When Rashi uses, what we may losely 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 / refer to
[ cf. the English idiom, treating like dirt.
Here dirt and sand are treated similarly -
indeed, sand is worse than dirt since plant growth
cannot take place in it; so treat like sand means to treat like dirt
that is to profance.
cf. the English idiom, returned to dust
a sandy land, unlike a dirt land is
sick and cannot produce plants
cf. the English idiom, dancing in the wind.
The dance motions resemble sand whirling in the air -
dance is characterized by disconnected motions in
various directions like whirling sand.
unlike the violin, known for its lyrical quality,
the flute is known for rapid disconnected tones
(hence its applicability to dance). The rapid disconnected
tones resemble sand which is also disconnected unlike rich soil.
Applying the above translation to
the death penalty for descecration of the Sabbath
Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you; every one that profaneth it [treats it like sand/dirt] shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from amo
In providing this English translation notice that we have used the English idiom
treats it like dirt
which mirrors the Hebrew
treats it like sand
sand and dirt resemble each other - in fact
sand is inferior to dirt in that plant growth
cannot take place in it.
Advanced Rashi: Rashi literally translates descecrates as
Treating it like a weekday. The Hebrew word weekday literally
means a profaned day and is the opposite of the Sabbath which is a holy day.
We in fact could have added weekday to the above list. In Hebrew weekday =
sand day = profaned day.