Out of fear for his life in Grar, Yitzchok said that Rivkah was his
sister. After Yitzchok had lived there for some time ('ki archu lo shom
hayomim'), King Avimelech looked closely ('vayashkeif') and saw ('vayar')
that Yitzchok was 'metzacheik' with Rivkah, demonstrating that Rivkah was,
in fact, his wife. (26:7,8)
Rashi, explaining 'ki archu lo shom hayomim', says that after having lived
there and there being nothing, seemingly, to be concerned about, Yitzchok
let down his guard and 'lo nizhar lihiyos nishmar' - he wasn't careful to
take precautions. Rashi says, further (under the heading 'vayashkeif'),
that Avimelech witnessed Yitzchak being engaged in marital relations.
1. Why does the pasuk say Avimelech both (i) looked closely/vayashkeif and
(ii) saw/vayar, a somewhat redundant formulation.
2. Why does Rashi say 'lo nizhar lihiyos nishmar/he wasn't careful to take
precautions', also a somewhat redundant formulation.
3. Rashi's headings (dibur hamatchil) are very precise. Why does Rashi use
the heading 'vayashkeif' for the explanation of what Avimelech witnessed;
this explanation belongs under a 'metzacheik' heading.
Beyond these questions we can also ask a threshhold question: How is it
possible that Yitzchok would have been 'metzacheik' in a way that could be
seen by outsiders, whether or not he thought the locals were suspicious?
The Zohar's answer to this threshhold question is that Avimelech did not
physically witness anything; rather he peered into the astrological signs
to see if he could determine the relationship between Yitzchok and Rivkah.
Vayashkeif means he consulted with the messages contained in the stars and
perceived this detail about Yitzchok.
Based on this Zohar the Maskil L'Dovid answers the three questions above.
Avimelech first undertook to consult with the astrological signs
(vayashkeif) and, upon investigating, 'saw' ('vayar') or perceived through
this medium that Yitzchok was 'metzacheik'. This explains the use of both
vayashkeif and vayar. Rashi explains what Avimelech saw under the
heading 'Vayashkeif' because it was only through this medium that he
perceived this detail about Yitzchok. But any physical perception of this
detail is unthinkable.
According to the Zohar, why didn't Avimelech see this in the stars until
now? At the time when Yitzchok's guard was still up we can imagine that he
knew of Avimelech's ability to gaze into the stars to glean information
about people. Accordingly, Yitzchok had to counter-act, perhaps by
uttering certain names of HaShem or using other methods to block or jam
Avimelech's 'reception'. Now that Yitzchok's guard was down, however, he
no longer took those precautions. Therefore Rashi says both 'lo nizhar'
and 'lihiyos nishmar': Lo nizhar, he wasn't careful any more; 'lihiyos
nishmar', to take the precautions he had been taking - taking action to
interfere with Avimelech's ability to 'see' in the stars.