the Egyptians saw the woman that she was very beautiful.

15) And the officers of Pharaoh saw her and they praised her to Pharaoh and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.


And they praised her to Pharaoh: Rashi: They praised her among themselves saying: She is fitting for the king. What would you ask on Rashi's brief comment here?

Your Question:


A Question: Why doesn't Rashi understand the verse in its simplest sense: They praised her to Pharaoh himself ? Why does Rashi say the praise was "among themselves"? In fact the Ramban offers both these interpretations (that the officers told Pharaoh themselves or that they spoke only among themselves) as both reasonable interpretations. Why did Rashi prefer the one he did?

Can you see what's bothering Rashi here?

Hint: Compare this event to the one described in 20:1,2 when Abraham went to Gerar.

Your Answer:


An Answer: If the officers told Pharaoh directly of Sarah's beauty why did Pharaoh not sent for Sarah to come to him, as the king of Gerar did? This was probably what alerted Rashi to the difference.

How does Rashi's comment deal with this?

Your Answer:


An Answer: This is probably the subtle difference between the cases. In Gerar they were more civilized and patient, they waited for the king to send for Sarah. In Egypt, a country known for its lasciviousness and poor ability to delay gratification, the officers saw her beauty and immediately brought her to Pharaoh. There was no need for Pharaoh to send for her, for she was quickly rushed to the palace. Maybe the officers feared that Pharaoh would hear about Sarah and be angry with his officers for not bringing her to him.


A little noticed difference between two apparently similar situations, did not slip by Rashi's close perception of textual subtleties.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.

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