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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Mikeitz(69)

This week's sedra tells of the confrontation between Joseph and his brothers. It ends in high drama as Joseph again accuses them of stealing and threatens to keep Joseph with him.

Joseph accuses his brothers of spying and tells them they must bring their youngest brother to him, then he says:

Genesis 42:34

And bring your younger brother to me and I'll know that you are not spies but you are honest, then your brother I will give to you and the land you shall travel the land.


And you shall travel the land: Rashi: You may go around. All instances of the words 'merchants' or 'merchandise' ('socharim' or 'sichorah' in Hebrew) are based on the idea of that they circulate and go around after business.


Rashi teaches us the meaning of the word 'tischoru' in our verse. Because the word "sichorah" (merchandise) is familiar, Rashi wants us to know that here this is not its accurate translation. Here it means rather to "to move around, to travel freely" within Egypt. Traveling and business are related, Rashi points out, since business people travel for business, so too the Hebrew word for both has the same root.

But what is an obvious question here?

Your Question:


A Question: What does Rashi think here the word does not mean "free to do business"? That is the words usual meaning, where does he think it must have a different meaning here?

What is bothering Rashi here?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The Ramban discusses this question on Rashi (the Ramban was probably the first commentary on Rashi. His commentary on the Torah devotes much time to arguing with and/or explaining Rashi's commentary.)

We must note that these words are part of the brothers' discussion with Jacob, explaining to him why they must now take Benjamin down to the ruler in Egypt and also why Shimon did not return.

The Ramban says that Rashi was bothered by the fact that the brothers were ostensibly repeating what Joseph had said to them. But if we check back to verses 42:14-21 we see that Joseph never said such a thing. All he said was if you bring your brother down then "your words will be believed and you will not die."

Rashi had to explain this discrepancy.

How does Rashi's comment avoid this difficulty?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Joseph had accused them of being spies and as result he held them hostage. So once he can be convinced (by having the younger brother brought to him) that they are not spies they would be free to rove around the country like anyone else. On the other hand, why would Joseph say: "now you can do business"? That's not the issue. They came to buy food not to do business.

Now we can ask another question:

See above (parashas Vayishlach) verse 34:10.

What would you ask?

Your Question:


Another Question: Why didn't Rashi explain the word "usicharuha" in that verse?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Simply because over there the word has its common meaning: doing business. Only in our verse does Rashi have to comment because the word does not have its usual meaning; it means here "to move around freely".


When Rashi explains an easy, common, word we have to understand why he found the need to explain it; as we have done here.

Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Somayach,
Avigdor Bonchek

What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

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