by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parshas Lech LechaGenesis 12:9
And Avram traveled steadily southward.
traveled steadily southward: Rashi: At intervals. He would stay here a month or so, then travel from there and pitch his tent in another place. And all his journeys were southward in order to go to the south of Eretz Yisrael which is the direction of Jerusalem which is in the territory of Judah who took his portion in the south of Eretz Yisrael, to Mt. Moriah which is his possession.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
Rashi explains the words "steadily" (Hebrew: 'Haloch v'nasoa') as stopping occasionally and then traveling onward, then stopping etc. Then he explains the word "southward" (Hebrew: 'Hanegbah') 'southward in order to go to the south of Eretz Yisrael.'
Can you think of a question on this comment?
A Question: Rashi tells us that Avram traveled southward. But that's what the verse itself says. What has Rashi added?
An Answer: The word "southward' (Hebrew: 'negbah') can have two slightly different meanings. 1) towards the south or 2) to the south. What is the difference between them? Towards the south means going southward from any point. If a person was in Haifa for example & he was going to Netanyah he would go southward; but he would not be going to the south because Netanyah is not in the south of Israel. On the other hand, if he went from Haifa to Eilat he would be going southward to the south because Eilat is located in the south of Israel. So Rashi is telling us that Avram went both southward and to the south because (as Rashi explains) Jerusalem is considered in the south of Eretz Yisrael.
You know that the area in the south of Israel is called the Negev (because it is dry = nagev).
A CLOSER LOOK
But how does Rashi know that here the word means "to the south" and not just "southward?
Hint: Look at the word closely. Compare it to the word in Exodus 26:18.
Do you see a difference?
A CLOSER UNDERSTANDING
An Answer: Our verse has (in Hebrew) 'HaNegbah'. The letter 'Heh' at the beginning of the word, which is the definite article, means "to the Negev". So Rashi concluded that Avram was not only going southward, he was actually going to a place in the South, i.e. Jerusalem. The letter 'heh' tipped him off. In contrast, the word in Exodus is "negbah' which means towards the south side and not to a place in the South.
Examine both Rashi and the verse closely if at first you don't perceive and "chidush" in Rashi's comment. Seek and ye shall find.
Avigdor Bonchek has published a new book on Rashi called "Rashi: The Magic and the Mystery" published by Gefen. Look for it at Jewish book stores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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