(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 the following URL as a free download: http://www.Rashiyomi.com/RashiShortGuideHTMLBook.zip

Lesson 6 of 6

Example 2.6
OTHER VERSES - further details - REVIEW

In this last lesson we quickly review on example from each of the major Rashi methods. We also lightly introduce the Symbolism method which we have not yet covered. Finally we make a correction to a previously learned Rashi which was incorrectly classified.

Example 2.6a: We first review the Other Verse method. Verse Ex19-15b states And he said to the people, Be ready by the third day; do not come near a woman. Rashi clarifies the meaning and purpose of the underlined words do not come near a woman by citing a nearby verse Ex19-22c which states And let the priests also, who come near the Lord, make themselves holy, lest the Lord break forth upon them. Rashi infers that do not come near a woman is for the purpose of making oneself holy and ritually pure. In other words the Torah was supposed to be received in a state of ritual impurity and hence the both the people and priests were suppose to abstain from items (such as marital relations) which conferred ritual impurity.

Here Rashi provided commentary for one verse by citing an other verse.

Example 2.6b: We again illustrate the Other Verse method. Verse Ex19-24b states And the Lord said to him, Go, get you [Moses] down, and you shall come up, you, and Aaron with you; but let not the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break forth upon them. This verse appears to group Moses and Aaron together. This is clarified by an Other verse, Ex24-01:02 which states And he said to Moses, Come up to the Lord, you, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship from far away. And Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but they shall not come near; nor shall the people go up with him. From the juxtaposition of these two verses we infer the Rashi comment ...Moses came closest, Aaron came but was more distant, ....but the people did not come up at all

Example 11.6

We next review the Word meaning methods. Verse Ex18-18c states You will certainly wear away, both you, and this people who are with you; for this thing is too heavy for you; you are not able to perform it yourself alone. Rashi explains the underlined word too heavy as equivalent to the English burdensome. Here Rashi uses the Form-Function-Feel principle. A burdensome activity feels like a heavy object. It is difficult to proceed.

Another way of explaining this Rashi is by using the synecdoche principle---naming the whole by the part. Here we name the whole class of burdensome items by an exemplary member of that class, the heavy item.

Example 12.6
GRAMMAR - root conjugations - REVIEW

Example 12.6a: Next we review the GRAMMAR - conjugation principle. Today we review the rules for conjugating conditional sentences. Verse Ex18-16a literally translated states When they will have a matter, they came to me; and I judge between one and another, and I make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. Rashi in his commentary suggests the following translation of this verse: When they have a matter, they come to me; and I judge between one and another, and I make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.

Here Rashi interprets the future conjugation, when they will have a matter, and past conjugation they came to me, as indicating a conditional sentence, that is, a sentence of the form, when such and such happens then such and such. In other words, Biblical Hebrew indicates a conditional sentence using a future and past conjugation. Modern English would indicate a conditional sentence using two present conjugations. When they have a matter, they come to me; and I judge between one and another, and I make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.

We should not perceive this Rashi as interpreting individual words. Rather Rashi is interpreting and identifying the sentence type, as a conditional sentence of the form when...then.... To best understand this Rashi we provided an English translation of the entire sentence.

Notice in this example how Rashi can equally be understood in English or Hebrew since the grammatical point he is making---the conjugations of the conditional sentence---are common to both languages.

Acknowledgement is given to the older of my two younger sisters for many useful dialogues on applications of English grammar to understanding Rashi.

Example 12.6b: Another Rashi using the Grammar method occurs at Ex18-22a which states And let them judge the people at all seasons; and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they shall judge; so it shall be easier for yourself, and they shall bear the burden with you. Here the English translation, let them judge already reflects Rashi's comment. The technical conjugation used in the Biblical text ---the prefix letter Vav followed by the past conjugation--- is normally translated as meaning the future, And they will judge. However Rashi explains that on this occasion, the prefix letter Vav followed by the past conjugation, is translated as a command, let them judge or and they should judge.

    Example 12.6c: We complete this review of the Grammar method with a Rashi that has philosophical implications. Although many of our other examples could be fully understood in English, this Rashi requires technical knowledge of Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew grammar knows two methods for
  • indicating the past---
    1. the past conjugation and
    2. the prefix letter vav followed by a future conjugation.
    Rashi held that there was a
  • difference in meaning between these two methods.
    1. The prefix vav followed by the future conjugation means the simple past--for example I walked
    2. The past conjugation itself means the past perfect, I had walked.

Consequently Rashi translates Ex24-01a as follows And God had already said to Moses, Come up to the Lord, you, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship from far away. Because of this translation--had already said Rashi comments This chapter--the request for Moses to go up to Mount Sinai---was said prior to the receipt of the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai.

Traditional commentators normally see this Rashi comment as philosophical in nature. The philosophical issue is whether Biblical narrative is chronological or subject to a different ordering. As can be seen from the above analysis Rashi does not believe Biblical narrative is chronological since the request for Moses to ascend to Mount Sinai in Ex24-01 was stated after the receipt of the Decalogue on Mount Sinai in Biblical chapter Ex20. However Rashi's belief is not philosophical. Rather Rashi's belief is based on a very technical rule of Biblical grammar.

In connection with the above I would quote the Rabbi from whom I learned the most about Biblical commentary, the Rav, Rabbi Joseph Baer Solveitchick, who advised us in his lectures It is preferable to infer commentary from the placid waters of grammar rather then from the stormy waters of philosophy.

Finally I point out that if we had more time in this class I would go through a variety of Biblical texts where Rashi consistently interprets the past conjugation as meaning the past perfect. Such a set of examples would reinforce our belief that Rashi is using this grammatical principle in his commentary.

Example 16.6

    We next review the alignment rule. Verse Ex19-03c,d when aligned reads And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, Thus shall you
  • say to the house of Jacob,
  • and tell the sons of Israel;

    Normally the phrase sons of Israel refers to both men and women. However because of the alignment Rashi comments
  • The nuances of the alignment suggest two groups were addressed
    • House of Jacob refers to the women (the house)
    • sons of Israel refers to the men
  • The aligned verbs suggest two manners of teaching were used:
    • The women were spoken to while
    • The men were told
  • Rashi explains the nuance differences between spoke and tell
    • speak is conversational and softer
    • Tell is apodictic and harder

As we have noted several times, each Rashi method, while intrinsic to the text, and while reflecting the simple meaning of the text, nevertheless, has its own flavor. The alignment principle has a nuance flavor. The comment is there but only hinted at.

Example 8.6

    Next we review the contradiction method. Notice the contradiction in the following two verses.
  • Ex20-19c states And the Lord said to Moses, Thus you shall say to the people of Israel, You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
  • Ex19-20 states And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mount; and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.

We see the contradiction. Which is it? Did God speak from heaven or from earth (Mount Sinai)?

    Rashi resolves this contradiction using the two aspects method.
  • God's prophetic voice came from heaven
  • God's fire came from earth.

    The classical support for this Rashi distinction is an explicit statement in verse Dt04-36 which states
  • From heaven he made you hear his voice, that he might instruct you;
  • and upon earth he showed you his great fire; and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire.

However, in class, one of my students pointed out that the nearby verse, Ex20-15 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the sound of the shofar, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they were shaken, and stood far away, also resolves this contradiction, since it clearly identifies the descent on Mount Sinai to be identified with the thunder and lightning.

As indicated in the Introductory section some Rashi commentators research Rashi's choice of wording and examples. In this monograph we see our goals as more modest---the clarification of which reproducible skill competencies would consistently produce Rashi comments. This goal is consistent with finding alternate sources for Rashi comments and encourages creativity and research in students. (Frequently however, Rashi did have a reason for choosing one example over another and the research done by other Rashi commentators is worthwhile to review).

Example 17.6
STYLE - general-detail-general

Next we review the style method. We previously introduced the General-Detail style, a typical example being, she desecrates her marriage by committing adultery. Today we introduce the General-Detail-General style. The standard interpretation of this style, explicitly mentioned in the Rabbi Ishmael guidelines which are part of our daily prayers, is that in a general-detail-general unit we interpret the details broadly by generalizing them.

We supplement the Rabbi Ishmael guideline rule with a model explaining why this rule applies. We model and think of the general-detail-general unit as a paragraph. The General element corresponds to the paragraph theme; the detail element corresponds to the paragraph detail. If you saw a paragraph with a theme and details you would immediately regard the details, not as the only details, but rather as examples of the general theme. You would see the paragraph as a whole communicating to you the idea of the theme sentence which is exemplified by the detail sentences which develop the theme sentence. Consequently you would interpret these details broadly. You would generalize them to similar examples that illustrate the paragraph theme.

By providing the model of a paragraph with a theme-topic sentence developed by detail sentences I have enabled you to understand the naturality in generalizing the detail sentences so as to reflect similar examples illustrating the theme sentence. This paragraph model is presented in my paper Biblical Formatting which will appear in the Journal, The Jewish Bible Quarterly at the end of 2006 or the beginning of 2007.

    We now proceed to examples. The paragraph unit Ex18-19:23a states
  • Listen now to my voice, I will give you counsel, and God shall be with you;
    • Represent the people before God, that
    • you may bring the causes to God;
    • And you shall teach them ordinances and laws,
    • and shall show them the way where they must walk, and the work that they must do.
    • And you shall choose out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and
    • place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens;
    • And let them judge the people at all seasons; and it shall be,
    • that every great matter they shall bring to you,
    • but every small matter they shall judge;
    • so it shall be easier for yourself, and they shall bear the burden with you.
  • If you shall do this thing, and God command you so, then you shall be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.

We have formatted the verses to reflect the paragraph nature with an underlined general-theme of seeking God's approval and specific details on asking God to allow Moses to delegate his authority to a hierarchy of Judges.Rashi's comment is remarkably simple and straightforward Jethro did not just give his advice of delegation of judicial authority but rather part of his advice was the request that Moses seek approval of his delegation idea from God. Rashi inferred this from the theme-detail-theme nature of the paragraph.

We can make two comments on the above Rashi: First, Rashi did not use the full force of the Rabbi Ishmael rules: Rashi did not generalize the details (though he (or we) could have). Rashi is content with observing that the entire unit of advice forms a paragraph whose theme sentence is that Moses should seek approval of the advice from God.

Second we can explain why Jethro insisted that God approve of his idea. Jethro was well aware that Moses was not just a leader but a prophetic leader. To accuse Moses of improper organization was to accuse God of improper organization. Furthermore there was risk: Could Moses, who was a prophet, find trustworthy people that he could delegate judicial authority to? Because of these reasons Jethro gave his advice contingent upon God's approval. Jethro's was aware that mistakes would be made if judicial decision making was delegated to a hierarchy. But the alternative would be Moses withering away and Jethro's goal was to avoid this.

Example 10.6
FORMAT - climax - REVIEW

    We next review the FORMAT-climax principle. Verse
  • Ex19-12c states And you shall set bounds to the people around, saying, Take heed to yourselves,
    • that you go not up into the mount,
    • or touch its border; whoever touches the mount shall be surely put to death.
  • Rashi's comment is remarkably simple
    • The people should not up into the mount,
    • or even touch its border;

Rashi adds the bold underlined word even to emphasize the climactic nature of the command: Don't go to the mountain or even go near its borders. Rashi's sole goal in this verse is to point out the climactic nature of the verse components.

Example 14.6

We next review the database principle. Today we ask the following database query: Find all verses that mention how God saved us from Egypt. Identify any underlying patterns.

We present the output of the database inquiry below. The output is not necessarily complete but is sufficient to identify patterns and explain Rashi comments.

Verse Go out Redeem Egypt SlaveHouse Pharoh
Ex13-03 Go out Egypt SlaveHouse
Ex13-14 Go out Egypt SlaveHouse
Ex20-02b Go out EgyptLand SlaveHouse
Dt05-06 Go out EgyptLand SlaveHouse
Dt06-12a Go out EgyptLand SlaveHouse
Dt07-08 Go out Redeem SlaveHouse From Pharoh King of Egypt
Dt08-14 Go out EgyptLand SlaveHouse
Dt13-06b Go out Redeem EgyptLand SlaveHouse
Dt13-11 Go out EgyptLand SlaveHouse

    The above table immediately exposes numerous differences which invite comment.
  • Notice the extra phrase From Pharoh King of Egypt in verse Dt07-08. Hence the Rashi comment We weren't just ordinary slaves. We were slaves that reported directly to the king. The implication of this Rashi is that even while we were slaves we were treated well (as far as slaves go). Interestingly Rashi does not make this comment on Dt07-08.Rather Rashi makes this comment on Ex20-02b where he cross references Dt07-08.
  • Rashi, at Dt06-12a comments on the repeated phrase house of slaves: The house/place where you were slaves. In other words Rashi is in effect saying Although you were slaves your quarters were in the house (rather than in the barn or fields). Again the implication is that even though we were slaves we had good treatment.
  • Notice the two verses that use the extra word redeem. Hence the Rashi comment: If God had only redeemed you--that is paid the Egyptians money for your release--you would still owe him a great deal.(How much more so now that God has performed all these miracles for you and given you the Torah). Note that this Rashi is the theme of the Dayaynu song which we sing on Passover.

We could make further comments on the above table. Frequently Rashi will not explain all aspects of a database table. Review of other midrashim and commentaries frequently uncovers additional comments.

Finally we note that a traditional approach to Rashi is to compare pairs of verses or to focus on extra words. We believe the above table approach is superior. The Table approach in one snapshot summarizes many extra words and also exposes their frequency. Such a snapshot greatly enriches and enhances the appreciation of Rashi.

Example 13.6
SPREADSHEETS - spreadsheets - REVIEW

    We next review the Spreadsheet method. Because the Spreadsheet method is so complex and involved we only lightly outline the issues. Biblical chapters Dt09,Dt10 describe the 120 days Moses spent on Mount Sinai. A curtailed outline is as follows: Remember, and forget not, how you provoked the Lord your God to anger in the wilderness;.... 1st ascent of 40 days: Receipt of 10 Commandments: When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I stayed in the mount forty days and forty nights, ... And the Lord delivered to me two tablets of stone .... And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone, ... And the Lord said to me, Arise, get down quickly from here; for your people, which you have brought out of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made themselves a molten image....Furthermore....
  • 2nd Ascent of 40 days: Prayer for Jews: And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I did not eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which you sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. ....
  • 2nd Ascent of 40 days: Prayer for Jews: Thus I fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the Lord had said he would destroy you. I prayed therefore to the Lord, and said, O Lord God, destroy not your people and your inheritance, ...
  • 3rd Ascent of 40 days: Second Receipt of 10 Commandments: At that time the Lord said to me, Cut two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to me into the mount,...
  • 3rd Ascent of 40 days: Second Receipt of 10 Commandments: And I stayed in the mount, as the first time, forty days and forty nights; and the Lord listened to me at that time also, and the Lord would not destroy you.

    The basic points Rashi makes can be inferred from the above outline
  • There was a first ascent of 40 days when Moses received the 10 commandment but the people made the Golden Calf
  • There was a second ascent of 40 days during which Moses prayed that God should not destroy the people.
  • There was a 3rd ascent of 40 days during which Moses received the tablets a second time.

Rashi makes these comments in 4 places: Dt09-18a,Dt09-25a, Dt10-01a, Dt10-10a. Rashi further makes a computation from Shavuoth when the 10 commandments were received to Yom Kippur when the sins of the Jews are forgiven. Interestingly there are 120 days, 3 sets of 40 days, between these two holidays.

As indicated we could spend longer on these Rashis. Our contribution to understanding Rashi is the observation that a Spreadsheet is a convenient clarifying way of organizing the verses and sequence connected with the Rashi comments.

Example 18.6

We close today with the introduction of a new Rashi rule, the Symbolism rule. Most people think of symbolism as something homiletic imposed on the text by a sermonist. People do not think of symbols as intrinsic to the text.

    Rabbi Hirsch wrote a beautiful 100 page essay, Ground lines for Jewish symbolism in which he asks the fundamental questions:
  • Are we ever obligated to interpret Biblical laws and verses as symbolic?
  • If so what criteria compel us to so interpret?
  • If we are obligated to interpret symbolically is there a procedure that must be followed that will give a uniform symbolic meaning to anyone applying it?

A summary of Rav Hirsch's essay can be found in my paper Genesis 1 speaks about the creation of Prophecy not the creation of the world, published in the journal, B'Or Hatorah, and located on the world wide web at http://www.Rashiyomi.com.

A brief answer to Rav Hirsch's questions are as follows: If the Bible identifies a law as symbolic then we are obligated to interpret it symbolically (for example Shabbath is identified as symbolic at Ex31-12:17). Similarly if the Bible identifies a law's purpose as reminding us of ideas then in effect the Bible has declared that law as symbolic (as in the Tzitzith law at Nu15-37:41). Symbols are identified by their form, function and linguistic description. Further rules and guidelines may be found in the above paper. We could of course spend a whole course on Symbolism. Instead we present three quick examples.

Example 18.6a: Verse Ex20-22d states And if you will make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of a cut stone; for if you lift up your cutting tool upon it, you have desecrated it. Rashi makes a perhaps obvious comment based on the function of the altar and cutting tools. The function of cutting tools is to destroy while the function of the altar is to bring atonement and peace between man and man or between man and God. Since the functions of the cutting tools and altar contradict each other the Bible prohibited the use of cutting tools by the altar as a Symbolic affirmation of the meaning of the altar. Rashi makes further moral and philosophical comments. Our modest goal however was to expose the student to the idea of using function to identify symbolic meaning. Notice in this Rashi how the symbolic meaning of the cutting tool is explicitly presented in the Biblical text itself.

Example 18.6b: Verse Ex20-23a,b states Neither shall you go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed there. Rashi comments The altar ramp should be an incline rather than steps.The verse explains that if you go up on steps then you expose your nakedness to the stone steps and thereby embarrass them. Here the Bible uses Anthropomorphism the symbolic identification of human attributes and values on the inanimate. The idea is that you should be careful not to embarrass stones by exposing to them your nakedness. This affirms the moral value that you should not embarrass your fellow human being by exposing your nakedness. Again in this verse we have an explicit statement of moral values justifying Rashi's use of symbolic methods.

I add a more speculative remark not in Rashi. We indicated above that linguistic descriptions are grounds for natural symbolic interpretation. In this case the Hebrew word for steps and for fantasies both come from the Hebrew root Ayin-Lamed-Hey which means to go up. Indeed, you go up a staircase by steps and fantasies are thoughts that come up in your mind. A scriptural occurrence of fantasies occurs at Ez20-32 which states Your fantasies to be like the non-Jews will not happen. Perhaps then there is an added symbolism in this verse When you go up to do altar work do not have fantasies. Although this observation is speculative (and not in Rashi) it illustrates the type of insights that can be obtained from uniformly applying fixed symbolic laws to Biblical verses.

Example 19.6

For purposes of completeness we make explicit two rules covered above but not identified. In Example 5.1 we analyzed verse Gn48-11d which we have translated Binding his foal to the vine, and his assís colt to the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his (wife's) lingerie in the blood of grapes;

The explicit rule used is that word meanings can be derived from the Biblical root of the word studied. In this case the root seduce applied to garments suggests nightgowns or lingerie.

Example 20.6
FORMAT - underline/bold

We originally studied Rashi Ex04-09b in Lesson 2.However I incorrectly classified the Rashi as using the bullet rule rather than as using Underline/bold method. The underline/bold method is fully explained in my article Biblical Formatting which will appear in the journal, the Jewish Bible Quarterly in December of 2006 of early 2007.

Here is a brief explanation of the rule. It is well known that a modern author might underline or bold or italicize a word to indicate unspecified emphasis. This emphasis is considered intrinsic to the simple meaning of the text. The emphasis indicated by a bold is considered the author's intention. The Bible did not use bold or underline. However instead it repeated words. The simple rule is that a repeated Biblical word would be rendered in modern notation as a bold or underline. It would therefore imply emphasis. We give a simple example.

    Verse Ex04-09b: states And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, nor listen to your voice, that
  1. you shall take of the water of the river;
  2. and pour it upon the dry land;
  3. and the water which you take from the river shall become blood upon the dry land.

    Rashi paraphrased states as follows Notice the repeated word water. This implies
  1. Moses took water from the river,
  2. poured the water from his hand
  3. When it pilled on the dry land it become blood

The repeated word water shows that the water did not turn to blood in Moses' hand but rather when it hit the ground.

Here Rashi uses the repeated keyword, water to indicate an emphasis that it was still water, and it only turned to blood after it reached the dry land. This magnifies the miracle--the water did not turn to blood in the Nile from some algae; furthermore, Moses who performed the miracle did not have to get his hands stained with blood.


I have successfully taught children ages 5-12 advanced Rashi using the methods of this monograph. I spent over 2 years teaching young children and I assure all parents and teachers that teaching advanced Rashi methods to young children can be done.

This appendix assumes an adult, say a parent or teacher, has read this monograph. The purpose of this appendix is to give tips that would enable exposure of these ideas to young children.

A basic idea advocated in this monograph is using visual formatting to understand Rashi. Consequently in teaching Rashi to children who can read Hebrew (or English) the teacher can guide the student to Rashi discovery by requesting visual formatting from the student. A second useful tip is to provide examples to help the young children in making generalizations.