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

Go Down

Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17 )

by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek

Our parsha continues the drama of Joseph and his brothers. There is famine in the land of Canaan and Jacob realizes that the only way he and his family can continue to sustain themselves is by purchasing food in Egypt, where there is no famine. He tells his sons that they must go to Egypt to purchase food from the viceroy there. This was, of course, none other than their brother, Joseph, whom they had sold into slavery some twenty years previously. Below we read of Jacob's command to his children.

Genesis 42:2

"And he said 'Behold, I have heard that there are provisions in Egypt. Go down there and purchase for us there, that we may live and not die.' "



Go down there - RASHI: He did not say 'go' (but rather 'Go down'). This is a hint to the two hundred and ten years that they (the Nation Israel) were to be enslaved in Egypt. For the Hebrew word 'R'du' ('Go down') is numerically 210."

Look at Rashi on verse Genesis 45:9.

Do you have a question on our Rashi-comment?

Your Question:



A Question: Rashi assumes that the word "go" ('l'chu' in Hebrew) is more appropriate than 'r'du'. But this is not so. Rashi himself tells us further on (Genesis 45:9) that Eretz Yisrael is higher than all other lands, thus when speaking of going to Eretz Yisrael the Torah uses the word 'alu' ('go up') and conversely when one leaves Eretz Yisrael the Torah uses the word 'to go down.' So Jacob's word here – 'go down there (to Egypt)' are appropriate. How can Rashi imply that he should have said 'go' and not 'go down'?

A difficult question. Can you think of an answer?

Hint: Look carefully at verse 45:9. Granted that verse speaks of "going up" and our verse speaks of "going down" but in fact the idea is the same. Can you see any other difference between our verse and that one?

Your Answer:



An Answer: Rashi's point is well taken. Because while the Torah uses the words "going up" and "going down" when coming to or leaving Eretz Yisrael respectively, an individual does not. (Today of course we do speak of "Aliya" but in the Torah Jacob would not ordinarily have used this word.) Jacob's use of this word is therefore inappropriate. His word "going down" has a negative connotation and implied going down into slavery – for 210 years.

Can you find support for Rashi, that Jacob would not have used this word, had it not been for the implied hint that it conveys?

Hint: Look further on in the story.

Your Answer:



An Answer: Later on, after Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, Jacob prepares to go to see him (Genesis 45:28):

"And Israel said: It is great that my son Joseph is still alive. I will go (Hebrew 'ailcha') and see him before I die."

So we see that when Jacob speaks of going to Egypt himself, he uses the word "to go," and not "to go down." Thus Rashi's focusing on Jacob's use of the word "go down" in our verse is correct. Jacob himself would not have used this term (though the Torah itself does), had the word 'r'du not had other connotations in this context.



The Torah's words as a narrative may be quite different from a quote in the Torah of an individual. There are other instances in the Torah where this is the case. The lesson is to closely examine Rashi's comments, especially when it seems that he contradicts himself. He was quite careful in his choice of words and in his comments.


Shabbat Shalom and
Chanukah Soyamach,
Avigdor Bonchek


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