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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Zachor (T'tzaveh) (73)

On Shabbos Parasahas Zachor we read from Deut. 25:17. But Amalek's attack is originally recounted in the Torah in Parasha Beshalach.

There (Exodus 17:8) it says:

"And Amalek came and made war with Israel in Refidim."

RASHI on that verse writes:

"Then came Amalek: Rashi: This section is placed near the previous verse ("Is Hashem in our midst or not?") in order to convey (G-d's thoughts) "I am always among you and ready to fulfill your needs and yet you say 'Is Hashem in our midst or not?' ! By your life ! The dog Amalek will come and bite you and you will cry out to Me and then you will know where I am." Etc.

Rashi's comment is based on the technique of S'michas Parshios, two sections that are placed next to each other in the Torah. But in this instance this technique is not appropriate, since it is most likely that these two events (the desire for water and Amalek's attack), did in fact, occur one after the other. Indeed both occured in Refidim. Only when two events did not occur in succession, and yet they follow one another in the Torah, is there reason and need to interpret their place in the Torah. But if two events followed each other chronologically, as did the events discussed here, there is no need to interpret why they are placed one next to the other.

Why does Rashi do so?

Can you think of an answer:


An Answer: We must note Rashi's precise wording here. He does not say "why is this section placed next to the previous section" he refers rather to why this section is placed next the previous verse." The verse above says "And he called the name of the place Masseh and Meribah, because of the quarrel of the Children of Israel," etc. This verse would be more appropriately placed earlier, when the source of the names is mentioned. Verse 17:2 says: "And Moses said to them 'Why do you quarrel ( "terivun" = Merivah ) with me, why do you try ( "t'nasun" = Masseh) Hashem?" Here is the appropriate place for our verse. Rashi is sensitive to this and thus interprets the placement of this verse immediately before Amalek's attack, as a moral message to the People of Israel.

Can you see any evidence from our verse (17:8) that would indicate that Amalek started this war completely unprovoked?

An Example of the Torah's Precise Wording

An Answer: It says: And Amalek came.

Ther Gur Aryeh points out an interesting consistency in the Torah. In all other instances of war described in the Torah the word used is "went out" and not "came." See "When you go out to war" (Deut. 21:10). Other examples can be found in Genesis 14:8; Numbers 20:20; 21:23; Deut. 1:44; 3:1 and 29:6.

So here, when the Torah says that Amalek CAME and made war, it has the sound of of an unprovoked incitement. Or we could say, it has the sound of his being invited to come! G-d invited him to make war with Israel as punishment for Israel's disregard of G-d's presence.

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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