Today Hebrew grammar is well understood and
there are many books on it. Rashi, however, lived
before the age of grammar books. A major Rashi method
is therefore the teaching of basic grammar.
Many students belittle this aspect of Rashi. They erroneously
think that because of modern methods we know more. However Rashi
will frequently focus on rare grammatical points not covered
in conventional textbooks.
There are many classical aspects to grammar whether
in Hebrew or other languages. They include
- The rules for conjugating verbs. These rules govern how you
differentiate person, plurality, tense, mode, gender, mood, and
designation of the objects and indirect objects of the verb. For
example how do you conjugate, in any language, I sang, we will
sing, we wish to sing, she sang it.
- Rules of agreement. For example agreement of subject
and verb, of noun and adjective; whether agreement in gender or plurality.
- Rules of Pronoun reference.
- Rules of word sequence. This is a beautiful topic which is
not always covered in classical grammatical textbooks.
Today we deal with the topic of prepositions, words that link
nouns (objects) to other parts of the sentence. English is rich with
72 prepositions. By contract Biblical Hebrew only has a few prepositions.
These prepositions are normally indicated by prefix letters. Some typical
examples are prefix,
- Lamed - to
- Mem - from
- Beth - in
- Caph - like
However Radack in his famous masterpiece, Roots, explains that each preposition
can frequently have any of the traditional prepositional meanings. Radack actually
gives examples where Lamed means from while Mem means to.
Readers, interested in pursuing this further, are welcome to visit the Rashiyomi
grammar page at
By scrolling down to the preposition section and clicking on the appropriate
links one can find many examples of prepositions with multiple meanings. For example,
the page hosts examples where to (in Biblical Hebrew) can mean
with, on, for.
In verses Lv13-48a, Lv13-52a Rashi translates both the prefix Beth and
Lamed (occuring in two verses) as meaning of (This is indicated by the underlined words.)
(When there is leprosy in a garment...or in the warp, or in the woof,
whether they be of linen, or of wool; or in a skin, or in any thing made of skin.
And he shall burn the garment, or the warp, or the woof,
whether it be of wool or of linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is; for it is a malignant leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire.
Advanced Rashi: Since it is now the time of the counting of the Omer
we point out that this comment of the Radack has legal implications. Although there
is controversy whether we say "Today is 17 days in Beth the Omer count" vs.
Today is 17 days towards Lamed the Omer count, either formulation is adequate
since the meanings of the underlying prepositions can vary.