A miscellaneous rule in Biblical Grammar states
that the pronoun for himself when used in a sentence
functions adverbially to indicate that the activity of the
sentence was done for personal reasons.
A good example of this occurs in Nu10-01:02
And HaShem spoke unto Moses, saying:
Make for yourself two trumpets of silver; of beaten work shalt thou make them; and they shall be unto thee for the calling of the congregation, and for causing the camps to set forward.
Rashi comments on the personal aspect of making the
trumpets by providing three possible methods of personal
- Make the trumpets for yourself--only you can use them.
- Make the trumpets from your own funds
- The trumpets are used for your assemblies
We now turn to Ex18-27 which concludes
the chapter describing how Jethro recognized the superiority
of the Jewish God over other gods. The verse states
And Moses let his father-in-law depart;
and he went for himself into his own land.
Rashi explains the personal aspect of Jethro returning
He went home to transmit his new found belief in the Jewish God to
his family and friends.
Here Rashi gives a reasonable interpretation of personal aspect
that is consistent with the overall chapter contents.
The more scholarly reader will note that there appears something
missing in this Rashi interpretation. After all even if for himself
connotes personal aspect and even if Rashi's interpretation
is consistent with the chapter, still there seems to be a giant leap
from personal aspect to a statement that Jethro went to convert
his family and friends. Perhaps Rashi gained support for his idea
using the reference method. Verse Ju04-11 states
Now the Kenite club, who was of the descendants of
Hobab the father-in-law of Moses,
had separated himself from the Kenites,
and pitched his tent near the terebinth in Zaanannim,
which is by Kedesh.
We are not told what the nature of this Kenite club was; all
we know is that they separated from the other Kenites and that the
club was founded by Jethro, Moses father-in-law. It seems reasonable
that this Kenite club was devoted to discussions and informal
teachings and presentations about the Jewish God which Jethro had
discovered from his son-in-law, Moses. Such club functions are very
common. The focus on a different religion would also explain why the club had to separate from
the other Kenites.
Notice how this Rashi is made more plausible by the combination
of two Rashi methods-- the grammar method and the reference
method. This, the use of two methods, is typical of advanced Rashi.
Acknowledgement: There are many Biblical verses with the
words for himself. Rashi consistently interprets them as
connoting personal use. After compiling a list of them my brother,
the Honorable Neal Hendel of Beer Sheva pointed out that Ex18-27
should be in the list and needed extra explanation. This observation
led me to spend considerable time on it till I found the reference
in Judges to bolster the Rashi.