October 10, 2013

Lech lecha

The first Rashi on every Sedra is important and it is beginning to look like we will not get much further each week in the confines of this blog!

בראשית פרק יב

א וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ. ב וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה
שְׁמֶךָ וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה

Genesis Chapter 12

1 Now the LORD said unto Abram: ‘Get you out of your country, and from your family, and from your father’s house, unto the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you will be a blessing.

On the words Lech Lecha, Rashi comments:
לך לך: להנאתך ולטובתך, ושם אעשך לגוי גדול, וכאן אי אתה זוכה לבנים. ועוד שאודיע טבעך בעולם:

Lech Lecha, go for your benefit and for your good, for there I will make you into a great nation, here you will not merit children and more, I will show your nature to the world.

Where did Rashi get all this from? Where did Rashi see this in the verse?

At first glance it seems that Rashi is commenting on the “superfluous” word lecha. The Torah could have just said Lech = go.
And, again, at first glance, it seems that Rashi is saying 4 things:

1. For your benefit
2. For your good
3. I will make you into a great nation
4. I will show your nature to the world

There are more than 600 supra-commentaries on Rashi, but don’t panic, even I only manage about 4 per week. We will mainly be looking at the Mizrachi, the Gur Aryeh, the Maskil LeDavid ( a personal favourite) and of course the commentary of the Ramban who often takes issue with Rashi.
The tradition I received from my teachers, זכרונם לברכה, is to defend Rashi against all-comers!

An obvious objection to Rashi is that the 3rd point in Rashi is in fact stated explicitly in the second posuk, which is why I printed it above. It is not Rashi’s job to anticipate but to confine his comments to explaining the verse he is dealing with.

The Ramban raises another objection. The word lecha is in fact not superfluous, it is the normal usage in Hebrew. When using the verb ללכת lalechet to go it is usually followed by the possessive pronoun. הוא הלך לו. הם הלכו להם etc etc.

In fact the mefarshei Rashi point out that Rashi is only saying 2 things not 4. For your benefit and for your good. What is the difference between benefit and good. Benefit is personal. Restricted to you. Rashi explains that the benefit is that you will have children.
Good is what one does for others. An intrinsic part of טוב is מטיב which is one of the reasons that HaShem created the world. Being Tov, He had to be meitiv. But I digress. Rashi explains לטובתך is to show your nature to the world, to influence the world to be good.
So Rashi is in fact only saying to things which solves the problem of him pre-empting the next posuk.

The objection of the Ramban is answered by the Maharal in the Gur Aryeh. Yes, lalechet is usually followed by li, lecha, lachem etc etc but why? Do they not mean anything?
Says the Maharal, these “extra” words mean that the person/s had decided to go. They went of their own accord.
אלך לי אל הר המור. שיר השירים.
I will go the mountain of myrrh. Song of Songs 4:6
I have decided to go. It’s my initiative.
אלכה לי אל הגדולים. הושע
I will go the great me. Jeremiah 5:5
I have decided to take a trip…..

Rashi knew that and accepts that BUT that cannot work at the beginning of Lech Lecha. Abraham was COMMANDED to go by HASHEM. He did NOT go of his own accord, of his own choosing. Therefore Rashi rightly explains according to the Midrash because the peshat of lecha cannot be the same as everywhere else.

Finally, lets look at the Maskil LeDavid. He takes a completely different approach.
He, like the Ramban and Rashi elsewhere in the Chumash says that the lecha isn’t the problem. In fact, we forget, that the exact same phrase, lech lecha occurs again in chap 22:2 לך לך אל ארץ המוריה
Go to the Land of Moriah.
What does Rashi say……? Look carefully at the Rashi. Yes, you are right. NOTHING! Why not? Surely, Rashi should have said something……

Says, the Maskil LeDavid in a stroke of pure genius, Rashi is not bothered by the lecha in our posuk. He is commenting on the word Lech!!!
Rashi has noticed a problem that we have missed (every year) ללכת to go in Hebrew is ALWAYS motion towards. At the end of Noach – ללכת ארצה כנען.
Or the classic ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע וילך חרנה Gen 28:1
To leave a place is לצאת as in Yetziat Mitzraim. Lalechet is always to go to a place. Do I need to give more examples? Probably not.

Now look again at our verse לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך! It should have said צא go out, leave not Lech!

This is why on 22:2 Rashi is silent because there is no problem. Rashi agrees with the Ramban lecha isn’t a problem. It is just the normal usage. Lech isn’t a problem as Avraham was going towards a place.

Here, Avraham is leaving, going out hence the word lech is inappropriate. There is no answer according to the peshat. It should have said צא. So if the word Lech was used, Rashi teaches us that it is to focus on what is going to happen there. The place to which Avraham was to go.

Rashi has therefore in his great wisdom, covered all bases. The unusual usage of the word Lech. And the unusual usage here of the word Lecha. Q.E.D.

Shabbat Shalom


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