by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Mikeitz 5768This week's sedra continues the story of Joseph and his brothers. We find them accused of being spies; feeling guilty of what they had done to Joseph years before; and then they had to deal with their tortured father Jacob, putting him to the test of releasing Benjamin, his beloved remaining son. In the verse below Reuben talks to Jacob to have agree to let Benjamin return with them to Egypt.
"And bring your younger brother to me and I will know that you are not spies but that you are honest; your brother, (Simon) I will give back to you and you can travel the land."
And you can travel the land. Rashi: [It means literally] you can travel around the land. All such words [ in Hebrew] as 'socharim' (merchants) and 'sechora' (merchandise) are derived from the fact that they travel around ( in Hebrew 'sechor' = around) after business.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING ?
Rashi tells us the meaning of the word 'tischoru'. The root is 's'chor' which literally means 'around', but frequently it has the derived meaning of doing business, because businessmen travel around a lot.
RASHI'S STYLE IN TEACHING WORD MEANINGS
Rashi often tells us the meaning of words in the Torah. When he teaches us the meaning of a strange or rare word there is no problem. His comment is necessary because we need his help. But when he teaches us the meaning of a familiar word, which he does occasionally, we have two questions. 1) Why the need to teach us the meaning of a familiar word? & 2) If the word has already appeared in the Torah why didn't Rashi tell us it's meaning the first time it appeared?
Which question would you ask of Rashi?
Hint: See verses above 23:16; 34:10; and 37:28.
A Question: We see from the hint above that this word has already appeared in the Torah several times. Why did Rashi wait until now to teach us its meaning? Can you see a reason for this? Hint: Note that this verse is spoken by the brothers to Jacob; they are quoting what Joseph had said to them. You can see the exact quote of Joseph in verse 42:20. Is there a difference between what Joseph actually said and what they quoted him as saying?
EXAMINING THE VERSE CLOSELY
Answer: Of course there is a difference. All that Joseph said was that if they bring their younger brother then they will be believed that they are not spies. He said nothing about "sechora".
So why did the brothers add this gratuitous phrase? Can you think of an answer?
A CLOSER LOOK
An Answer: The brothers were on the defensive. They didn't tell their father Jacob everything. They did not tell him that Simon was being held in prison. They wanted to convince Jacob to release Benjamin in their custody so they could get the needed food in Egypt. Perhaps they figured that if all they would get from this ruler was a cold consent, Jacob would remain hesitant and fearful. So they "jazzed it up" a little; they said he would then consider them as foreigners in good standing and they could even tour the country freely.
HOW HAS RASHI TAUGHT US THIS?
Rashi too was bothered by the way the brothers misquoted Joseph's words. He understood that this was done intentionally. Their use of the word "tischoru' must mean "travel around" freely and not have its usual meaning, of doing business. Why would Joseph jump from suspecting them as spies and restricting their movement to have them become equal to all citizens, able and allowed to do business in his country? No. That would sound too strange to Jacob. So they minimized the effect of being in good standing to mean being able to freely travel through the country. That sounded reasonable. It is for this reason that Rashi says the word does not mean business here; it means just to travel around.
AN INTERESTING NOTE
It is interesting and enlightening to note that even these reasonable words still did not convince Jacob to let them take Benjamin. It was only Judah later (42:3- 10) who put everything on the table in a straightforward, unadorned manner that Jacob finally conceded to let Benjamin go with them.
We must always probe the depth of a Rashi-comment that tells us the meaning a familiar word. There is always more here than meets the eye.
What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."
The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" and the Megillas Esther volume can be purchased thru Feldheim on line at Feldheim.com
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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