When Rashi uses, what we may losely call, the hononym method, Rashi
does not explain new meaning but rather shows an underlying unity in disparate
meanings. Rashi will frequently do this by showing an underlying unity in
the varied meanings of a Biblical root.
In my article
Peshat and Derash found on the world wide web at
I advocate enriching the Rashi explanation
using a technique of parallel nifty translations in modern English. Today's examples
The Heberw Biblical root
has a fundamental meaning of
Hence this Biblical root can mean
[ the emotion of waiting unitl success
joy of seeing children grow up (Pr29-17)
an emotion characterized by the initial work and frustration
of raising children until they mature and are productive
this refers not to instant relations but to prolonged
relations characterized by an initial maintaining of tension until the joy comes in the end.
Applying the above translation to
God's promise to give Sarah a child in her old age
Sarah laughed [in surprise] over the
possible pregnancy: "After I have withered I will
have the joys [of raising children or of young marital relations]
and my husband is old.
We have interpreted the Hebrew Ayin-Daleth-Nun-Hey as referring to drawn out
joys where initially one starts with much work and frustration and little joy until
one has much joy. Two primary examples of such drawn-out joys are: a) the joys of raising children
and b) marital joys. Both these joys are applicable to this verse discussing Sarah giving birth.
Rashi also mentions another possibility: Ayin-Daleth-Nun-Hey refers to
the resumption of the menstrual cycle. However the periodic menstrual cycle has little
to do with the other meanings of Ayin-Daleth until and joy. I would therefore
argue that the menstrual cycle is perceived as a time of abstention from (intimate) marital
relations and consequently the reference here would be to the type of marital relations one has in
a relationship with alternating periods of abstention and indulgence. I would also argue that
the relations in these types of marriages are characterized by until-ness.
One could further argue that the simple meaning
of the verse refers to the joy of raising children since the verse speaks about Sarah having
a child. Rashi therefore supplements this primary meaning of joy by pointing out that the
verse secondarily refers to the joy of marital relations in a situation where there is a cycle
of abstention and indulgence; in other words despite her old age Sarah would resume having
until relations characterized by length and buildup.