Certain Biblical paragraphs are stated in a Theme-Development form.
In other words a broad general idea is stated first followed by the development
of this broad general theme in specific details.
The Theme-Detail form creates a unified paragraph and
consequently the law only applies to the enumerated details but
not to other cases.
Today's example illustrates
this as shown below.
Verse Nu30-04 states
If a woman also vows a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by a bond,
- while being in her fatherís house
- while a teenager;
This verse has a General-Detail style
as shown by the bulleted structure. The Rabbi Ishmael
Style Guidelines interpret a General-Detail verse
as speaking literally / restrictively only about the details.
Hence the Rashi comment
The laws at Nu30-04:
- apply specifically to a Beginning teenager--age 12-12.5: Such a
person is both in her father's house and
- Minors--children under 12 are not governed
by these laws as they are not teenagers
- Mature teenagers--children over 12.5
are also not governed by these laws since they
are no longer in their father's house
Rashi's treatment here of the general-detail
style is illuminating. The classical explanation,
as expounded by Rabbi Ishmael,
of the general-detail style is that it indicates
a literal/restrictive interpretation of the
details. But if we followed this
approach then the laws of the verse cited above
would only apply if the person
is really and only a teenager with no other
attributes, such as mature, applicable. Rashi
in this verse goes a step further and indicates that
the restrictive interpretation is due to the fact
that both the general and detail
attributes must simultaneously apply. This teenager
must be both in her father's house
and a teenager. Hence we exclude the minor who
is not yet a teenager and
the mature teenager who is
technically no longer in her father's house.
Thus Rashi here makes a contribution here to the understanding
of the Rabbi Ishmael Theme-Detail laws by pointing
out that although there is an emphasis on the details
the theme itself must simultaneously be present.
We make some additional comments on several items:
- Rashi indicates that the laws of Nu30-04
do not apply to minors or mature teenagers. Needless
to say other oath laws (different from those at
Nu30-04) do apply.
- The ages 12 and 12.5 are legal definitions of
beginning teenager and mature teenager.
They are not derived from the verse but rather
Sinaitically defined. To facilitate understanding the
Rashi comment we have used looser terms like mature teenager,
beginning teenager, beginning puberty.
- We have translated the Biblical phrases to mean
teenager. Several other translations are possible
such as young person or apprentice The
above analysis would be the same with any such translation.
We feel the nuances of the English word teenager best fits the
- Rashi additionally brings down some Rabbinic
enactments related to the verse:
The Rabbis ordained that when an
11 year old makes a vow she is reviewed:
If she understands that she made an oath
to God we encourage her to keep her oath
or seek annulment while if she doesn't
yet have this understanding we ignore
the oath (no annulment is necessary.)