> Weekly Torah Portion > Intermediate > What's Bothering Rashi?

Then Came Amalek

Parshat Zachor (Deuteronomy 25:17-19 )

by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek

On Shabbos 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."



Then came Amalek - Rashi: This section is placed near the previous verse ("Is Hashem in our midst or not?") in order to convey (God's thoughts): "I am always among you and ready to fulfill your needs and yet you ask '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'michut parshiot, 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 occurred in Refidim. Only when two events did not occur in succession, and yet they follow one another in the Torah, is there a need to comment on 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 next to one another.

Why does Rashi do so? What’s bothering him?


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 after the previous section"; he refers, rather, to why this section is placed after the previous verse. The verse above states "And he called the name of the place Massah 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. And yet the verse is placed later on, immediately prior to Amalek's attach. Rashi is sensitive to this and thus interprets the placement of this verse 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 Answer: It says: "And Amalek came."

The 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 an unprovoked incitement. Or we could say, it sounds like he's being invited to come! God invited him to make war with Israel as punishment for Israel's disregard of His presence.


Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek

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