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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Mekeitz (70)

This week's sedra tells of Joseph's confrontation with his brother; his accusation of their being spies as a trick to have them bring his brother Benjamin down to Egypt. He eventually reveals himself to them.

Last week we pointed out the rule that when Rashi defines a word, he usually does so the first time that word appears in the Torah. If he defines a word that already appeared and he had not defined it earlier, we ask: Why did he wait until now to teach us its meaning?

A similar case appears in this week's sedra.

Joseph is speaking to his brothers as he accuses them of spying. To prove their innocence they are to bring their younger brother (Benjamin) down to Egypt.

Genesis 42:34

And bring your youngest brother to me then I will know that you are not spies, that you are trustworthy, then I will give to you your brother and you may travel in the land." (Hebrew: tischaru).


and you may travel in the land.: Rashi: (It means) You may travel around the land. All such words as merchants (Hebrew: socharim) and merchandise ( "u's'chorah") are derived from the word "sachar" - to go around) because they (merchants) go around in pursuit of business.


Rashi tells us the meaning of "tischaru"; it means "to go around" to travel. And it is related to words meaning merchants and merchandise because merchants travel to do business.

Now see Genesis 34:10 and 21 and you should have a question.

What is your question?


A Question: The root "s'char" appears in the two verses cited about. Rashi does not comment there. Why does he explain the word now and not previously?

Hint: What does the word mean in chapter 34 and what does it mean in our verse?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The word 'sechora' and related words all are understood to mean business or doing business. That is the word's most frequent and usual meaning, so when it is used in chapter 34, that is what it means and there is no reason for Rashi to explain its meaning.

But in our verse it can't mean doing business, so Rashi had to show us that the root word basically means to roam around and that's what it means here - it does not mean doing business.

But you certainly have question on this answer.

Your Question:


A Question: Why does it not mean here that Joseph told them that if they bring down their young brother they will be free to do business in Egypt (as it does in chapter 32) ?

Can you see why this cannot be the meaning in our verse?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Let us remember the circumstances. Joseph accused them of spying; he initially wanted all of them locked up until the brother came to Egypt (see verse42:16) Then he locked up only Simeon; he sent the rest back home to bring the young brother and said if they do so "you will not die" (verse 42:20).

So, we understand that if they do so they will live and be free, but Joseph had said nothing about their being able to get a "green card" and do business in Egypt. That is a non-sequitor; it doesn't follow. It doesn't follow that they would move immediately from being suspected of being spies to being granted the special status of being able to do business - that is a special privilege usually reserved only for citizens.

More likely is that Joseph would free them from jail and let them "roam around the country " which is its meaning here, Rashi tells us.

It is for this reason that Rashi needed to tell us here (and not previously) the meaning of this word. Previously it carried its usual meaning while in our verse it had a slightly different than usual meaning.

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.

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