Verse Gn32-06a discussing Jacob's assets states
And I have cattle and..., and men-servants and maid-servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favour in thy sight.'
Rashi comments: Cattle is a collective noun. Although there are many
cattle in each heard we use the singular cattle. By contract, men-servants
To further clarify this Rashi I use the simple technique of reviewing
the identical grammatical concepts in other languages. Such commonality sheds
credibility on Rashi. I simply googled collective noun and found the
It is not a profound website but you can find everything there.
The website gives many examples of collective nouns:
army, faculty, family, jury, school, class, team, society...
Each of these items is a collective noun: That is, it is a single entity
like an army which consists of many members. therefore
these collective nouns can
take singular or plural. The following golden rule of collective nouns
is given on the above website:
Here is the key: Imagine a flock of pigeons pecking at birdseed on the ground. Suddenly, a cat races out of the bushes. What do the pigeons do? They fly off as a unit in an attempt to escape the predator, wheeling through the sky in the sa
People often behave in the same manner, doing one thing in unison with the other members of their group. When these people are part of a collective noun, that noun becomes singular. As a result, you must use singular verbs and pronouns with
Torah: and he [the Jews] encamped by the mountain. Rashi
comments: The encamped as one unit with a common goal and feeling.
Such Rashis and Malbims are very often perceived as homiletic. The typical cynical
comment is: Nice idea and good for a sermon but you don't have to believe it.
This is simply not true. The rule is common to both English and Hebrew. It is a rule of gramamr not a flimsy afterthought of sermonics. If such an interpretaion is OK for an English class then should we as Jews be inferior?