Rashi lived before the era of Grammatical textbooks. Hence
one of his functions was to teach the rules of grammatical conjugation
similar to modern textbooks.
A fundamental principle in all languages is
the construct form.
Languages must have a way of indicating belonging. In
English this is done through the word of. In Hebrew it
is done through a terminal Hebrew Tauv.
Biblical Hebrew introduced the idea of an
The unspecified construct indicates a new concept. The list below gives some examples.
Here is a simple example: The Hebrew Rayshith means head of. So the
head of a nation would be indicated by the construct-head of - followed by the item
it refers to - head of nation. When head of occurs by itself - a construct
without the noun it modifies - it takes on a new meaning. It refers to the head of anything
and hence means the choicest and best - that which is a head over everything. This
basic idea of unspecified construct helps explain many of the examples in the list below.
- Head of - means head of anything - the choicest
- end of - means the end of anything - the wages/reward for an object
- fruitful of - means fruitful anyplace, independent of environment
- From of (Mem Tauv) - means from all - that is, death
- woman of - means a woman belonging to somebody - that is, a married woman
We apply the above list to the translation of Gn49-22:
Joseph is a branch fruitful in all locations; as fruitful as a branch by a well; whose
shoots creep over the wall.
Here the Patriarch Jacob praises Joseph for being fruitful - both socially and professionally - even
in a non-Jewish environment. There is a subtle point here. Joseph was successful in Jewish matters-
interpretation of dreams. Yet he remained successful even in a non-Jewish environment. And it wasn't
just a matter of success but of extreme success as if he was flourishing among people who based their life on dreams and prophecy.
Advanced Rashi: Rashi simply says The suffix Tauv is an elegance of language.
Rashi does not give the elaborate explanation we give above. Why then did I inject into Rashi
what I did? Why do I act as if my ideas really originated from Rashi? The answer is that this is not
the only Rashi on terminal Tauv. Other Rashi's on terminal Tauvs such as the Rashis on
Gn01-01 or Dt22-11 - beginning-of means choicest; woman-of means married woman -
show us a general pattern and attitude of Rashi toward terminal tauv. Therefore, we feel justified
in extending this approach of Rashi, found explicitly in other verses, to the present verse where Rashi
is not as detailed. We believe this approach to Rashi - extending techniques and methods, explicitly
stated in other verses to new situations - is proper, deep, and authentic to what Rashi really believed