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
Today we illustrate with the Biblical root Nun-Sin-Aleph whose fundamental
unifying meaning is lift. From this fundamental meaning we have the following
rich set of superficially disparate meanings:
- Clouds: Clouds appear lifted.
- Fire: The fire strands appear to be lifted upwards.
- Promotion: The promoted person achieves a higher position.
Note: This social metaphor occurs in English also.
- Prayer: Prayer is picturesquely seen as being lifted heavenward.
- Marriage: Similar to English where the bride and groom have a high
- Forgiveness: Sin is seen as something heavy that weighs on
a person's mind. In English also we speak about a weighty matter that
gets a person down. The forgiveness lifts the heavy sin.
There are several other meanings similar to the above (e.g. the King is the person
who has received the biggest promotion or is socially highest.) Rashi in an unusual
comment is explicit about the unified meaning approach. Rashi does not typically
explain method. But on this verse Rashi says
Nun Sin Aleph means forgiveness. But this root does not leave its original
meaning of lifting. Forgiveness indicates a lifting of a [heavy] sin.