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(5751) The reason that Rashi changes in many places in our parsha the term "border" (gevul) ( in the verse)
to the term "boundary"  (meitzar); The hint with this to the time of "Bein HaMetzarim".

The exact wording of Rashi in Eicha (1:3)"Bein HaMetzarim" - that there is a height from both sides


1. In the section dealing with the boundaries (in our Parsha) on the verse (Num. 34:2):

“This is the land which shall fall to you . . the land of Canaan according to its borders” ('זאת הארץ אשר תפול לכם גו' ארץ כנען לגבולותי)

We find a wondrous thing in Rashi in his commentary on Torah. For most of the times he does not use the tern border (גבול) (like the wording of the verse, that is used many times in this Parsha) but rather uses the word boundary (מצר)

  • In the verse (34:4): “The border then turns south etc.”

Rashi writes: "Whenever the term וְנָסַב (“turns”) or וְיָצָא (“extends to”) is used, it (Scripture) informs us that the boundary (המצר) was not straight, but veered outward; the boundary line bent to the north, angling westward, so that the boundary passed south . . within the boundary. (כל מקום שנאמר ונסב או ויצא מלמד שלא הי' המצר שוה כו' יוצא המצר כו' ועובר המצר כו' לפנים מן המצר)

(And also many times in Rashi’s words on this verse)

  • In the following verse (34:5): “The border then turns . . and its ends shall be to the sea” (ונסב הגבול גו' והיו תוצאותיו הימה)

Rashi writes: “and its ends shall be to the sea: To the western boundary etc.” (אל מצר המערב)

  • In the following verse (34:6): “this shall be your western border” (וגבול ים)

Rashi writes: “The western border: And what was the western boundary?” (ומצר מערבי מהו)

  • Also on that verse (34:6): “It shall be for you) the Great Sea “

Rashi writes: It shall be for you) the Great Sea: As a boundary. (והי' לכם הים הגדול — למצר)

  • In the following verse (34:7): “This shall be your northern border etc.”

Rashi writes: “northern border: Heb. גְּבוּל צָפוֹן, the northern boundary.” (גבול צפון — מצר צפון)

And also many other times in the following verses.

One must examine why Rashi changes from the wording of the verse and uses the word “boundaries/ מצר”. “borders/גבול” is a common word in the Chumash. Moreover- even Rashi has used this word many times.

  • In Parshat Noach on the verse: “And the border of the Canaanites”

Rashi writes: “the border of the Canaanites: Heb. גְּבוּל, the end of his land. Every mention of גְּבוּל denotes an end and an edge.”

  • And also in Parshat Tetzaveh on the verse “You shall make for the Choshen chains at the edges, of cable work, of pure gold“ (ועשית על החושן שרשות גבלות)

Rashi writes: “Every (instance of) גְּבוּל is an expression denoting an end . . limit”.

  • In Parshat Chukat on the verse “extending from the Amorite border “

Rashi writes:  “from the Amorite border: Heb. מִגְּבֻל הָאֱמֹרִי, the boundary at the edge of their territory. Similarly,“the border of Moab (גְּבוּל מוֹאָב),” a term denoting an edge and an end.”

Therefore why doesn’t Rashi suffice with the word “borders/גבול” and uses the word “boundaries/ מצר”, a word that we do not find other occurrences of, in the Chumash (and also not in Tanach, save for two times)

One must also examine Rashi’s words on the verse “This is the land etc.“ where he writes:

This is the land which shall fall to you: Since many precepts apply to the Land . . Scripture found it necessary to write the outer reaches of the borders of its perimeter“. (לפי שהרבה מצות נוהגות בארץ כו' הוצרך לכתוב מצרני גבולי רוחותי' סביב').

For plainly Rashi’s intent is that “borders” are “boundaries”. And this is difficult to understand since he should have said ““boundaries and “borders”” (or just “boundaries of its perimeter“). Whereas “outer reaches of the borders of its perimeter“ (מצרני גבולי רוחותי') implies “the boundaries of the borders of its perimeter“.

2. It appears plainly that:

The word “borders/גבול” has two meanings:

  1. The border and limit (end) of an area. (גבול וקצה (סוף) השטח) In other words the line that delineates between two areas.

This is like the wording of Rashi on the verse (Yitro 19:12): “Set bounds for the people around” where he writes:

“Set boundary markers (Techumin) for them as a sign so that they not come beyond the boundary”.

and also on the verse “You shall not pull back your neighbor's landmark“ (gevul) where he writes:

“he moves the boundary-mark of the land backwards etc.“

  1. It means the area itself that is within the borders. Like the verse on the plague of the frogs (Va’era 7:27): “I will plague all your borders (territories) with frogs“, where the intent of this is to the entire land of Egypt (and not just to the borders of the land around it).

And also the verse (Bo 13:7): "and no leaven may be seen in all your boundaries”, which means all the domain of the person.

 And so must one explain for many verses.

And we find also this in Rashi’s words like in our Parsha on the verse (33:54) “according to the tribes of your fathers, you shall inherit” (למטות אבותיכם תתנחלו) where he writes:

“With twelve territories, following the number of tribes“ (שנים עשר גבולין כמנין השבטים ). This means the twelve portions of areas (and not to the boundaries of the twelve portions of the land).

(And this does not contradict Rashi’s previous aforementioned commentaries that “Every (instance of) גְּבוּל is an expression denoting an end and limit”. For Rashi’s intent in those places is just to explain that the word “gevul/גבול“ is “an expression denoting an end and limit“. However, in many places in Scripture, he explains that the word “gevul/גבול“ is the area between the two lines, which is called “gevul”, since it is between the “borders” at its edges)

And this is why Rashi precisely states and specifically uses the term ““boundaries/ מצר”. For in the section of the “borders of the Land”, Scripture is coming to describe specific places of the line that separates between Eretz Yisroel to the diaspora. Like the verse describes, in detail, the manner of the stretching of the line of the border to all the four compass points. therefore Rashi uses the term “boundaries” specifically, to emphasize that here, the intent is not to the area that is within the border, but rather to the border itself, and like the meaning of the word ““boundaries/מצר” which is something that limits and bounds, in other words the “boundaries” of the land.

3. According to this, the precise wording and changes in Rashi’s comments on the verse  (34:6): “The western border: it shall be for you the Great (Mediterranean) Sea and the border ” where Rashi writes:

  1. The western border  (וגבול ים) : And what was the western boundary?” (ומצר מערבי מהו)
  2. “It shall be for you the Great Sea (והי' לכם הים הגדול): As a boundary. (והי' לכם הים הגדול — למצר)
  3. “and the border (וגבול): The islands (הנסין -האיים) in the sea are also included in the border (הנסין שבתוך הים אף הם מן הגבול)

are plainly resolved:

  • For in the first two comments, Rashi emphasizes that it is a term of “boundaries/מצר
  • Whereas in the third comment  he uses the word “gevul” from the verse, as he writes: “are also included in the border”.

According to the aforementioned it is understood.

For when it states:

  •  “The western border” (וגבול ים) - “The western boundary” (מצר מערבי)
  •  And “It shall be for you) the Great Sea “As a boundary” (למצר) (for from the sea inward Mitzvot are in effect)

However when it states afterward:  “and the border (וגבול)”,  which comes to include the “the islands (הנסין -האיים) in the sea“, the intent of this is not to describe the boundary of Eretz Yisroel, for the islands are not the boundary itself, but rather that from the extra words of the verse, we learn that even the islands in the sea are part of Eretz Yisroel (In other words it is as if they are within the borders of the Land), where Mitzvot are binding. Therefore Rashi uses the word “borders/Gevul”, which means (not the boundary of the land, but rather) the “borders/Gevul” - area that is within the “borders”.

And one could say that this is also the reason that on the verse “This is the land etc.” (in the beginning of this Parsha) Rashi writes “Scripture found it necessary to write the outer limits of its boundaries from all sides - מצרני גבולי רוחותי “ (and not “its boundaries and border” -  "מצרני וגבולי“) . For with this he is emphasizing that is possible to explain that  the word “Gevul” refers to the area between the borders. And the intent of “borders” (גבולותי) here, is to “boundaries” (מצרני) of the “borders/Gevul” (the area).

4. The words of the Shaloh have already been cited in many places, namely, that in Rashi’s commentary on Torah, there are “wondrous aspects” (ענינים מופלאים), even according to the style of Remez (allusion) and Derush (homily). Moreover, the words of the Shaloh are known, namely, that the Parshiot of the Torah, are related to the time that they occur. As has been explained, at length, the relationship between the Parshiot: Matot and Masei and Devarim to the Bein HaMetzarim (which always fall in the Bein HaMetzarim).

And one could say that this is the hint why Rashi uses the term “boundaries/מצר” instead of the term “borders”– to hint to the time that we read this Parsha, which is in the time of the Bein HaMetzarim.

Moreover, one could add that:

The word “Metzarim” in the context of “borders” is found in Scripture in Megilat Eichah (1:3) on the verse: “all her pursuers overtook her between the boundaries“ (כל רודפי' השיגוה בין המצרים ) (and as Rashi explains there that “boundaries” refer to “the boundaries of fields and vineyards”. And this is also a hint to the time of the Bein HaMetzarim, as the Sages state (and as is also cited in Rashi there –“between the seventeenth of Tammuz and the ninth of Av”).

One could explain the relation of the two aspects. For seemingly, they are contrary. In our Parsha it is speaking regarding the aspect of the boundaries (מצרני) of the land. Whereas there, it is referring to the aspect of the Churban etc.

The reason that there could be the aspect of the “Bein HaMetzarim” has its root in that which there is a boundary and limit to the holiness of the Land. For when the holiness of Eretz Yisroel is complete, then this holiness spreads throughout the entire world and there is no room for the aspect of Galut. However, when the holiness of Eretz Yisroel is not properly spread, but rather limited and within constraint, then there is room for the aspect of “Bein HaMetzarim”, in actuality.

5. On a deeper level, one could say that:

The reason that Rashi uses the term “boundaries/ מצר”, is because his intent is to allude also to the virtue and the loftiness of the borders of the land (even though, seemingly, they limit the spreading of the holiness of the land, for until here, it comes and no further).

And this can be understood according to that which is cited in the glosses (reshimot) of the Tzemach Tzedek on Megillat Eichah where he explains there the verses of Eichah, in a positive context. Namely that they are extremely lofty blessings.

He also explains the verse: “Yehuda went into exile etc. (גָּלְתָה יְהוּדָה)“ that  the word  “exile“ is also a word that means “revelation” (גלתה לשון גילוי). Therefore, “Yehuda went into exile etc. (גָּלְתָה יְהוּדָה)“ represents the revelation of the level of Yehuda, for in the future Yehuda will be higher that Yosef”. And (the conclusion of the verse): “all her pursuers overtook her between the boundaries“ (והשיגוה בין המצרים) means that  “though contemplating how all of the worlds are just one drop etc. - through this it is drawn from the level of “From the straits (I called G-d)” (מִן הַמֵּצַר) (Tehillim 118:5).

From this it is understood that the “Bein HaMetzarim” is like the aspect of “From the straits I called G-d; G-d answered me with a vast expanse“ (מן המצר קראתי י"ה ענני במרחב י"ה), which is the constraint that leads to true expanse (ההרחבה האמיתית) - vast expanse (מרחב י"ה).

And one could say that this aspect is also alluded to in Rashi’s words on the verse: “all her pursuers overtook her between the boundaries“, where Rashi writes:

between the boundaries (Bein HaMetzarim): where there is a high place on either side, and there is no place to flee“. (שיש גובה מכאן ומכאן ואין מקום לנוס)

For seemingly, Rashi should have uses the word “barrier/geder” (גדר),

(Like the verse (Balak 22:24): “a barrier at either side“).

However, Rashi is alluding with this, to the inner meaning of the “Bein HaMetzarim”, namely that it is an aspect of loftiness. For “From the straits” (מן המצר) of the “Bein HaMetzarim”, one attains the true “height” - vast expanse (מרחב י"ה).

 And this is also the inner reason for the change of the two terms ““borders/גבול” or “boundaries/ מצר”:

The root of the aspect of a “border” is G-d’s Light that limits and contracts (המוגבל והמצומצם). However, the aspect of ““boundaries/מצר”” is the opposite. Its root is in the unrestrained light of G-d (באורו הבלתי­מוגבל של הקב"ה). However the way for a person (who is limited) to be able to attain the revelation of this unrestrained light, is only when he calls out “From the straits (מִן הַמֵּצַר)”.  

(Namely that he feels his lack of his being and incomparability with respect to G-d; and that “the entire world is just one drop”).   

For then the “From the straits (מִן הַמֵּצַר)” comes to “vast expanse (מרחב י"ה)”.

And this is what Rashi is precisely saying . For although the verse states “This is the land . . according to its borders” , the aspect of these borders are not an aspect of restriction and limitation, but rather an aspect of strait (מֵּצַר)”. For through the aspect of strait, the “vast expanse (מרחב י"ה)” is revealed. Namely that within these limitations, the true expanse of “vast expanse (מרחב י"ה)”  is drawn down.

(and this also comes into expression even with regard to the physicality of the land, as the Sages state that Eretz Yisroel is like “land of the deer” (Note: a play on the word 'Tzvi', which means either 'glorious' or 'deer'), like the skin of the deer etc. (Note: which cannot hold its flesh after it is skinned, so is Eretz Yisroel - when it is inhabited can find room but when it is not inhabited it contracts)).

6. According to this, one can explain (in the Pnimiyut of the matter) another aspect in Rashi’s comment here:

On the verse “This is the land. . according to its borders” , Rashi explains that the reason that the verse specifies the borders of the Land is because:

“many precepts apply to the Land (of Israel) . . Scripture found it necessary to chart the outer limits of its boundaries from all sides, to inform you that the precepts apply everywhere within these borders. “.

This is seemingly puzzling. Why doesn’t Rashi explain it simply, namely that the reason that Scripture writes the borders of the land is because it is necessary for the conquest of the Land – to know what is the inheritance of Yisroel?

And the (inner) explanation of this is:

The borders of the Land are, seemingly, an aspect of limitation. Therefore, on this Rashi explains and reveals that, through the aspect of the Mitzvot that are fulfilled in Eretz Yisroel, the aspect of the “borders/limitations” are transformed to “boundaries/expanse” - the outer limits of its boundaries from all sides”. For even though seemingly, there is an aspect of “limitation”, nevertheless, it is an aspect of “expanse” that brings along “vast expanse (מרחב י"ה)”.

For this is the aspect of Mitzvot:

For although Mitzvot were specifically given with measure and limitation, this limitation is not an aspect of true limitation, but rather, on the contrary, specifically through the performance of Mitzvot according to the limits of the Torah, one is able to come, through this, to the “vast expanse (מרחב י"ה)”. Namely that there is a connection and attachment (צוותא וחיבור) with G-d’s Essence and Being, the Commander of the Mitzvah.

M'Sichas Motzai Shabbat Parshat Matot-Masei 5739


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