The special word method deals with the
few dozen special connective words that exist in all languages.
Familiar examples are also, when, that, if, then, all, because, only,
this,.... These words are typically
Rashi's job, when he comments on a special connective
words, is to enumeratively list the nuances and usages of the word.
- adverbs such as all,also or
connective words, either
- conjunctions such as if, then, because
- articles or demonstrative or abstract pronouns such as the, this, that
- propositional connectives such as in,on,to,from.
The most famous example of the special word method is the Hebrew word Kaph Yud
which can mean because, that, when, perhaps, rather, if.
Sometimes Rashi explicitly gives all meanings of a connective
word as happens with Kaph Yud while at other times
Rashi does not give all meanings at once. In such a case the
Rashi student must gather all the meanings together from various
One can classify the special word method as either a meaning
sub-method or grammar sub-method.
Today we deal with the Hebrew special word
which can have any of the following meanings.
- only this
only in this place did he sleep
- this (in the sense of something pointed to)
I didn't know God was in this place
(out in the wilderness where I gathered some stones
Applying this rule to the translation of
He came upon a place and stayed there overnight
because night was falling - he took some stones, placed
them at this head. Only in this place did he
sleep (But in previous places he had not slept with a
regular bed . .....And he was in a state of shock and said - how
awesome is this place (where I merely camped);
it is this place (where I merely camped) which
is a House of God ( vs. Temples and Houses of Study which might
be thought to be Houses of God) and it is this place
which is the gate to heaven (and not the Temples and houses of
study which might be thought to be houses of God)
As is our practice we have embedded the Rashi translation in the verse.
The botton line is as follows: In rule #9, spreadsheets we see there is a 14 year gap between Jacob's departure from Beer
Sheva and his arrival in Charan. Jacob camps in the middle of nowhere but sees God in a dream and
concludes that God is here even though he didn't expect it. In rules 5, 10 - contradiction and symbolism
we see that Jacob learns that God manifests himself
in two ways: 1) In Temples and Houses of Study man ascends to God; 2) In camping grounds and profane
places God descends to man to help him out. This second manifestation of God surprises Jacob who
hadn't been aware of it. Finally in rule #8, databases we discover
the unusual reference to Jacob making a bed in this place
suggesting that prior to this he had slept haphazardly creating connotations of a prior life of a
student who sleeps haphazardly. In rule #2 we see a further emphasis that Jacob made a bed and slept in this
place (but not in others). Combining the above we arrive at the conclusion that Jacob's former life was a life
of prayer and study - he erroneously thought God was only found there. But Jacob now finds God in the profane.
Jacob sees God manifesting in two ways - man ascends to God in Temples and houses of study but God descends
to help man in the profane.