Since these fill-ins are not derived from the Biblical text but
rather are derived from the real-world we consider them analogous
to the use of diagrams and computational spreadsheets. The common
- When Rashi gathers a collection of verses
and infers from numerical computations we say
Rashi uses the Spreadsheet method.
- The spreadsheet method is also said to be used when
Rashi clarifies with a geometric diagram.
- We also say the spreadsheet method is used when
Rashi fills-in background with plausible real-world events.
is inference from non-verse material. Todays example
particularly illustrates this.
- Numerical spreadsheets
- Geometric diagrams
- plausible real world fill-ins and backgrounds
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: 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.
Advanced Rashi: 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.