(C) July 2006, RashiYomi Incorporated
This lesson is part of the Rashi Short Guide, the HTML-Book version, (C) July 2006, RashiYomi Incorporated. The entire HTML Book is located on the World Wide Web, at http://www.Rashiyomi.com/RashiShortGuideHTMLBook.zip and is a free download.


Lesson 2 of 6


Example 3.2
GRAMMAR - noun-verb


We start this 2nd lesson by reviewing one of the Word Meaning methods we learned last time---the noun-verb rule.

Recall that we outlined 3 methods by which nouns (objects) can become verbs (activities). Three illustrative examples are to dust which means to to remove the dust, to flower which means to create the flower, and to hammer which means to use the hammer.

Example 3.2: Verse Ex01-07a states And the people of Israel were fruitful, and Shin Resh Tzade, and increased and became exceedingly exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them. Before turning to Rashi I asked the class to apply the noun-verb rule to the Hebrew Shin Resh Tzade.

The class, after a little bit of prodding, correctly identified Shin Resh Tzade as meaning insect. I next asked for a verb form of the noun insect which indicated prolific reproduction.

The class, after a little bit of prodding, correctly came up with the verb form to insectify or to swarm indicating prolific reproduction like insects. Hence we would translate the verse as follows: And the people of Israel were fruitful, and insectified and swarmed, and increased and became exceedingly exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.

Now let us turn to Rashi. Rashi literally says They had 6 children at a time. Rashi says nothing further about how he derived this. My opinion is that the primary derivation of Rashi is from an application of the noun-verb rule indicating that the Jews swarmed or insectfied. Since the maximum number of children that a women can have is sextuplets Rashi uses the production of sextuplets to illustrate the verses meaning.

Rashi could not have meant that every Jewess had sextuplets since we find that Amram, Moses' father had only 3 children! (This refutation of Rashi's literal meaning was suggested to my by my younger sister when she was in grade school)

    One traditional approach to explaining Rashi uses a word counting approach. The verse Ex01-07 uses six distinct phrases to describe the reproduction of the Jews: And the people of Israel were
  1. fruitful, and
  2. swarmed and
  3. increased and became
  4. exceedingly
  5. exceedingly
  6. mighty and the land was filled with them.

The traditional defense of Rashi argues that Since the verse used six distinct phrases to describe the proliferation of the Jews we infer that the Jews had six children at a time.

I believe the explanation that I have presented above, the Jews insectified, connoting reproducing like insects, I believe that this explanation fully explains the Rashi and the associated facts. Furthermore it explains the Rashi in a meaningful and reasonable way using a simple grammatical rule that can be applied again and again.


Example 6.2
WORD MEANINGS - synonyms


As mentioned earlier a major concern of Rashi, or for that matter, any commentator, is the clarification of Word Meaning. Rashi had 10 methods by which to explain word meaning. In this example we review the synonym method.

When explaining words using the synonym method Rashi does not give us the meaning of an unknown word: Rather, Rashi contrasts the meaning of two known words with similar meanings--- that is, two synonyms. This clarification can equally take place in Hebrew or English. The examples will further clarify this principle.

Example 6.2a: Observe the two words for cooking utensil in the following verses. Lv02-05a And if your sacrifice is a meal offering baked in a frying pan, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mixed with oil. Lv02-07a And if your sacrifice is a meal offering baked in a pot, it shall be made of fine flour with oil. The comments of Rashi have already been incorporated into the English translations of the text. A frying pan is a flat cooking utensil while a pot is a deep cooking utensil.

I have suggested the English translations pot vs. frying pan. However one of the (female) students in the class (with more culinary experience) suggested pot vs. griddle.

In this example we implemented our goal of understanding Rashi methods by seeking a nifty English translation that has just the right tone to capture what Rashi is saying. We call this the method of finding semantic models. This method was first advocated in my article, Peshat and Derash: A New Intuitive Analytic Approach which appeared in the journal Tradition and is located on the world wide web at http://www.RashiYomi.com/rashi.pdf.

Example 6.2b: A similar synonym example occurs in Ex05-07a,b You shall no more give the people gravel to make bricks, as till now; let them go and gather gravel for themselves. I would suggest the English synonyms bricks vs. gravel/mortar; that is the verse describes two components in the production of bricks-- (a) gravel-(b) bricks.

The synonym method is easy to apply and understand. Nevertheless it deeply enriches our understanding of the Biblical text. Note that in the above example we have slightly stretched the ordinary meaning of synonyms to include two distinct parts of one process ((a)gravel, (b) bricks).


Example 7.2
STYLE - general-detail


Till now we have discussed meaning and grammar rules. These are the types of rules that you expect from a commentator.

In this next example we introduce the style rules. Here the inference is from the style of the verse rather then from word meaning or grammar.

    Example 7.2a: Ex01-11b states Therefore they did set over them tax-masters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. To understand Rashi we first indicate the verse's style. Rashi in effect reads the verse as follows:
  • General: They did set over them tax-masters to afflict them with their burdens.
  • Detail: And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.

Rashi's comment on this verse is as follows: General They did set over them tax-masters to afflict them with their burdens. And what was the tax they afflicted them with? Detail: And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.

We can reformulate this Rashi comment as a comment on style: In the above verse the general idea is that Egypt placed tax-masters over the Jews. This idea is general and could refer to many things such as monetary taxes, produce taxes, labor taxes. Rashi identifies this tax with a particular detail given by the verse---a labor tax to build cities

Let us give some other examples of this general-detail style rule.

    Example 7.2b: Dt06-05:06a states
  • General: And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
  • Detail: And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart.
Hence the Rashi comment: Love is a General concept? How do you love God? By learning and reviewing the law and memorizing them by heart.

    Example 7.2c: Nu05-12d:13 states
  • General: Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them, If any manís wife goes astray, and commits a trespass against him,
  • Detail: And a man lies with her carnally, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and this is kept undetected, and she is defiled, and there is no witness against her, since she was not caught in the act.

Hence the Rashi comment Marital Trespass is a general concept. The verse therefore identifies the details of this trespass as consisting of adultery (a man lie with her carnally).

In each of the above verse examples a general concept was presented: taxing a nation, love of God, trespassing a marriage. The general idea has a wide variety of applicability. Rashi however identifies the general idea with the details provided by the verse: taxing by building a city, loving God by learning his laws, trespassing a marriage by committing adultery.

We can summarize this by stating that Rashi interprets the general-detail style as indicating a continuum: We don't interpret love God and learn his law but rather we interpret love God by learning his law We don't interpret She both trespassed her marriage and committed adultery but rather we interpret she trespassed her marriage by committing adultery We don't interpret they overburdened the Jews and had them build cities but rather interpret they taxed the Jews by having them build cities

The astute reader may have noticed that this style rule of Rashi is in fact identical with one of the Rabbi Ishmael exegetical rules. The Rabbi Ishmael exegetical rules may be found in the morning prayers of the daily prayer service. There we read If there is a general clause followed by a detail clause then the verse is interpreted according to the detail clause.


Example 8.2
CONTRADICTION - 2 aspects


Perhaps the most famous of the 13 exegetical rules of Rabbi Ishmael, which are included in the Daily Prayers, and found in the early part of the morning service, is the Contradiction rule.

    Quite simply the contradiction rule is applied when two Biblical verses (seem to) contradict each other. Rashi, following the Talmud had 3 methods for resolving these contradictions
  • 2 Stages: The two contradictory verses could be resolved by seeing them as two stages of a process.
  • 2 Aspects: The two contradictory verses could be resolved by seeing them as two different attributes of an item.
  • Broad-literal: The two contradictory verses could be resolved by using broad vs. literal translations.

In teaching contradictions I find it helpful to see the contradiction, that is, to show the Biblical reader that (s)he really does not know which of two competing alternatives to apply. We present two examples.

    Example 8.2a: Notice the contradiction in the following verses
  • Ex01-12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And Egypt hated the people of Israel.
  • Ex01-16 And Pharoh said, When you do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.

We see the contradiction! Which is it? Were all Jews hated or only the males?

    Rashi resolves this contradiction by using the two aspects method of resolution
  • The People hated all Jews
  • But Pharoh, a leader could not indulge in emotions! He had to have a reason for hatred! Hence he killed males because he was politically concerned that a redeemer for the Jews would come from the males.

Notice how the resolution of Rashi uses two aspects of Egypt: a) the nation vs. b) the leader. Also notice how we used 2 aspects of hatred: the emotional vs. the political aspect.

    Example 8.2b: Notice the contradiction in the following verse, Ex02-06a,b, which deals with the discovery by Pharoh's daughter of Moses who had been left in a casket on Nile.
  • Ex02-06a: She opened the basket and saw the child
  • Ex02-06b: and she heard a young man crying.

Which is it? Did she find a child or a young man.

    Rashi resolves this contradiction by using the two aspects method of resolution
  • in age Moses was a child or infant but
  • in demeanor Moses was a young man.

I would explain Rashi as follows: Moses had been hidden for three months in his parents household. Undoubtedly Moses was prevented from excessive crying. Hence when Pharoh's daughter saw this child in the basket on the Nile, a child who hadn't eaten in a while, she was startled that his crying was with restraint, much like an adult and unlike an infant who doesn't know any better and cries excessively till (s)he obtains what (s)he wanted This restraint had a certain regality to it which struck the young princess and made her want Moses for her own.


Example 9.2
FORMAT - bullets


To illustrate the FORMAT - bullet rule we present a verse reformatted in modern notation with bullets. The presentation will enable us to see how the Biblical Author indicates a bullet effect. It will also allow us to understand the basic idea of Rashi that the Bible was indicating a bullet effect.

    Example 9.2a: Ex18-10: reformatted in modern notation states And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, who has saved you
  1. from the hand of the Egyptians, and
  2. from the hand of Pharaoh

    Rashi reformulated in modern notation states The bullets create an unspecified emphasis. The bullets teach us that two things are begin emphasized:
  1. God saved the Jews from a terrible people the Egyptians and also
  2. God saved the Jews from a terrible ruler Pharoh.

In other words Rashi uses the bullets to prove that a double emphasis is being made: Salvation from a terrible people and ruler. We now present both the Biblical text and Rashi in its original notation.

Ex18-10: in its original language and formatting states And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, who has saved you from the hand of the Egyptians, and from the hand of Pharaoh

Rashi in his original language states Ex18-10a: From a hand of the Egyptians a terrible people, Ex18-10b: From the hand of Pharoh a terrible ruler.

We can summarize the above as follows. Rashi interprets the repeating verse keyword from to be the Biblical method of indicating a bullet effect. That is, when the Bible repeats a keyword like from it has the same effect as if a modern author used bullets. The effect of either the repeating keyword or bullets is to create emphasis: Two points are being emphasized--God saved the Jews from a terrible ruler and terrible people. The bullets are simply a fancy way of presenting the main point of Rashi in modern paraphrase and formatting.

    Example 9.2b: Ex18-01d,e: in modern notation states Jethro, the priest of Midian, Mosesí father-in-law, heard of all that God had done
  1. for Moses, and
  2. for Israel his people,

Rashi states Moses is equated with all of Israel. The verse speaks about the miracles at Amalayk, at the Manna, and at the well.

    Rashi does not elaborate further. Using the bullet methodology we would elaborate further as follows: Jethro heard that God did equal miracles for both Moses and Israel at
  • The manna: God gave the Jews food and also protected Moses and Aaron by showing the people that the lack of food was not their fault;
  • The well: God gave the people water and also protected Moses from his fear of being assassinated;
  • The war with Amalayk:God protected the people from the declared war by Amalayk and also protected the leadership of Moses.

Notice in this case how our explanation of Rashi supplemented the basic Rashi explanation and brought greater clarity. This is true in general---understanding Rashi principles very often enriches and supplements the actual language of Rashi which may be too terse.

    Example 9.2c: Ex03-11a,b: And Moses said to God, Who am I,
  1. that I should go to Pharaoh, and
  2. that I should bring forth the people of Israel out of Egypt?

    Rashi states
  1. that I should go to Pharoh; a difficult king, ;
  2. that I should bring forth the people of Israel out of Egypt; a difficult people

Notice, how in this example also, Rashi can best be understood using a model of bullets and several emphases.