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 Hebrew root Nun-Shim-Mem means to breath
and hence this same root refers to the soul, the breath of life.
When a Hebrew word has a prefix or suffix Tauv it refers not to
the root itself but to the signs of the root. In fact the Hebrew word
Tauv means signs. So for example the Hebrew root
Aleph-Vav-Resh means light,sight, appearance while Tauv-Aleph-Resh
refers to the figure the signs of the sight or appearance.
Hence the Tauv-Nun-Shin-Mem-Tauv would be an animal whose
sign is breathing. It is intereesting that Rashi only
translates the word in Dt14-16a. However at Lv11-18a Rashi
is more elaborate: The Tauv-Nun-Shin-Mem-Tauv resembles a
mouse that flies at night. The various English Bibles suggest
either an owl or bat. Both these animals are known
for their shrieks. Thus we have the Shriek owl. Similarly
we know that bats navigate sonically.
We have in this Rashi an example of how an animal is named by its
distinguishing characteristic and this fact is indicated by the prefix
and suffix Tauv.