Today is a peach of an example showing the greatness of the
Talmudic sages in understanding all aspects of the Biblical
text and language.
Rashi believed that Biblical verbs are conjugated using
triliteral roots. Rashi also believed that just as 3 letter
roots are useful for grammatical conjugation, so too, are 1 and 2 letter
roots useful for semantic conjugation, that is, for understanding the
meaning of the words. Rashi, like other Talmudic sages, used their great power
of analyticity to expose underlying unities in the disparate meanings of the same
root. These two techniques - the 2 letter root and the unifying meaning - are
beautifully illustrated in today's example.
Verse Ex26-28 states And the center bar
in the midst of the boards shall reach from end to end.
Rashi explains: What is the center-bar. The wall of
the Temple consisted of a series of upright boards. These boards
were hollowed and a center-board was placed through them
thus providing support for the wall.
Rashi inferred this from the Hebrew root used:Beth-Resh-Cheth.
The Hebrew letter Beth means house. The Hebrew 2-letter
root Resh-Cheth means open space. Using the 2-letter method
we infer that Beth-Resh-Cheth means the open space is a house.
Let us test this proposed explanation - the open space is a house -
against the two meanings of the Hebrew root Beth-Resh-Cheth. Beth-Resh-Cheth
means fleeing. A Fleer is a person who finds a refuge and home in
open spaces. There is a paradox here. The fleer does not feel at home in his own
home and house. He must flee because of danger. The open space which homes normally
protect from by giving shelter paradoxically gives the fleer a new home.
The second meaning of Beth-Resh-Cheth is center board. Here too we see a
paradox. Normally a hollow in a board is a sign of structural weakness. However the center-board
by filling this hollow creates home-like-protection precisely through this open space.
So both the center board and fleer find or give protection in an open
space, where protection is normally not found. This confirms the etymological derivation
a home in open space.
Praise be Him who chose them and their learning.