Students of Rashi must bear in mind
that Rashi could sometimes use universal
principles applicable in all languages.
This particularly applies to the meaning
The synechdoche principle basically
says that any language can use a good example
to name an entire category. For example, in
- the word honey can mean anything sweet.
- Similarly bread can refer to any food.
- Man can refer to any person (male of female)
- day can refer to the entire 24 hour period
- heart can refer to the entire person
as in e.g., (Ps 43)My heart
yearns for you, God which
really means My entire person
yearns for you God
- The loss of a person can refer to the destruction
of that person (Dt28-22i)
Verse Ex02-11b discussing Moses exposure to the Jews states
And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown up, that he went out unto his brethren,
and empathized with their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brethren.
The Hebrew Biblical root used, Resh-Aleph-Hey normally refers to physically sight.
However seeing can equally mean empathizing. In a similar manner the Biblical
root Shin-Mem-Ayin which normally refers to physical listening can
equally mean understand. Words for other sensory perceptions have similar dual
meanings. Thus in English we use the word scent to indicate a hunch;
we similarly use the word feel to indicate intuition.
In all these examples Rashi is using the synechdoche / good example figure
of speech method. Thus understanding is a good usage of listening; similarly
empathy is a good example of seeing. Especially since empathy is often communicated
by eye contact.