I HAVE A STUDY ON MY WEBSITE CALLED "DO WE LOOK TO THE JEWS FOR INTERPRETING THE BIBLE"
READ THE FOLLOWING AND I WILL ANSWER - Keith Hunt
The Torah discusses the laws of a person who could not bring the Pascal offering because he was either ritually impure or because he was at a distance from the Mishkan (or in later generations from the Temple.). He is to offer his Passover sacrifice a month later, on the 14th of Iyar.
"Speak to the Children of Israel saying: Any man of you or of your generations who will be impure or is on a distant way nevertheless, he shall bring the Passover sacrifice to Hashem."
Or on a distant way: Rashi: There is a dot on the letter "heh" ( in the word "Rechoka' ("distant") which means that the letter is then regarded as non-existent) and this tells us that the Torah means that the way need not really be a distant one but merely outside the threshold of the forecourt during the time of the sacrificing of the Passover offering.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
Rashi explains the meaning of the dot on top of the letter 'heh' in the word "rechoka" which we find in the Torah scroll. Whenever a word has one or more dots on the top it the Talmudic Sages interpret the significance of this strange phenomenon. The rule is that when the majority of the letters of a word have dots above them, then the meaning of just these letters is interpreted. When a minority of the letters of a word have the dots, then only the undotted letters are interpreted.
So in our case, only one letter is dotted, so it is dropped and the word is read without the letter. The word that remains is "Rachok" which also means "distant" but is the masculine form of the word.
Rashi tells us the significance of this. It teaches us that the words "a distant way" refer to a subjective distance and not an objective one. So the person need not actually be distant from the Temple to be excused from bringing the Pascal offering, as long as he is merely outside the entrance of the Temple he is excused, since that "distance" was far enough for him to be delayed in making the sacrifice. The journey itself was not distant; the man was.
The meaning of this interpretation is based on the fact that the Hebrew word "way " ("derech") is feminine while the word "Ish" ("man") is masculine. Therefore once the letter "heh" is dropped, the word "distant" becomes a masculine adjective and refers back to "man" and not to " way."
Considering the rules of dots on top of letters in the Torah this is a reasonable interpretation.
But for a deeper understanding let us look at the Midrashic source of Rashi's comment.
THE MIDRASHIC SOURCE
In the Tractate Pesachim (93a) we find a dispute between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer on this issue. Rabbi Akiva says that the distance is as far as the town "Modiin." Which is about 15 miles from Jerusalem. While Rabbi Eliezer says (based on the dot interpretation) that the distance here is only beyond the threshold of the Temple entrance.
The problem is that Rashi has chosen Rabbi Eliezer's interpretation which is nether the law nor the closest to the simple meaning (p'shat) of the verse. Why would Rashi do that?
Can you think of an answer?
A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF RASHI
An Answer: It would seem that Rabbi Akiva's simple interpretation of the word "rechoka" as objectively distant (until Modiim) would be the one that Rashi should have chosen for his commentary, sine Rashi prefers p'shat interpretations. But he does not choose Rabbi Akiva's interpretation because Rashi characteristically sees p'shat in a unique way. He sees p'shat through the eyes of the Sages. And since the Sages have a rule about interpreting words that have dots on top of them, then Rashi too bases his interpretation on this principle. So Rashi is left with the word "rachok" (without the letter "heh" at the end) which must refer to a masculine noun - that is to "man" and not to "way." This interpretation also finds some support in the Torah text itself. See verse 13 where it refers to way but does not mention the word "distant." This would support Rabbi Eliezer's view that the journey need not actually be "distant.".
So Rashi has chosen the p'shat interpretation considering the Sages' principle about interpreting the dots on top of letters in the Torah.
My Daughter, Elisheva, has suggested another answer to the question: Why did Rashi not choose rabbi Akiva's interpretation (distance means "until Modiim") since it seems closest to p'shat and since the hahlacha is like Rabbi Akiva.
Her answer is that the verse (9:10) says :" Any man of you or of your generations" ( see the complete verse above) . Now the distance of Modiim is about 15 miles from Jerusalem while the complete Camp of Israel in the wilderness was only 12 miles square (see Rashi in the book of Joshua). So the verse cannot possibly mean "until the distance of Modiim" as Rabbi Akiva said because Moses was speaking to "YOU" (meaning this GENERATION in the wilderness) and future generations." So this generation had no Jews living at that distance (15 miles) from the Mishkan! So even according to p'shat Rabbi Eliezer (who says beyond the entrance of the Mishkan) would seem to fit the verse better than Rabbi Akiva.
I think that's a brilliant answer, even I do say so myself!
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at Judaica bookstores.
HIS DAUGHTER WAS ON THE RIGHT PATH.
IT IS A JOKE EVEN AMONG JEWS: ASK 3 JEWS A QUESTION AND YOU'LL GET 3 DIFFERENT ANSWERS.
THE IDEA OF "INTERPRETING" DOTS, DASHES, SQUIGGLES, AND WHATEVER IN HEBREW LETTERS IS STRANGE TO PUT IT MILDLY, AND TO PUT IT BLUNTLY: CRAZY, NUTTY, ABSURD, FANATICAL, RIDICULOUS, AND JUST BIZARRE.
WELL IT WOULD MEAN YOU'D HAVE TO KNOW HEBREW FOR STARTERS; SECOND, DIFFERENT IDEAS COULD COME FROM DIFFERENT PEOPLE AS TO WHAT THIS DOT MEANS, OR WHAT TWO DOTS MEAN, OR THIS SLIGHT SQUIGGLE [BACK TO 3 JEWS WITH 3 ANSWERS TO ONE QUESTION]. THIRD, IT WOULD MEAN GOD HAS HIDDEN THE SECRETS OF UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE IN A KIND OF "CODE" FORM, AND ONLY THE "LEARNED" OF THIS CODE COULD UNDERSTAND THE OLD TESTAMENT.
SUCH A THEOLOGY IS IN THE FANATIC RANGE OF IDEAS.
GOD HAS NOT WRITTEN THE BIBLE IN A WAY ONLY "SCHOLARS" OF A CERTAIN CODE THEOLOGY CAN UNDERSTAND IT.
GOD DID INSPIRE THE BIBLE TO BE WRITTEN IN HEBREW AND GREEK, BUT IT WAS THE COMMON HEBREW AND GREEK OF THE TIMES; NOT SOME "HIGHER LEARNING" HEBREW AND GREEK. THEN GOD IN THESE LAST "EX" HUNDREDS OF YEARS IN THE LATTER END, INSPIRED THE BIBLE TO BE SENT AROUND THE EARTH IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. HE HAD DOZENS OF SCHOLARS IN HEBREW AND GREEK, IN THE TIME OF KING JAMES, TRANSLATE THE BIBLE INTO THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE HAS BECOME THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF THIS ENTIRE EARTH.
THE KJV TRANSLATORS HAVE GIVEN THE HEBREW AND GREEK ABOUT 99 PERCENT CORRECTLY INTO ENGLISH. THE 1 % IS EASY TO PROVE WRONG [SUCH AS "EASTER" GIVEN INSTEAD OF "PASSOVER" IN ACTS 12; THE GREEK READS "PASCHA" - OTHER ERRORS ARE TO DO WITH PUNCTUATION - THERE WAS NO PUNCTUATION AT ALL IN THE HEBREW AND GREEK MSS OF THE BIBLE].
JESUS SAID, UNLESS YOU BECOME AS LITTLE CHILDREN YOU CANNOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD; THE MAIN POINTS OF SALVATION AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD CAN BE UNDERSTOOD BY CHILDREN OF 9, 10, 11 ETC. THEN TO PASS THE MILK STAGE INTO THE MEAT, YOU "SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES" AS JESUS SAID TO DO; YOU FIND ALL THE VERSES ON ANY GIVEN SUBJECT FOR THE FULL TRUTH OF THAT SUBJECT.
YOU DO NOT NEED A PhD IN THEOLOGY TO UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE. YOU DO NOT NEED TO FIGURE HIDDEN CODES ARE IN THE BIBLE, AND ONLY CERTAIN ONES CAN INTERPRET THE BIBLE CORRECTLY.
THIS "JEWISH" CODE UNDERSTANDING IS IN THE SAME BOAT WITH THE GUY IN CHURCH HISTORY CALLED ORIGEN [185-254 A.D.] WHO "ALLEGORIZED" JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING IN THE BIBLE. SO THINGS DID NOT MEAN WHAT THEY SAID. WITH SUCH THEOLOGY IT IS TRUE WHAT SKEPTICS OF THE BIBLE SAY, "YOU CAN PROVE ANYTHING YOU LIKE BY THE BIBLE."
NOW WHAT ABOUT NUMBERS 9:9-11 ?
IT IS THE VERSES ABOUT OBSERVING THE PASSOVER IN THE SECOND MONTH ON THE 14TH. IT WAS GIVEN BY GOD BECAUSE OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD OF MAN, WHERE THINGS CAN HAPPEN TO PREVENT A ONE ONLY DATE OBSERVANCE. SO GOD GAVE THE PASSOVER ANOTHER TIME TO BE OBSERVED, IF THE FIRST DATE COULD NOT BE OBSERVED.
IF WE WERE TO PUT THESE VERSES INTO MODERN PHRASING, WITH THE BASIC UNDERSTANDING THAT GOD KNEW SOME WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO OBSERVE THE PASSOVER IN THE FIRST MONTH ON THE 14TH; WE COULD WRITE IT: "AND THE LORD SPAKE UNTO MOSES, SAYING. SPEAK UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, SAYING, IF ANY PERSON OF YOU OR YOUR GROUP SHALL NOT BE ABLE TO KEEP THE PASSOVER IN THE FIRST MONTH [for reasons such as being unclean through the unclean laws I have given you, or in a journey too far away], THEN THEY SHALL KEEP THE PASSOVER IN THE SECOND MONTH AT EVENING SHALL THEY OBSERVE IT......"
THE WHOLE CONTEXT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY PHYSICAL TOWN OR CITY. READING INTO IT THAT IT DOES MEANS YOU HAVE TO COME UP WITH SOME BIZARRE "CODE" UNDERSTANDING THAT GOD NEVER INTENDED.
WHAT THE ETERNAL IS INTENDING IS AS SIMPLE AS IT READS: THERE MAY BE [TWO ARE GIVEN AS EXAMPLES] TIMES WHEN PEOPLE CAN NOT OBSERVE THE PASSOVER IN THE FIRST MONTH. ANOTHER EXAMPLE WOULD BE "GIVING BIRTH" - A WOMAN MAY GO INTO BIRTHING ON THE VERY EVENING OF THE 14TH OF THE FIRST MONTH. ANOTHER EXAMPLE WOULD BE SEVERE SICKNESS WHERE YOU CAN NOT GET OUT OF BED, OR YOU HAVE COME DOWN WITH A SICKNESS THAT NEEDS YOU TO BE QUARANTINED - SEPARATED FROM OTHERS FOR A TIME.
TO PUT THESE VERSES INTO A MODERN CONTEXT I AM SURE YOU CAN THINK OF OTHER SITUATIONS, THAT MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR SOMEONE TO OBSERVE THE PASSOVER ON THE 14TH OF THE FIRST MONTH.
SO GOD GAVE ANOTHER TIME YOU COULD OBSERVE THE PASSOVER - THE 14TH OF THE SECOND MONTH.
OKAY, THE QUESTION ARISES; WHAT IT YOU CAN NOT OBSERVE IT THEN EITHER? ANSWER: THEN FOR THAT YEAR YOU CAN NOT OBSERVE THE PASSOVER; GOD ONLY GAVE TWO DATES FOR PASSOVER OBSERVANCE. HE FULLY UNDERSTANDS YOUR HEART, IF FOR SOME ODD REASON YOU CANNOT OBSERVE THE PASSOVER ON THE TWO DATES HE GAVE. THERE IS ANOTHER YEAR, NEXT YEAR...... IF YOU DON'T LIVE TILL NEXT YEAR..... AGAIN GOD UNDERSTANDS YOUR HEART..... NO PROBLEM WITH HIM.
SO DO YOU NOW SEE THE SIMPLICITY OF ALL THIS IN NUMBERS 9 AND THE SECOND PASSOVER DATE?
AH, PUT ALL THIS TO A CHILD OF SAY 9 OR 10 AND THEY WILL UNDERSTAND IT; THE PRINCIPLE BEHIND GOD GIVING A SECOND DATE FOR PASSOVER OBSERVANCE IS SIMPLE; FOR SOME REASON YOU CAN'T OBSERVE IT IN THE FIRST MONTH, YOU CAN OBSERVE IT IN THE SECOND MONTH ON THE EVENING OF THE 14TH.