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Parashat Vayetze 5762

How does one understand Rashi?

vayifga bamakom (Gen. 28:11) Rashi provides two explanations for the word vayifga. The first is 'reached,' and as examples of this meaning Rashi refers the reader to Joshua (15:7; 19:11). Then Rashi writes 'But our Sages explained it as an expression of prayer as it is in Jeremiah (7:16), hence we derive that he (Yaakov) introduced the evening prayer.'

In the first explanation the whole phrase means 'he reached the place,' but can one have 'he prayed to the place'?

R' A. ibn Ezra points out that in accordance with the plain meaning, vayifga cannot mean the same as it does in Jeremiah for, he points out, 'we have not found that Hashem is called makom ('Omnipresent') anywhere in Scripture.' It seems that R' A. ibn Ezra is disagreeing with the second of Rashi's two explanations because of the implication that it has for the meaning of the word bamakom 'to the Omnipresent.' According to R' A. ibn Ezra, Rashi's second explanation implies that the whole phrase means 'he prayed to the Omnipresent.' Interestingly R' Eliyahu Mizrachi (Ram) also understands this passage in Rashi so, and he is followed by Siftei Chachamim, and by Rosenbaum and Silbermann in a note to their English translation of Rashi. Perhaps this interpretation of Rashi was obtained by comparing the phrase here to the phrase al tifga bi ('do not pray to Me') in Jeremiah, also quoted in the Gemara (Berachot 26B). Nevertheless it is difficult to find a source in the words of the Sages for this understanding of our Rashi.

Ram provides the Gemara (Berachot 26B) and Bereishit Rabba (68) as sources for Rashi. However in the Gemara vayifga bamakom is quoted only in relation to Yaakov Avinu introducing the evening prayer, taking vayifga as 'an expression of prayer,' bamakom is not explained there. In Bereishit Rabba both words are explained: first bamakom is explained as meaning the 'Omnipresent,' (Ram quoted this), and afterwards in a 'different matter' the midrash explains vayifga as prayer. The two explanations are separate and distinct. Perhaps Ram had different wording in Rashi or in the midrash, otherwise the midrash does not provide a source for a connection between vayifga as 'prayer,' and bamakom as the 'Omnipresent.' In any case the main interest of Ram here is the time of prayer.

In the literature of the Sages there are at least two places where vayifga is an expression of prayer, and nevertheless bamakom means 'at the place.' In the Targum of Yonatan ben Uziel on this verse we find the phrase rendered 'and he prayed at the place of the Holy Temple,' and in the Gemara 'when he arrived at Haran he said "is it possible that I passed the place where my fathers' prayed and I did not pray there?" He set his mind to return, and the earth jumped for him and immediately vayifga bamakom - when he had prayed he decided to go ' (Hulin 91B). These are authoritative sources for Rashi to interpret vayifga is an expression of prayer, and bamakom to mean 'at the place.' If these were Rashi's sources, there is no need for R' A. ibn Ezra's assumption that if vayifga means 'prayer,' bamakom should mean the 'Omnipresent.' Rabbi Y. I. Herczeg in his commentary on Rashi (ArtScroll) also interprets Rashi without making bamakom mean 'Omnipresent.'

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How many stones?

'He took of the stones of the place' (Gen. 28:11) There is a difficulty here because later it says 'He took the stone' (ibid, v 18) was there one stone or were there more? Rashi resolves this difficulty by quoting a Gemara which says, 'The stones began to quarrel with each other. One said "The righteous man will rest his head on me" and the other said "The righteous man will rest his head on me," the Holy One Blessed be He immediately made them into one stone.' Thus at the beginning there were a number of stones and afterwards there was only one stone. Rashbam, R' A. ibn Ezra, and Radak, all resolve this difficulty by explaining the first passage as meaning 'He took ONE of the stones of the place.' Rabbi David Hojda pointed out that Maharal mi-Prague in his Gur Aryeh argues that Rashi's interpretation fits the understanding of the Kabbala, while those who search for plain meaning err. Maharal explains that were it as is claimed by the commentators who say there was only one stone, it should have said 'He took a stone,' but if he took some from many then 'of the stones of the place' is appropriate for he took some of them, for they are many from many 'of the stones of the place,' but a single stone is not 'some of.'

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venitena (Gen. 29:27) This form could be taken (as a Niph'al verb) to mean 'she was given.' To negate this possibility Rashi wrote 'plural' i.e. it is a Kal verb and means 'we will give.'

I will be pleased to have comments on these notes on the Parasha.
Good Shabbos, Meshullam Klarberg, 35/4 Meshech Chochma, Kiryat Sefer, Israel 71919
E-mail address: fredit@zahav.net.il

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