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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Mishpatim (73)

Exodus 21:30

"When (Hebrew 'im') an atonement fine shall be placed on him, he must give for the redemption of his soul whatever sum is imposed on him"


When an atonement fine shall be placed on him: Rashi: This ""im" " here is not conditional. It is similar to [ the word "im"] in " "im" you lend money" (Exodus 22:24) which means "when". That is the law when the court imposes on him indemnity.


Rashi tells the correct meaning of the Hebrew word While it usually means "If" which is a conditional situation, meaning that sometimes this law applies and sometimes not - depending on circumstances. So Rashi says this law always applies and is not conditional.

The meaning is clear. But we have a problem when we compare this comment with another Rashi comment on verse Exodus 20:22. There it says "im" an altar of stones.." There Rashi cites, in the name of Rav Yishmael that everywhere in the Torah the word "im" means "if" except in three cases. He quotes the three verses BUT our verse is not counted in!

Since Rashi says here that "im" here also means 'when' the question is: Why doesn't Rashi (and Rav Yishmael) mention our verse also?

Look at our verse including the verse before (21:29).

You Answer:


An Answer: A close inspection of the three verses cited by Rashi (& Rav Yishmael) above in his comment to verse 20:22 will show that they differ from our verse. Those three cases 1) building a stone altar; 2) lending money and 3) offering the first-fruits offering (the Omer) are all obligatory mitzvos. When the time comes they must be done. So ?? means "when" But although in our verse "im" does not mean "if" but neither does it mean "when" as if this will certainly come a time when it is obligatory. It is only obligatory if the ox was three-time gorer. But if it was a first time offender the owner would not have to pay the atonement fine. This is why Rashi did not include this verse and this "im" among the verse chosen.

Again a close reading vindicates Rashi.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek "What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. A Hebrew translation of the Bereishis "What's Bothering Rashi?" is published. It is greatly expanded and is call "L'omko shel Rashi" look for it in bookstores.

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