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

Evil To Our Fathers


Chukat-Balak (Numbers 19:1-25:9 )

by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek

A drash that characteristically notices nuances in the text.

Numbers 20:15

"And our fathers went down to Egypt and we dwelt in Egypt many days and the Egyptians did us evil and to our fathers."



And to our fathers - Rashi: From here we learn that the forefathers are in pain even in the grave when tribulations come upon Israel. This is certainly a drash.

What would you ask on the comment?

Your Question:



A Question: Why does Rashi abandon p'shat here? The simple meaning of "fathers" in this verse refers to the fathers and grandfathers of those in the wilderness, who were also enslaved in Egypt but who did not live long enough to be redeemed by Hashem at the exodus. Remember that the period of enslavement in Egypt lasted 210 years; several generations didn't live long enough to see the redemption. Why did Rashi prefer this drash interpretation to the simple p'shat?



There are several clues in the verse that you should find.

Your Answer:



An Answer: The order of the words here is strange. "The Egyptians did evil to us and to our fathers." Since chronologically, the fathers suffered before the children, it should have said: "The Egyptians did evil to our fathers and to us." Probably for this reason Rashi chose the drash.

How does the drash deal with this difficulty?

Your Answer:



An Answer: The drash tells us that, in fact, "we" suffered before the fathers. So the word order is correct. But in order to accomplish this reinterpretation we have to understand that the "us" in "did evil to us" refers to all the generations who were enslaved in Egypt. And the "fathers" in "and to our fathers" refers not to those who were enslaved but to the forefathers, who obviously preceded the generations of the enslavement. Now the word order in the verse can be understood (the suffering of the sons before that of the fathers), because only once the sons suffered, was the pain then felt by the forefathers as well. So the order of "to us and (then) to our fathers" is correct.

Can you find grammatical support for Rashi's drash in this verse? This is not easy.

Your Answer:



An Answer: Notice the vowels under the word (in Hebrew) "v'la'avosainu" ("and to our fathers"). There is a patach under the "lamed" which means it precedes a definite article like the "heh Hayedia." This is equivalent to "and to our known fathers." This could only refer to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the well-known fathers, the only fathers who were fathers to all the enslaved Israelites.


Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek

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