by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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"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 its 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 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, since they returned without Simon. 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 they reported the man was very cold and distant Jacob would remain hesitant and fearful. So they improved on what he had actually said a bit; 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. If the word meant to do business this would mean that Joseph jumped from suspecting them as spies and restricting their movement to allowing them become equal to all citizens, permitted to do business in his country! No. That would sound too strange to Jacob. So their meaning must that the man considered them to be in good standing and permitted to travel freely through the country. That sounded reasonable. It is for this reason that Rashi says the word does not mean business here, which usually does; it means just to travel around.
And it is for this reason that Rashi did not have to tell us the meaning of the word 'sechoruha' above (Genesis 34:10) because in that verse it had its usually meaning of doing business and Rashi assumed we knew its meaning. Only here where it does not mean to do business does Rashi need to enlighten us.
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.
Avigdor Bonchek has published a new book on Rashi called "Rashi: The Magic and the Mystery" published by Gefen. Look for it at Jewish book stores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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