by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues
See how Rashi is concerned with minor,
what we might even consider, insignificant,
problems in understanding the text.
I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojourning, were they sojourned.
I have also established My covenant etc. Rashi: And also when I appeared to them as El Shaddai I institued and set up my covenant between Myself and them.
What can you ask here?
A Question: What is Rashi doing here? He seems to be saying what the Torah itself already said. Why belabor the obvious?
What is bothering him?
What Is Bothering Rashi?
An Answer: The word also is problematic here. Also usually connects two positive or two negative statements, it cannot connect a negative satement with a positive one. For example one could say I went to the store and bought bread and also bought milk. But one wouldnt say I went to the store and bought bread and also didnt by any milk. Likewise, our verse follows the previous verse where it says negatively And by My name, Hashem, I was not known to them. To continue with the positive statement and also I established etc. doesnt make sense. This is bothering Rashi.
How does Rashis comment deal with this problem?
An Answer: Rashis comment connects the positive statement in our verse ,I established My covenant..., with the positive statement at the beginning of the previous verse, And I appeared to Abraham ... as El Shaddai, skipping over the latter part of the verse and its negative connotation. We see now the significance of Rashis first words here, When I appeared unto them ... This throws us back to the beginning of the previous verse.
A Closer Look
Notice some other slight change Rashi makes here. He substitutes other words for one of the words in the Torah. Which words?
Answer: The Torah uses the word Vhakimosi meaning I have established. Rashi uses two other words Hitzavti and Heemadiiti.. Meaning I institued and set up. Why does he make this change? This is a bit more difficult.
Hint: See Genesis 26:3.
An Answer: In Genesis, in another context, when G-d speaks with Isaac, He uses the same word Vhakimosi. There it says:
Dwell in this land and I will be with you and will bless you; for to you and to your offspring will I give all these countries and I will fullfil (Vhakimosi) My oath which I swore to Abraham your father.
Here, in this context, the word Vhakimosi means I will fulfill whereas in our verse it cant mean will fullfil, because the verb is in the past tense and G-d had not yet fullfilled His promise. Therefore in place of I fulfilled Rashi substitutes the words I set up I institued. Rashi is thus telling us that this word can have other meanings besides I fullfilled, and thereby avoids a possible misunderstanding.
The above analysis shows how we must understand the purpose of each word in Rashis comments in order to derive maximum benefit from his precisly worded commentary.