Certain Biblical paragraphs are stated in a Theme-Development-Theme form.
In other words a broad general idea is stated first followed by the development
of this broad general theme in specific details. The paragraph-like unit is then
closed with a repetition of the broad theme.
The Theme-Detail-Theme form creates a unified paragraph.
The detailed section of this paragraph is therefore seen as
an extension of the general theme sentences.
Today's example illustrates
this as shown immediately below.
Verse Dt14-26 discussing what second tithe money can redeem states
- General: And you shall bestow that money for all your soul desires
- for oxen, or
- for sheep, or
- for wine, or
- for strong drink
- General: for all your soul desires
Because the General-Theme-General style is perceived as a paragraph, therefore,
we take the Detail phrase as a development of the general phrase. The logical
conclusion would be You can buy meats and plant derived drinks.
Quite startingly the Rambam, Second Tithes, 7:1-3, states that honey, milk and eggs
are also OK. The Rambam's logic is that You can buy items that grow from land-based
food (cattle, sheep) as well as items derived from land-based-food animals (wine but also honey,
milk and eggs). True, the Rambam categorizes and defends the law! But wouldn't it be more
logical to simply state meats and plant-based drinks.
Problems like this arise frequently in interpretation of the General Theme General
law. My own feeling is that the final law comes from two Rashi methods: a) the style
rules and also b) the use of special words like all. In other words if the verse
did not use the word all I would simply generalize the detail clause restrictively
and only allow meats and plant based drinks but not honey, milk and eggs. However because
of the word all I generalize more broadly and allow animal meats and animal derived products
(eggs, honey, milk) as well as plant-based drinks (Wine, bear). We exclude fruit, water,
salt, and spices.
This idea of combining the style rules with the special word rules (all)
seems to solve many problems in the Rabbi Ishmael style exegesii.