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 gender agreement Verse Lv23-09
talking about the weekly bread has a strange shift from female to male pronouns. The
And she [the Minchah offering] will belong to Aaron and his children
and they will eat him [the bread, but only] in a holy place.
A first attempt to appreciate Rashi would focus on the fact that in biblical Hebrew
the pronoun referent need not be near the pronoun. So Rashi's job is to identify what the pronoun
refers to. There are several possible antecedent nouns such as bread, frankincense, etc.
Rashi identifies the object of consumption to be the bread.
But on a deeper level Rashi ingeniouslly sees the the feminine pronoun She will belong
as referring to the Minchah offering. The remarkable thing about this insight of Rashi is that
the word Minchah is not even mentioned in the Chapter. Thus Rashi introduces a new principle
of grammar: Pronouns can refer to implicit nouns; nouns referring to objects that are understood
to be spoken about even though they are not explicitly mentioned!! Supporting this remarkable
principle of gramamr Rashi observes ...Any offering made of plant material is classified as a Minchah.