rashihed.jpg (16002 bytes)

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)


by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Parsashios Matos-Ma'asei (72)

This week we read both Matos and Ma'asei. Matos teaches us about women's vows and how they can be voided if necessary; the battle against Midyan and the divvying up of the spoils; and the story of the request of Reuben and Gad to inherit Trans Jordan.

Numbers 31:27

And divide the prey between those who under took the battle, who go out in legion, and between all the congregation.


And divide the prey between those who under took the battle etc . Rashi: Half for these and half for these.


Rashi tells us that the booty from the battle with Midyan is to be given half to the soldiers and half to the rest - non-combatant - congregation.


A Question: What has Rashi taught us that we didn't already know? The verse itself says that we should divide the spoils in half ('v'chatzisa') between soldiers and non soldiers. Which is also what Rashi is saying, so why does he have to tell us the obvious?

This is a difficult question. It would seem this comment is intended to help us avoid a misunderstanding. I call this a Type 2 Rashi-comment. That means it is not based on something that is bothering Rash; rather on a possible misunderstanding which he wants us to avoid. (See my introduction to the Bereishis volume of "What's Bothering Rashi?").

What misunderstanding might there be here?

Hint: See the verse in Daniel 11:4; see the Hebrew word "vateichatz".

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi knew that the Hebrew word 'v'chatzisa' could mean either 1) divide; or 2) divide in two (from the word 'chetzi').

The verse in Daniel uses the same root to mean to divide into 4 directions. So maybe here it also means "to divide' but not necessarily into two. It could mean "divide the spoils among all the people both those who went to war and those who didn't." That would mean every one would get the same amount of spoils.

But Rashi is telling us it does not mean that. It means divide the spoils into two equal amounts to be given to the two groups - those who went to battle and those who did not." This means that the smaller group (the soldiers, probably) would get the same total amount as would the larger (non combatant), group; which means that each soldier would get a larger portion than each civilian.

To add to the possible confusion we could say that the word 'bein' (here translated as 'between') could also mean "both" (see Rashi Bereishis 27:28 'bein tzadik bein rasha').

So the verse would be translated as "And divide the spoils to both the soldiers and the civilians"; implying that each would receive an equal amount. Rashi tells this is a misunderstanding of the verse. His comment gives the correct understanding.

So Rashi, in his simple comment, tells us that this is not the meaning of these words.

A Lesson:

Never take a Rashi-comment for granted. However simple it might appear, it certainly comes to teach something, which may not be that obvious.

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. Also available is a Hebrew book on Rashi called 'l'omko shel Rashi".

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to parsha@shemayisrael.co.il

Jerusalem, Israel