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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Va'eira (70)

This week's sedra tells of the confrontation between G-d and pharaoh; it begins the story of the Ten Plagues.

The verses below are part of the introduction to plague number 6.

Exodus 9:3, 4

3) Behold the hand of Hashem will be on your flocks which are in the field; on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the cattle, and on the sheep; a very severe epidemic.

4) And Hashem shall separate (Hebrew: 'Hiflah') between the flock of Israel and he flock of Egypt and not a thing that belongs to the Children of Israel will die.


And [Hashem] shall separate (Hebrew: 'v'Hiflah'): Rashi:And He will separate (Hebrew ""v'hivdeel" )


What Rashi is saying is quite obvious, he is telling us the meaning of the Hebrew word v'Hiflah'. It is not a common word, so Rashi has to tell us its translation. There's no problem here but there is a problem when we see a previous verse, 8:18 and the Rashi on that verse. See the Rashi. Do you see a difficulty?

Your Question


A Question: On verse 8:18 Rashi translates a similar word, "v'Hiflaisee" which has the same root. There he writes:

"v'Hiflaisee": Rashi: And I separated (Hebrew: v'hifrashti") Likewise also the verse "Hashem shall separate (Hebrew: 'v'hiflah') (Note: This is our verse!); and also "It is not separated from you" (Deut. 30:11) - "It is not separated (Hebrew: "muvdeles") and set at a distance from you (Hebrew: "mufreshes").


A Question: If Rashi already told us the meaning of this word just a few verses previously (8:18), why does he need to tell it to us again here?

The question is more complex because on our verse Rashi uses the Hebrew word "v'hivdeel" (to separate). But in verse 8:18 Rashi uses a different word as its translation: "v'hifrashti" (to separate).

Why does he do this and why does he need to explain the meaning of the word again?

This is a difficult question.

Can you suggest an answer to this puzzle?

Your Answer:


A Suggested Answer: I suggest that the word in question "v'hiflah" has two similar but different meanings. One is to differentiate between two things and one is to separate between two things. The difference between these two is that to differentiate is not a physical separation, while to separate is a physical separation.

So in our verse Rashi says 'v'hivdeel' meaning He differentiated between the flocks of the Jews and those of the Egyptians. The flocks were intermingled with each other, so by one getting stricken and the others not stricken they were differentiated. While in 8:18 it speaks of the land of Goshen being separate from the main country of Egypt, so in that case there was a real separation and Rashi uses the word "v'hifrashti" to physically separate (as we do when we separate challah (mafrish challah) for the priest.)

Granted this difference is not hard and fast, but it makes sense in many cases. See our havdalah after Shabbat "hamavdil bein kodesh l'chole; bein or l'choshech; bein Yisrael l'amim; bien yom hashivee l'sheshes yemai hama'aseh".

All of these (with possible exception of light to darkness) are conceptual differentiations and not real separations, thus the word l'havdil is used. That is the same word Rashi uses in his brief comment on our verse, because in our verse a differentiation is made more so than a separation.


If this is correct, we can understand why Rashi had to again explain this word again on our verse. Because in our verse it has a slightly different meaning than it had in 8:18.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"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.

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