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 review the rules of the interrogative in Hebrew.
Recall (in English) that sentences can be declarative, for example,
To the store I went, or interrogative, for example, To the store,
I went? or commands, for example, Go to the store. The same
set of words can change its meaning from a declaration to a question, if
a question mark, indicating the interrogative, is placed at the end.
In Hebrew, instead of placing a question mark at the end of the sentence,
one places a letter hey with a chataf-patach punctuation
at the beginning of the sentence.
The first question asked in the Bible occurs at Gn03-19,
Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?
In English this sentence is indicated by a terminal question mark while in
Hebrew it is indicated by a prefixed hey with a chataf-patach
punctuation. Rashi explains This prefix hey with a chataf-patach
indicates the interrogative.