According to rashi's drash explanation (taken from :סוטה יב) of שמות ב:ו ד״ה ותפתח ותראהו how can השכינה, a grammatically feminine word, refer back to the masculine objective suffix הו-? Perhaps rashi brought this explanation second over his pshat possibly because of this weakness (viz. the lack of grammatical concordance). Can drash explanations such as this transcend the realm of grammar?

If we say these two letters are a masculine name of Hashem then why couldn't rashi just have referred directly to that name and bypass the grammatical gender agreement issue?


The gra on the pasuk writes "she saw 'hu'," the lashon of heh and vav is a shem Hashem (gemara shabbos), with him. Hence the masculine language.

  • 1
    While the GRA's pshat may offer another explanation for the masculine suffix it does not answer how rashi (quoting gemara sota) can relate the grammatically feminine noun שכינה with the masculine objective suffix in attached to ותראה.
    – הבלשן
    Jan 22 '17 at 18:32
  • Great point, I was focusing more on understanding the pasuk than in trying to fit in the grammatical part within Rashi. Sorry, I'm not sure!
    – NJM
    Jan 22 '17 at 22:03

Can drash explanations such as this transcend the realm of grammar?

Although the other answers already posted here are no doubt correct, the fact is that, yes, d'rashos frequently are despite rather than in line with grammar. As just one example, in that same passage, the same person sent her servant, amasah, and the d'rasha indicates that she sent her arm, amasah. But the word in the Chumash is אֲמָתָהּ, with a chataf patach under the alef and (thus) no gemination on the mem, which clearly does not mean "her arm". ("Her arm" would be אַמָּתָהּ, with a patach under the alef and gemination on the mem.)

  • may be that the vowels are less relevant than the letters, I don't know? Em la mikra? Em lamasoret.
    – kouty
    Jan 22 '17 at 18:55

Sota 12b cites in full:

ותפתח ותראהו את הילד - ותרא מיבעי ליה? א"ר יוסי ברבי חנינא: שראתה שכינה עמו

"She opened [it] and she saw him the child" - It should be "and she saw"? Rabbi Yossi bar Chanina said: [It means] that she saw the [divine] presence with him.

Rabbi Yossi Bar Chanina is pointing out that "ותראהו את הילד" translates as "and she saw him/Him with the child" not as "and she saw the child" which would instead be written "ותרא את הילד". ("את" often can be translated as "with".) Rabbi Yossi Bar Chanina is indicating that the "Him" is actually G-d.

G-d's presence in this world (e.g. "with the child") is typically formulated with the word "shechina" which means "presence". Contextually, it is typically used to indicate "divine presence" i.e. a manifestation of divine expression in this world. It does not represent a separate, animate entity, which would be an idolatrous idea according to traditional Judaism (which is why popular mistranslations of the phrase as in this passage as "the Shechina" are perhaps not only misleading, but indicative of the influence of outside religious beliefs).

  • Why then is the verb שרה, which is often used with השכינה always conjugated in the feminine form (i.e. שרתה) as opposed to שרה? All the words referring to it should still grammatically agree with it regardless how how it is manifest. If only in context it refers to the "divine presence" then words in context are still governed by proper grammar. If the Torah were referring to the masculine "Him" aspect of Hashem then why didn't rashi or the Gemara indicate that? What is your מקור for your explanation of the gemara on this pasuk?
    – הבלשן
    Jan 22 '17 at 18:53

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