What's Bothering Rashi?: He Will Not Be As Korach
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Korach(Numbers 16-18)

He Will Not Be As Korach

This week's parsha tells us of the first major organized rebellion against Moses and Aaron from within the Jewish camp. It also teaches us about the motivations which hid behind them. Let us look at one of the Rashi-Comments.

Numbers 17:5

"This is a remembrance for the Children of Israel so that no foreign man who is not of the seed of Aaron shall draw near to offer incense before Hashem and he will not be like Korach and his congregation as the word of Hashem had been to Moses."

 

RASHI

And he will not be as Korach - RASHI: [read this as] So that he will not be as Korach.

 

QUESTIONING RASHI

What type of comment is this? How do you know?

Your Answer:

 

RASHI-TYPE COMMENT

An Answer: Clearly a Type II comment, it is short and Rashi inserts his words 'kdei sheh' in place of the Torah's one letter 'vav'. Then he continues with the Torah's words, "And he will not be as Korach." This means that he is guiding us away from a misunderstanding. Which misunderstanding? How might I have understood this verse otherwise?

Your Answer:

 

WHICH MISUNDERSTANDING?

An Answer: The words "And he will not be as Korach" can have several different meanings:

 

  1. And he shall not be as Korach (a command).
  2. And there won't be as Korach (in the future - a promise).
  3. So that he will not be as Korach (an explanation of purpose).

 

Rashi rejects the first two options and has chosen the last - "so that he will not be as Korach. "

Why do you think he does so?

Your Answer:

 

A CORRECT UNDERSTANDING

An Answer: Only the third option corresponds to the context of the verses. In verse 3 Moses is told to take the fire pans and save them as a "sign" for the Children of Israel. Verse 5 refers to them as a memorial "in order that no stranger, who is not of the seed of Aaron, shall offer incense etc."

Rashi tells us that the words 'lma'an asher' "in order that" of verse 5 must also be applied to our verse. It is as if the Torah says "in order that a stranger shall not offer ... and so that he not be as Korach..." This explains the purpose of the fire pan memorial.

 

An Important Rule

This comment teaches us something very important in understanding Biblical Hebrew. The letter 'vav' is usually translated as "and" but in fact it has several possible translations. In addition to "and," it can also mean:

 

  1. The letter that transforms a verb from the past tense to a verb in the future tense and vice versa. Example: yomar means "he will say" while va'yomar means "he said."

     

     

  2. "So that" as in our case.

     

     

  3. "Or" as in "mekallel aviv v'imo mot yumat" which means "He who curses his father or (not 'and') his mother will be put to death" (Exodus 21:17).

 

Being aware of this helps us avoid many misunderstandings in the Torah and also clarifies some strange-looking Rashi-comments.

 

Shabbat Shalom,
Avigdor Bonchek


Published: June 19, 2006

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