Today only basic 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 study a rule common in many languages
dealing with omission of words in a sentence. The technical term
to describe such matters is ellipsis.
Hence Rashi translates Dt01-23b as follows:
Take heed unto yourselves,
lest ye forget the covenant of HaShem your G-d,
which He made with you, and make you a graven image,
even the likeness of any thing which HaShem thy G-d hath commanded you
[not to do]
In other words the literal text which God has commanded you
does not make sense since God did not command to make idols.
One way of remedying our understandding of the text is to add the words concerning so that
the entire text would read
concerning which God has commanded you
Rashi provides an alternative remedy and reads the text which HaShem thy G-d hath commanded you
[not to do].
We have chosen to approach this Rashi as grammarical instead of as
contradiction since the contradiction is resolved through interpretation
of the underlying sentence as elliptical and ellipsis is common in many languages.