by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Mishpatim 5767This sedra tells us many laws mainly civil laws between man and man. It begins with the laws regarding owning a Jewish servant. The Torah begins with these laws after the Ten Commandments possibly because it wants to teach the basic tenet of all the laws a between man and man - don't take advantage of those weaker than you.
The laws of a young girl sold as a servant are described below.
Exodus 21:8, 9,10
8) If she is displeasing to her master, who has not designated her [to be his wife] he must allow her to be redeemed. He must not rule over her to sell her to an alien people for he has not dealt in good faith with her.
9) If he has designated her to his son he shall grant her as the manner of the daughters
10) If he takes another [wife] her food her clothing her marital relations he shall not diminish.
as the manner of the daughters Rashi:[Giving them] Food, clothing and marital relations.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
Rashi is clarifying the meaning of the phrase "as the manner of the daughters ".
Which rights are referred to here? Rashi looks at the next verse (verse 10), which specifies just these three rights: Food, clothing and marital relations.
This would seem to be quite obvious, but the Ramban has a different interpretation.
THE RAMBAN'S INTERPRETATION
The Ramban: As the manner of the daughters:
In line with the p'shat it is possible that G-d is saying that if the buyer designated her for his son, which means he became engaged ( "eirusin") to her... then he shall do "after the manner" that a man does for his "daughters" he (the father) is to give her according to the marriage price (dowry) (see Exodus 22:16) ........In accordance with the interpretation of our Rabbis, which is the truth, the meaning of the verse is after the manner of the daughters whom parents marry off, so shall the son deal with her. And then [the Torah explains [what is the manner of the daughters] ..."if he take another wife her food her clothing, and her marital relations shall not diminish."
Do you see the difference between Rashi and the Ramban?
HOW DOES THE RAMBAN DIFFER FROM RASHI?
An Answer: They interpret -differently the key words as the manner of the daughters :
Rashi says it means that the husband gives his wife the three essential rights she deserves. While the Ramban says these words refer to the father's marriage gift to the son's bride.
Which of these two interpretations seems closest to p'shat in your mind?
Hint: Read the verses quoted above (21:8,9,10).
An Answer: Verses 9 & 10 seem to be speaking of two different situations. This seems closest to the Ramban who says verse 9 refers to the wedding gift at marriage, which the father gives to his "daughter", while verse 10 refers to the obligations of the son throughout his marriage. Also verse 9 uses the word "daughters" so it would be more appropriate if it referred to the father giving his new daughter-in-law the gifts.
Rashi, on the other hand, accepts the Rabbis' interpretation of these words.
This is typical of many Rashi/Ramban disputes in Torah interpretation. Rashi will accept the Rabbis' comment as p'shat, (if it can fit in to the Torah's words) while the Ramban does not feel obliged to do so. If he disagrees with the Talmudic Rabbis he will offer a different interpretation according to p'shat.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE RAMBAN
But if you read the Ramban's words closely you may notice something strange. He write:
"In accordance with the interpretation of our Rabbis, which is the truth, the meaning of the verse is after the manner of the daughters whom parents marry off..."
The Ramban quotes the Rabbis with whom he differs and nevertheless says "which is the truth"!
We ask: If it is the truth why does the Ramban differ?
Can you answer this question?
UNDERSTANDING THE RAMBAN
An Answer: The Ramban agrees that in truth (i.e. this is the halacha) that the son who marries his father's maidservant is obligated to provide her with food, clothing and marital relations - just as the Rabbis said. BUT the Ramban differs with the Rabbis that this is the p'shat meaning of the words "manner of the daughters".
The Ramban differentiates between the true halacha (which the Rabbis derive from the Oral Law) and the p'shat interpretation of the Torah's words. Rashi does not make this differentiation.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi." The 5 Volume set is available at all Jewish bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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