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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Terumah


Rashi asks his own question, an unusual event. But the Ramban isn't satifisfied with the answer he gives.
Exodus 25:21

And you shall place the Cover ("Kapores") on the Ark from above, and into the ark you shall place the Testimony -tablets that I shall give you.

And into the Ark you shall place the Testimony. Rashi: I do not know why it is repeated, for it has already said: (above 25:16) 'You shall place in the Ark the Testimony' ? It may be answered that this comes to teach that when the Ark is alone, without the cover, he should first place the Testimony in it and only afterwards place the cover on it. So we do actually find when he [Moses] erected the Tabernacle it states (Exodus 40:20) 'He placed the Testimony in the ark' and [only] afterwards 'He placed the cover on the Ark on the top.'

An unusual Rashi-comment. Rashi asks his question openly, which he hardly ever does and then he suggests his answer.
Even though the comment is staightforward, we can still question it.
Hint: Look at the complete verse. How does it match up with Rashi's conclusion?

Your Question:

Questioning Rashi

A Question: The order of things as described in our verse is: First put the cover on the Ark then put the Testimony inside. Rashi says just the opposite!
Your Answer:

Is your answer that verse 40:20, which Rashi cites, says "He took and placed the Testimony into the Ark and inserted the staves on the Ark and he placed the Cover on the Ark from above," supports Rashi. For it says, in effect, first place the Testimony in the Ark then place the cover on it; then we would ask : Why should that verse be any more authoritative than our verse which gives just the opposite sequence?
Hint: Look closely at the words in both verses.
Your Answer:

Understanding Rashi

An Answer:
Did you notice that our verse, in Hebrew, has the noun 'the Ark' before the verb 'you shall place," while verse 25:16 has the verb 'you shall place' before the noun 'the Ark' ? This is our clue. In biblical Hebrew when the noun comes before the verb the tense is the pluperfect, meaning that the action took place even before the previously mentioned action. The classic example is found in Genesis 4: 1 "And Adam knew Eve his wife." There Rashi teaches us this principle. Since "Adam" comes before "knew" the meaning is "he had already known," even before the previous event described (being evicted from the Garden of Eden).

See that our verse says: "And into the Ark (noun) you shall place (verb) the Testimony." The noun comes before the verb, meaning that this act (of placing the Testimony in the Ark) came before the previously mentioned action ("And place the cover on the Ark"). This is exactly as Rashi says. There is, therefore, no contradiction between the two verses.

This biblical grammatical rule, though not well known, can be crucial to a correct understanding of the Torah's meaning. See an obvious use of this rule in the case of Rachel's hiding Lavan, her father's, teraphim in Genesis 31:34. But an unusual and surprising implication of this rule can be found in Esau's sale of his birthrigth to Jacob. Look closely at Genesis 25:34 and you will arrive at a startling revelation. If you can't discover it yourself, see the K'sav V'Hakabalah on that verse in Genesis. If all else fails, see my book Studying the Torah (Jason Aronson publishers) pages 31-34.

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