When Rashi uses, what we may loosely call, the hononym method, Rashi
does not explain new meaning but rather shows an underlying unity in disparate
meanings. Rashi will frequently do this by showing an underlying unity in
the varied meanings of a Biblical root.
In my article
Peshat and Derash found on the world wide web at
I advocate enriching the Rashi explanation
using a technique of parallel nifty translations in modern English. Today's examples
The Heberw Biblical root
has a fundamental meaning of
Hence this Biblical root can mean
since you frequently conquer a person by felling them; you similarly
frequently conquer a city by felling it.
Applying the above translation to
a war situation between Israel and a non-Jewish enemy
Only the trees of which thou knowest that they are not trees for food, them thou mayest destroy and cut down, that thou mayest build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it it is conquered.
Advanced Rashi: Rashi's point is that it would be natural to translate the verse
....thou mayest ...until the city falls. Rashi's point is that the city need not literally fall -
it is enough that it be conquered. This is consistent with Jewish law (and with the opening verse of
this Biblical section) that an agreement by the city to peace terms - 1) acceptance of basic Noachide
laws of morality and 2) recognition (by paying taxes) of Israeli sovereignty - would not necessitate
felling it since the non-violent acceptance of peace terms is consistent with conquest.
For this reasons Rashi translates Yud-Resh-Dalet as conquest vs. fall.