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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Pikudie

This week's sedras continue the discussion of the construction of the Mishkan and with them we end the book Exodus.

Exodus 40:35

And Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because on it rested the cloud and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan.


And Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting: Rashi: While another verse says: 'And when Moses entered the Tent of Meeting'! Comes the third verse and decides between them: 'because on it rested the cloud'; so we can conclude as long as the cloud was on it he could not enter, once the cloud removed itself , he could enter and [G-d] spoke with him.


Rashi has quoted the thirteenth rule of Rabbi Yishamel's 13 principles of Torah interpretation. We recite these principles in the morning prayers, before Pisukie d'zimra.

The principle teaches us that when there are two verses that seem to contradict each other, the Torah gives a third verse which reconciles the contradiction.

But as you look at the example from our verse, which Rashi cites, you should have a question.

Hint: Do you see a contradiction between the two verses?

Your Question:


A Question: Is there really a contradiction here? Our verse says that Moses could not enter the Tent because the cloud rested on it. Rashi then cites a verse further on in the Torah in Bamidbar that says that Moses could enter the Tent. But if we read our verse completely we understand that Moses could not enter because the cloud rested on it, so if there were no cloud, it would seem obvious that Moses could then enter the Tent. So all we had to do was read the whole verse and we would know the answer! By splitting the verse in two and then asking the question, it looks like an artificial question. Can you think of an answer to this difficult question?

Hint: What does the Hebrew word 'ki' mean in our verse?

Your Answer:


An Answer: I would suggest the following. When we read our verse completely we read that Moses couldn't enter the Tent because the cloud was on it. It would seem to mean that this is the perpetual state of the Tent - with the cloud resting on it. Then we read in Bamidbar that Moses did, in fact, enter the Tent. So, we wonder how could he enter if the cloud was always on it. With this question in mind, we go back to our verse and read the second half again (the "third verse" that reconciles the contradiction). Now, in order to reconcile the apparent contradiction, we re- read it: "And Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting when ('ki') ( not 'because') the cloud rested on it." The word 'ki' can mean 'because' but it can also mean 'when.' (see Rashi Exodus 15:19). Now if it means 'when' we understand that only when the cloud is on the Tent Moses cannot enter it, but when it was not on the Tent, he could.

So the reconciliation of the apparent contradiction is derived from re-reading and re-translating it the second part of our verse. With this new way of looking at our verse, the question Rashi asks is a good question and the contradiction a true one and the third phrase does help us better understand the Torah's meaning.

Shabbat Shalom
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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