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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Mikeitz (74)

Here we see Rashi's sensitivity to the language used by an individual.

Genesis 42:2

"And he said 'Behold, I have heard that there are provisions in Egypt. Go down there and purchase for us there, that we may live and not die.' "


Go down there: RASHI: He did not say 'go' (but rather 'Go down') This is a hint to the two hundred and ten years that they (the Nation Israel) were to be enslaved in Egypt. For the Hebrew word "R'du" (Go down) is numerically 210."

Look at Rashi on verse Genesis 45:9.

Do you have a question on our Rashi-comment?

Your Question:


A Question: This Rashi comment assumes that the word "go" ("l'chu" in Hebrew) is more appropriate than "r'du'. But this is not so. Rashi himself has tells us further on (Genesis 45:9) that EretzYisrael is higher than all other lands, thus when speaking of going to Eretz Yisrael the Torah uses the word "alu" ("go up") and conversely when one leaves Eretz Yisrael the Torah uses the word "to go down." So Jacob's word here - "go down there (to Egypt)" is appropriate. How can Rashi imply that he should have said "go" and not "go down"?

A difficult question.

Can you think of an answer?

Hint: Look carefully at verse 45:9. That verse speaks of "going up" and our verse speaks of "going down". But can you see another difference between our verse and that one?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi's point is well taken. Because while the Torah uses the words "going up" and "going down" when coming to and leaving Eretz Yisrael, Jacob does not. See verse Genesis 45:28 where it says: "And Israel (Jacob) said: It is great that my son Joseph is still alive. I will go (Hebrew "ailcha") and see him before I die." So we see that when Jacob speaks of going to Egypt he himself uses the word "to go." And not "go down." Thus Rashi's focusing on Jacob's use of the word "go down" in our verse is correct. So Jacob himself should not have used the word "r'du", though the Torah itself does. He must have used this word because it had other connotations in this context. His word "going down" has a negative connotation and implied going down into slavery - for 210 years.


The Torah's words as a narrative may be quite different from an individual's quote in the Torah. There are other instances in the Torah where this is the case. The lesson is to closely examine Rashi's comments, especially when it seems that he contradicts himself. He was quite careful in his choice of words and in his comments.

Shabbat Shalom
V'Chanuka Somayach
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.

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