Some further parsha points to ponder this week when learning Rashi (this time posted earlier in the week):
1) וַיַּרְא בָּלָק בֶּן צִפּוֹר אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יִשְׂרָאֵל לָאֱמֹרִי
Rashi (22:2) explains that Balak calculated that if the two great kings of Sichon and Og who were relied on to stop any infiltration into Eretz Yisrael were defeated, he certainly had cause for alarm. Why does Rashi interpret “vayar” as an act of deliberation, thinking, calculating, instead of explaining it according to the plain meaning of vayar = “to see”, i.e. Balak saw the defeat of the Emori and decided to act?
2) וַיִּשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים אֶל בִּלְעָם בֶּן בְּעוֹר פְּתוֹרָה
Rashi first suggests that Pesorah means moneychanger, based on the meaning of Pesorah=table [where the moneychanges exchanges coins] in Aramic. He then offers a second interpretation, which he writes is closer to the pshuto shel mikra, defining Pesorah as a place.
A) Why does Rashi not first give us the explanation closest to the simple meaning of the text and only secondly the derash? Why even offer the interpretation of “moneychanger” if it does not fit the plain meaning of the text?
B) וַאֲשֶׁר שָׂכַר עָלֶיךָ אֶת-בִּלְעָם בֶּן-בְּעוֹר מִפְּתוֹר אֲרַם נַהֲרַיִם לְקַלְלֶךָּ. (Devarim 23:5) In this pasuk Pesor clearly seems to be the name of a place. How does that fit with Rashi's interpretation of it meaning moneychanger?
3) וַיֹּאמֶר מִי הָאֲנָשִׁים הָאֵלֶּה עִמָּךְ
Hashem asked Bila’am who his visitors were (22:9). Rashi explains that Hashem wanted to trick Bila’am and give the impression that He was not all knowing. [Of course Hashem does not trick anyone. What Rashi means is that Hashem spoke in such a way that allowed Bilam the opportunity to deceive himself by believing that G-d is not all knowing.]
If we look back in Parshas Braishis, when G-d approached Adam after the sin of eating the eitz ha’da’as, and asked, “Ayeka?” (Braishis 3:9) “Where are you?” Rashi commented that G-d asked this question in order to ease Adam into conversation without startling him, just as he introduced himself to Bilam with a question to initiate conversation. Why does Rashi in our parsha explain G-d’s question as a trick and not simply as a means to create an opening for conversation like he explained in Braishis? Is Rashi contradicting himself?
4) וַיָּשֶׂם דָּבָר בְּפִיו וַיֹּאמֶר שׁוּב אֶל בָּלָק וְכֹה תְדַבֵּר
Rashi explains the extra words “vayasem davar b’piv,” (23:16) to mean that Bila’am was like a horse with a bridle stuck in his mouth, forced to return to Balak and speak his prophecy. Yet, almost these very same words, “Vayasem davar b’pi Bilam” appear earlier in the parsha (23:5) and Rashi there offers no comment. Why did Rashi wait until now to offer his explanation?
5) וְהֵמָּה בֹכִים פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד
Rashi (25:6) explains that the people were crying because Moshe forgot the halacha. Why does Rashi not explain simply that the people were crying because of the shock of witnessing the outrageous sin of Zimri? Why does Rashi introduce the added factor of Moshe forgetting the halacha?