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.
- Rules of propositional and connective words.
Today we study a phenomenon common in many languages -
prepositional connectives and pronouns. Hebrew has a variety of forms
for these connectives. Biblical Hebrew allows use of entire words
to indicate prepositional connectives and pronouns; Biblial Hebrew also
allows use of prefixes and suffixes. The great Biblical exegete, MALBIM,
explained that use of entire words indicates an extra emphasis while use of prefixes
and suffixes simply indicates the prepositional connective or pronoun.
Hence the prefix Mem means from while the words min, mehem
mean from among.
Using this principle Malbim translates verse Dt14-12 as follows:
But from among the following you are prohibited to eat: the great vulture, and the bearded vulture, and the ospray;
Here we have translated the word mehem as emphasizing from among in accordance with the Malbim's
principle. (The verse could have simply said: But the following should not be eaten: the bearded vulture....,
without using the word from among.)
Rashi commenting on the underlined phrase from among indicated by the use of the entire Hebrew word mehem
The stated prohibition of eating applies to a special subset (from among). Apparently the verse emphasizes
even from among these birds - for example, if they have received excellent slaughter - you are prohibited to eat.
It is typical of exegetical inferences based on words vs. prefixes-suffixes that a special group is generally
indicated but the reader must supply which special group is mentioned. This usually requires identifying a non-stated
but obvious subgroup to which we would expect an exception. The verse therefore emphasizes even this subgroup is prohibited.