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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Vayishlach

The Rashi comment we will focus on is an excellent example of how Rashi works in his Torah commentary. It will teach us something of his method.

In this week's sedra we find Yaakov returning to Eretz Yisroel and on the way he meets his brother Esau after 22 years separation. Yaakov fears this encounter because he thinks Esau still hates him after Yaakov usurped the Blessings of Yitzchak. So he arranges his family group in such a way that if Esau does attack he will hit first the least beloved , while the others can escape.

Verse 33:2 describes the arrangement. On this verse Rashi makes his famous comment "acharone, acharone, chaviv." Often translated as "the last is the most beloved."

The verse says: "He placed the maidservants and their children first, Leah and her children later and Rachel and Joseph last."

Here's a question to ask someone who knows Chumash and even Chumash-and-Rashi. To whom does the phrase "acharone, acharone chaviv" refer to? Which wife?

Is not Rachel Yaakov's most beloved wife? Of course she is. But if you look in the Chumash you will see that Rashi makes his comment under the caption (dibbur Hamaschil) "Leah and her children later." Why? Your answer:

To make the question even more puzzling I would add that Rashi took this comment from the midrash in Bereishis Rabbah. There it also says "Acharone, acharone chaviv" but there it says it under the words "The maidservant and their children first....Rachel and Joseph last." Notice that Leah's name isn't even mentioned. Yet Rashi only mentions Leah! Why? Do you have an answer? Look at the verse in Hebrew carefully, very carefully.

Understanding Rashi

An Answer: Rashi is bothered by the word "acharonim" which it says after Leah and her children. "Acharonim" means last. But Leah wasn't last. Rachel was last. So Rashi asks implicitly, why does it says "Leah and her children acharonim"? Rashi's answer is: The word "acharonim" does not mean "last" it means "later" and the expression is "the more later (in line) the more beloved." You see Leah was later in the line than the maidservants, so she was more beloved than they, but she was earlier in the line in relation to Rachel so she was less beloved than Rachel. As we knew. The expression is one of relative belovedness, not absolute.

The point to be aware of that Rashi made his comment on the difficult word "achronim" because that didn't make sense. (until he explained it!)

The midrash, on the other hand, made its comment on the order of the wives (not on the word in the Torah, as Rashi did) as Yaakov arranged them. That itself shows the concept of "acharone, acharone chaviv."

Rashi explains the Torah's words with a midrash. The midrash, on the other hand, explains an idea by means of the Torah's words.

Shabbat Shalom

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