Today Hebrew grammar is well understood and
there are many books on it. Rashi, however, lived
before the age of grammar books. A major Rashi method
is therefore the teaching of basic grammar.
Many students belittle this aspect of Rashi. They erroneously
think that because of modern methods we know more. However Rashi
will frequently focus on rare grammatical points not covered
in conventional textbooks.
There are many classical aspects to grammar whether
in Hebrew or other languages. They include
- The rules for conjugating verbs. These rules govern how you
differentiate person, plurality, tense, mode, gender, mood, and
designation of the objects and indirect objects of the verb. For
example how do you conjugate, in any language, I sang, we will
sing, we wish to sing, she sang it.
- Rules of agreement. For example agreement of subject
and verb, of noun and adjective; whether agreement in gender or plurality.
- Rules of Pronoun reference.
- Rules of word sequence. This is a beautiful topic which is
not always covered in classical grammatical textbooks.
Today we illustrate grammatical rules governing deliberate misspellings.
The technical term for this is metaplasmus.
Metaplasmus is a general literary phenomena applicable in all cultures.There are some secular scholars
who consider these types of spelling puns as something read into the text by the reader.
However there are other scholares who consider these types of spelling puns as intended
by the author to convey meanings and nuances to the reader. In other words these other
scholars consider the deliberate misspellings as the simple intended meaning of the text.
We shall spend this yearly cycle going through a variety of deliberate misspelling Rashis.
Today we suffice with one. For those interested in a comprehensive treatment of this topic, please see my
article Biblical Puns at URL
Biblical verses Ex35-22:29,
discussing the bringing of donations to build the Temple,
- And the men came after the women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and ear rings, and rings, and bracelets, all jewels of gold; and every man who offered offered an offering of gold to the Lord.
- And every man, with whom was found blue, and purple, ...
- Every one who offered an offering of silver and bronze brought the Lordís offering; ...
- And all the women who were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought ....
- And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goatsí hair.
- And the tribal govern-rs brought onyx stones, and stones ...
- The people of Israel brought a willing offering to the Lord, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for every kind of work, which the Lord had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.
As can be seen the women donated first, then the men, and finally the tribal governors. We have deliberately spelled the
word govern-rs deficiently to mimic the deficient Biblical spelling. Hence the Rashi comment
The governors brought last showing a deficient personality, since leaders should normally bring first.
Therefore the Bible uses a deliberately deficient spelling, govern-rs, to indicate by pun and nuance
their deficient personality.
Advanced Rashi: We have already indicated that as the yearly cycle goes by
we will indicate other deliberate misspellings so that the reader can see that this as a grammatical
rule and not some exegetical fancy.
Note that Rashi brings in other exegetical matters (such as the fact that the tribal governors
brought the gifts to the temple at its consecration, first). We will deal with these other Rashi
comments in another issue.