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Toldot(Genesis 25:19-28:9)

May He Give and Give

This week's parsha tells of the rivalry between Jacob and Esau, and Esau's selling the Birthright to Jacob. Towards the end of the parsha, we read of Isaac blessing Jacob (dressed as Esau) and Esau (as himself), and finally Isaac knowingly blesses Jacob before he takes leave of his parents.

Let us examine a Rashi on Jacob's blessing to Jacob (as Esau). A close analysis of Rashi's reveals an original interpretation, which he considers to be pshat.

Genesis: 27:28

"And may God give you from the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the earth and an abundance of grain and wine."

 

RASHI

And may He give you - Rashi: May He give and repeat and give again. However, according to its simple meaning it refers back to the preceding topic: "See the fragrance of my son, which the Holy One Blessed Be He, has given him, is like the fragrance of a field etc. And may He also give you the dew of the heavens etc."

Rashi gives two interpretations, one he calls pshat and one not. What would you ask here?

Your questions:

 

QUESTIONING RASHI

First Question: What is bothering Rashi, why must he offer any interpretations? Isn't the sentence clear as it stands? Look carefully at the "lead words."

Second Question: Why two interpretations?

Third Question: In the pshat interpretation, Rashi quotes part of the previous sentence, but he adds the words "which the Holy One Blessed Be He has given him..." He certainly didn't add them for nothing. Why did he?

 

WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?

An Answer: Most commentaries agree that Rashi is bothered by the fact that the sentence begins with the word "And". This seems to imply that the blessing here is not the first one mentioned, but an addition to one previously mentioned. But no blessing has been mentioned until now. It is this difficulty that Rashi addresses himself.

How does Rashi answer this question?

Your Answer:

 

UNDERSTANDING RASHI

An Answer: Rashi reinterprets the word, "And" in "And may [He] give you" to mean, "May He give and give and give etc." The word "and" is a poetic way to signify continuance, an unending giving. But Rashi doesn't consider this pshat. Why not?

Your Answer:

An Answer: Perhaps simply because, "and" means "and" and not, "unending."

Now to our third question.

Why does Rashi add the words "which the Holy One Blessed Be He has given him ..." to the Torah's own words, in his second interpretation? (This looks like a Type II comment, meant to steer us clear of a misunderstanding.)

This is not easy.

Hint: Reread the second half of sentence 27:27:

"...and he said: See the fragrance of my son is as the fragrance of a field which God has blessed."

What do the words "which God has blessed" mean? What - whom - did God bless?

Your Answer:

 

IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS

An Answer: Rashi gives the previous sentence (27:27) an unusual interpretation (which he considers to be pshat). At first glance, the sentence seems to say, "See, the fragrance of my son is as the fragrance of a field which ( = the field) God blessed." In this reading it is the field that is blessed. But Rashi interprets these words differently. He says it is Jacob that is blessed with the fragrance. This is what Rashi means when he adds the words "the fragrance of my son, which the Holy One, Blessed be He, has given him..." Rashi's addition tells us that Isaac says that God blessed Jacob ("my son") by giving him a pleasant fragrance, (and not the field). The new meaning is thus: God had already blessed Jacob by giving him a fragrance like the field. "And may He also give [him] of the dew of the heavens etc."

We see how this explains the word "and" at the beginning of sentence 28. This is truly an original view of the Torah's words. This Rashi considers to be pshat, probably as we said, because in this interpretation the word "and" means "and"; it is not bent out of shape as it is in the first interpretation.

 

Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek


Published: November 6, 2004

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Baral, November 13, 2004 12:00 AM

Nice work

Dear Avigdor

Thank you for putting together your amazing column each weak. Rashi, Maimonedes and Nachmanides have all fascinated me, but Rashi most especially! His insights are thought provoking, logical and analytical.

Shabbat Shalom

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