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 deal with the topic of gender agreement Verse Lv23-09
talking about the weekly bread has a strange shift from female to male pronouns. The
And it [the Minchah offering of bread (feminine)] will belong to Aaron and his children
and they will eat it [the bread (masculine)] in a holy place.
As is our usual custom we have embedded the Rashi explanation in brackets in the translation of the verse.
Just to summarize: The Priests bring the 12 loaves on the table and eventually eat it.
The Biblical text simultaneously uses the feminine and masculine it to refer to what is eaten.
Rashi explains that the masculine it refers to bread which is masculine while the feminine
it refers to the minchah offering since any plant offering is called Minchah. Since
the 12 loaves are perceived both as bread and as minchah consequently both the
masculine and feminine it are used.
But there is a deeper level to appreciating Rashi.
The remarkable thing about this insight of Rashi is that
the word Minchah is not even mentioned in the Chapter. Thus Rashi introduces a new principle
of grammar: Pronouns can refer to implicit nouns; nouns referring to objects that are understood
to be spoken about even though they are not explicitly mentioned!! Supporting this remarkable
principle of gramamr Rashi observes ...Any offering made of plant material is classified as a Minchah.