Sunday, February 15, 2015

Why Rashi rearranges the verses about Na'aseh V'nishma

On Friday, I wrote that we don't know why Rashi rearranges the sequence of events at Har Sinai. Over Shabbos, I consulted Robert Alter and discovered the correct answer is both simple and obvious. Here's the verse from Exodus 24:1:
...וְאֶל־מֹשֶׁ֨ה אָמַ֜ר עֲלֵ֣ה אֶל־יְהוָ֗ה
Here's Alter's comment:
The form of the verb (perfective instead of the usual imperfective prefixed by waw) may well indicate a pluperfect, and Rashi, no doubt noting that what Moses does here is go up to the mountain and bring back God's words claims, "This passage was said before the Ten Commandments."
The significant nuance is lost in translation, but Alter's point is here the verb אָמַר means "had said" putting the events described in the passage in the past. Like Rashi, he reads Exodus 24:1 as "And God had said to Moses..." Also, noteworthy is that the usual verb for a divine command - וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר - is not employed here.

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