Most people are aware that Hebrew verbs
come from three-letter roots. Each root is
conjugated in the 7 dimensions of
person, gender,plurality, tense, activity,
modality, and direct-object. For example
the root Shin Mem Resh means to watch.
The conjugations Shin-Mem-Resh-Tauv-Yud
and Nun-Shin-Mem-Resh-Nun-Vav mean
I watched and we were watched respectively.
The rules for Hebrew grammar are carefully described
in many modern books and are well known. Rashi will sometimes comment when a verse is using a rare conjugation
of an odd grammatical form.
When presenting grammatical Rashis my favorite
reference is the appendix in volume 5 of the Ibn Shoshan
dictionary. This very short appendix lists most
Verse Ex40-32a discussing the requirement of priests to wash / sanctify
their hands and legs when entering to
provide service states
When they come to the Tent of Meeting, and when they intend to come near to the altar, they washed; as the Lord commanded Moses.
Rashi's comment on the Hebrew
properly understood involves four points:
jussive / cohortative
Putting it all together we therefore translate the verse
...when they intend to come near to the altar...
- The root Kuph-Resh-Beth means near
- The grammatical form used is the infinitive: to come near.
- The suffix Mem indicates the "subject" of the infinitive: for them to come near.
- The root has an additional hey which, as is usual is transformed into a Tauv. A suffix hey indicates the so-called jussive / cohortative mood - that is, a mood of aspiration, wishfullness and intent.
Having explained the verse we must ask Why? That is what does the phrase ..when they intend to come near to the altar add. I have not found anything explicit but would offer the following insights: