by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Parashas Shemos (71)Exodus 3:11,12
11) And Moses said to G-d: "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should take the Children of Israel out of Egypt?
12) And He said: "Because I will be with you and this shall be for you as a sign that I have sent you.
And He said: "Because I will be with you: Rashi: He answered on the first (question) first and the last (question) last. What you said 'Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh - this is not your matter rather it is Mine because I will be with you.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
This is a complicated Rashi. He bases his comment on this verse on the previous verse. In that verse Moses asks two questions. G-d's answer relates to these two comments.
What are the two questions?
TWO QUESTIONS ACCORDING TO RASHI
Answer: Moses asks rhetorically "who am I that I should go to Pharaoh" meaning I am not worthy to be the one to go to Pharaoh.
The second question is: Are the Jews worthy of being taken out of Egypt?
How G-d does answer these questions according to Rashi?
TWO ANSWERS ACCORDING TO RASHI
An Answer: Moses need not necessarily be worthy; because this is G-d's mission and He will be with Moses.
The Jews are worthy of being taken out of Egypt because they have an important mission - to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
In this comment Rashi explains something that is difficult in the verse.
What do you see as difficult in this verse?
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: The verse says "And this is a sign for you that I sent you - when you take the people out from Egypt you will serve G-d on this mountain."
Do you see the difficulty?
Moses fears the People (or Pharaoh) will not accept him as a G-d appointed leader and thus will not follow him out of Egypt. What good is a sign that will only be known months after the Exodus? When the time for the Exodus comes, the truth of the sign will not yet be known!
How does Rashi's comment deal with this?
An Answer: Rashi gives two answers to this question. In his first interpretation he says the sign is to show Moses that he has no reason to fear not succeeding in G-d's mission. The burning bush is the sign - just as the bush did G-d's will and was not harmed, so too Moses will do G-d's will and not be harmed.
In his second interpretation Rashi says the sign is Moses' success in taking the People out of Egypt and this will be the sign that Moses can accomplish the other mission which is to take the People to Mt Sinai and receive the Torah there.
So in both interpretations the sign is meaningful. It is not as we thought originally - that the sign was receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
The Ramban has a different answer to the question we asked - what was the sign?
Ramban says that Moses had two fears. One was that he was too insignificant to influence Pharaoh to let the People go. And the second fear was that while the People would gladly follow anyone to leave Egypt and get out of their slavery, but why would they follow Moses all the way to the Land of Canaan (and have to fight the strong nations there)?
The sign was, says Ramban, the People hearing G-d at Mt. Sinai and receiving the Torah there. Once they saw this happen that would be a sign that would convince them to follow Moses all the way to the Promised Land.
Sounds convincing! Unfortunately even after the miraculous event at Sinai the People could still make trouble for Moses! A stiff necked People they were (and still are!).
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and