rashihed.jpg (16002 bytes)

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)


by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues

Parashat Metzora

We learn the importance of examining closely Rashi's Lead Word

Leviticus 14:2

This shall be the law of the metzora on the day of his purification. He shall be brought to the priest.


In many (most?) printed Chumashim we find the following Lead Word in the first Rashi comment.

This shall be the law of, etc :Rashi: It teaches that he is not purified at night.


Rashi's comment seems clearly based on the words in the verse "on the day of his purification." The words "on the day" clearly tell us that the purification is done during the day but not the night, as Rashi says.


But what is strange is that the Lead Word does not contain the crucial words "on the day" which the interpretation is based on.


This can be explained by the word "etc" (in Hebrew V'gomer") which Rashi added at the end of the Lead Word. This always means that the continuation of the verse though not explicitly quoted by Rashi is also important for his comment. So the "etc." here could refer to the words "on the day " which excludes night time purification.


But something else is strange about his Lead Word here, and by examining it we can learn something important to Rashi's Style with Lead Words.


As a rule, Rashi's first Lead Word in every sedra contains the words which are the name of the sedra. Check this out throughout the Torah. This rule holds true, with only one exception, see Parashas Kedoshim.

But our Lead word does not contain the word Metzora which is the name of the sedra. I noticed this recently. It looked strange, then I checked with a more precise Chumash and found that the full Lead Words said "This shall be the law of the Metzora." So here we have the name of the sedra included in the Lead Word.

Being aware of Rashi's custom of always beginning a sedra with a Lead Word that contains the name of the sedra, explains some puzzling Rashi comments. See parshas Beshalach in the book of Exodus and parashas Vayelech in the Book of Deuteronomy. Here Rashi has only a Lead Word (which contains the name of the sedra) but no comment whatever. This has puzzled many commentators on Rashi. Some have come up with creative interpretations of why Rashi has no comment on those Lead Words. But in light of what we said, there is no difficulty. Rashi wrote the Lead Word to mark off the beginning of a new sedra - even if he had no comment to offer on these words.

(By the way, this same custom holds for Rashi's comment on the Talmud. He always has a comment on the first words of each new chapter in the Talmud.)

Understanding Rashi's style is important for fully understanding his brilliant commentary.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek "What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. All 5 volumes on What's Bothering Rashi? are available in Jewish book stores.

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