When Rashi fills in commentary on a verse
that is not inferred from word meaning, grammar
or other verses we say that Rashi uses the
Spreadsheet method. A typical example of
fill ins is when Rashi makes numerical
inferences from a spreadsheet of Biblical
facts. Another typical example is when Rashi
supplies geometric diagrams. Any of these
is called use of the spreadsheet method.
- filling in numerical clarifications from a spreadsheet
- filling in geometric clarifications
- filling in with reasonable background information
When Rashi gathers a collection of verses
and infers from numerical computations we say
Rashi uses the Spreadsheet> method. The
Table below shows it reasonable that Rivkah
was 15 years old when she married Isaac. After
reviewing the table we will explain its rows
line by line.
Biblical verses Gn43-32:33 describes how the
Egyptian food minister assigned seating to Jacob's children
at a meal:
And they served him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, who ate with him, by themselves; because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.
And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright,
and the youngest according to his youth;
and the men looked at one another in amazement.
Rashi ties these verses to other verses in the next paragraph dealing
with the magic of his goblet.
Verses Gn43-12,15 states
And he searched, and began at the eldest,
and ended at the youngest; and the goblet was found in Benjamin’s sack.
...And Joseph said to them, What deed is this that you have done?
Do you not know that such a man as I can certainly divine?
Rashi comments on the above verses by giving reasonable and
plausible background fill ins b>:
How did Joseph assign seats for the meals? He would tap his
goblet and pointed e.g. to Reuven and say "He is the eldest of one
wife." He would tap his goblet again and pointed to Shimon and say
He is the 2nd oldest of this wife. He would continue and identify
the chronological position of each set of children from the 4 wives.
Since the brothers hadn't given this information they were amazed
The underline words in this Rashi fill in correspond
to underlined words in the above Biblical citation.
Every Rashi method has a flavor. A word meaning or
grammar method is typically punchy and to the point. On the
other hand a spreadsheet method by its very nature and
definition--- a method which does not make inferences from the
Biblical text---has a speculative flavor. Here is another perspective:
We need not (as religious Jews) believe that Joseph actually tapped
his cup and assigned seats. But given the story this is such a reasonable
interpretation it is believable and it would be foolish to deny it.
There are sermonic points to the story. The story shows how Joseph
got the brothers to confess: Joseph played on the emotions of the brothers.
He uses superstitions (the goblet) to evoke anxiety in the brothers.
These techniques are also used in modern police, detective and court
work to evoke confessions.