The JPS Rashi Discussion Torah Commentary

By Steven; Sarah Levy | Go to book overview

ḤUKKAT

❖ Outsider-Insider Relations

While hospitality to guests is an important element of Jewish life, this topic is usually considered from the host’s perspective. An episode from Parashat Ḥukkat, however, presents an opportunity to consider hospitality from the guest’s point of view. In the Jews’ final year of desert travels, as they prepare to enter the Land of Israel, they request permission to pass through territory held by the king of Edom, a descendant of Jacob’s brother, Esau.

Allow us, then, to cross your country. We will not pass
through fields or vineyards, and we will not drink water
from wells. We will follow the king’s highway, turning off
neither to the right nor to the left until we have crossed
your territory. (Num. 20:17)

Rashi clarifies the nature of this request:

and we will not drink water from wells: It should have [in-
stead] said “cistern water” [since that was the water that
would have been available along the route]. Rather, this
is what Moses said: “Although we have in our possession
manna to eat and well [water] to drink, we will not drink
from it; rather, we will buy food and drink from you, for your
benefit.” From here [we learn] that even though a guest may
have provisions in his possession, he should buy from the
shopkeeper [in alternative texts, “homeowner”] in order to
benefit his host. (Rashi, Num. 20:17)

Rashi says that even though the Jews possessed ample food and water, they nevertheless offered to purchase these provisions from the nation of Edom in order to benefit their hosts.

Typically, when someone has invited a guest to his or her home, it is appropriate for the invitee to offer a small gift or otherwise acknowledge the host’s generosity. The circumstances of this parashah present an even more compelling case for the “guest” to exhibit sensitivity: the king of Edom does not invite the Jews to pass through his territory; the Jews request the privilege. They are turned down, despite their offer to buy their provisions from their hosts and their promise not to veer off the road. Even offering benefits, as suggested by Rashi, may not be sufficient incentive when the host is hostile to a would-be guest’s request.

More generally, Rashi touches on the dynamic between outsiders and locals. In our day this issue commonly arises when towns near big cities start to attract well-heeled urbanites who seek a home in a more pastoral setting, or chain stores threaten to replace mom-and-pop retailers. The residents may feel that “foreigners” with opposing agendas are threatening their way of life. By showing sensitivity to the existing residents, the

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The JPS Rashi Discussion Torah Commentary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction - Introducing Rashi xv
  • Genesis 1
  • Bere’shit 3
  • NoaḤ 6
  • Lekh Lekha 9
  • Va-Yera’ 12
  • Hayyei Sarah 15
  • Toledot 18
  • Va-Yetse’ 21
  • Va-YishlaḤ 24
  • Va-Yeshev 27
  • Mikkets 30
  • Va-Yiggash 33
  • Va-YeḤi 36
  • Exodus 39
  • Shemot 41
  • Val-‘Era’ 44
  • Bo’ 47
  • Be-ShallaḤ 50
  • Yitro 53
  • Mishpatim 56
  • Terumah 59
  • Tetsavveh 62
  • Ki Tissa’ 65
  • Va-Yak’Hel 68
  • Pekudei 71
  • Leviticus 75
  • Va-Yikra’ 77
  • Tsav 80
  • Shemini 83
  • Tazria’ 86
  • Metsora’ 90
  • ’AḤarei Mot 93
  • Kedoshim 97
  • ‘Emor 100
  • Be-Har 103
  • Be-Ḥukkotai 106
  • Numbers 111
  • Be-Midbar 113
  • Naso’ 116
  • Be-Ha’Alotekha 120
  • ShelaḤ-Lekha 123
  • KoraḤ 127
  • Ḥukkat 130
  • Balak 134
  • PinḤas 138
  • Mattot 141
  • Mase’Ei 144
  • Deuteronomy 147
  • Devarim 149
  • Va-EtḤannan 152
  • ‘Ekev 156
  • Re’Eh 160
  • Shofetim 163
  • Ki Tetse’ 167
  • Ki Tavo’ 171
  • Nits Avim/Va-Yelekh 174
  • Ha’Azinu 177
  • Ve-Zo’t Ha-Berakhah 181
  • Subject Index 185
  • Index of Sources 189
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