Many readers are familiar with the 13 exegetical
principles of Rabbi Ishmael which occur in the daily prayer
books in the morning prayer. In this email newsletter I
have called these rules the style rules. It is
important to clarify what the Rabbi Ishmael rules focus
on. After all they are distinct from rules of meaning
grammar and alignment. What are they?
We have explained in our article
located on the world wide web at
that the Rabbi Ishmael style rules are rules governing the interpretation of examples. In other words
if the Biblical text gives a specific example, as a
law or narrative, does the Author intend that the law or
narrative exhaust its meaning in that particular example, or,
does the Author intend the example as a mere example which
should be understood by the reader as a paradigmatic
example which should be generalized.
Here is a good example. Dt25-04 states
don't mu9le an ox while threshing. The Rabbi
Ishmael generalization rule requires that we do not see this example as exhaustive of the law but rather as requiring generalization. Hence Jewish law interprets this
to mean Don't mu9le any animal while it is
doing its typical work. Actually the law prohibits not only mu9ling but any type of inteference with the animal eating.
In this particular case we used the generalization style. Sometimes however we use the restrictive style and interpret the example as exhaustive of the law--
the example is all the law says.
Most of the Rabbi Ishmael style rules are known: They include: Generalization, Theme-Detail, Detail-Theme, and
Theme-Detail-Theme. Today however we encounter a rare form,
not listed any place: The Detail-Theme-Theme style. Let us see how Rashi interprets it.
Verse Ex16-35 discussing how the Jews enjoyed
- Detail: And the people of Israel ate manna forty years,
- General: until they came to an inhabited land; they ate manna,
- General: until they came to the borders of the land of Canaan.
- We see from Ex16-01 that the Jews received the manna on the 15th of the second month.
- But we know that the Jews left Egypt on the 15th of the 1st month
- We see from Jo05-11 that the Jews stopped eating the Manna on the 15th of 1st month of the year (Year 40) when they entered Israel.
- Hence we infer that the Jews ate Manna for 40 years minus one month since they did not eat Manna from the time they left Egypt (15th of 1st month) to the time of receipt of the manna (15th of 2nd month).
- We therefore - to insure that the Jews ate Manna for
exactly 40 years - argue that the cakes which the Jews ate when they left Egypt, Ex12-39, had the taste of Manna (and assume they ate these cakes for one
month from the 15th of Nissan to the 15th of Iyyar).
- (Rashi is further supported by Nu11-08 which compares the taste of Manna to the taste of Cakes).
The calculation of 40 years minus one month may be a little complicated for some people. We will lay it out more clearly below in rule 9.
Finally we note that we have only suggested an explanation. Normally we defend Rashis with a list. In this case we have no list. However the connections with the Rabbi Ishmael Style rules and the repetition format is solid.
We think the above explanation exemplary of how students eager to understand Rashi's rules should do research.
See rule #9 below for further details.