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Pekudei(Exodus 38:21-40:38)

They Did and They Made

After the Torah describes in detail the making of the Tabernacle and its vessels, it makes the following concluding statement.

Exodus 39:32

"And all the work of the Tabernacle / Tent of Meeting was completed and the Children of Israel did as all that Hashem had commanded Moses. So they did."

 

RASHI

And the Children of Israel did - Rashi: the work as all that Hashem had commanded etc.

This appears to be quite a simple, even uninformative, Rashi-comment. But after examination we will see its cleverness and what it teaches us.

First notice the style of this comment. Rashi weaves his two words ("the work") in between the Torah's words. I have emphasized the Torah's words.

What is he adding by making this addition? It seems to tell us exactly what the verse itself says.

 

WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?

An Answer: There is a redundancy here. Did you notice it?

It says "And the Children of Israel did" etc., and then it repeats and says "and so they did."

By Rashi's two words he enlightens us about a very subtle point. The Hebrew "vaya'asu" can have two meanings.

 

  1. "And they did."
  2. "And they made."

 

What does the first "vaya'asu" mean? (Translated in English Chumashim as "and they did.")

Your Answer:

 

UNDERSTANDING RASHI

An Answer: It means "and they made." That is why Rashi adds the crucial words "the work" to tell that they "made (not did) the work."

The second time the word "asu" is used in this verse, it means "they did."

But we have another point of verbal confusion here. Why does Rashi say "hamelachah" (the work) when the verse earlier had used the word "avodah" for work?

The answer is that here too, these Hebrew words have two different meanings – even though in English they are both translated (incorrectly) as "work."

"Hamelachah" is a noun and means crafts – the product of creating something.

The word "avodah" is a verb and means, "to work" to do some labor.

See now the precision of Rashi's choice of words. He says "The Children of Israel made (not did) the artifacts (not work) as God had commanded Moses, so they did."

Now there is no redundancy in this verse.

With two words Rashi clarifies a subtle point, that is missed by all translations of the Chumash.

 

Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek


Published: March 5, 2005

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