Rashi would sometimes derive the meaning of a word from the meaning
of its underlying Biblical root. In applying this method Rashi would use all
available grammatical methods to study the
meanings of related roots. The next paragraph presents one such rule.
There are 1900 Biblical roots. Of these 1900 roots about half involve X-Vav-Y X-Y-Y X-Y-Hey pairs. These roots (with one root letter weak) often, but not always, have related meanings. Consequently, very often, but not
always. one can infer the meaning of a X-Y-Y root from the related X-Y-Hey or
Rashi believed in two grammatical systems. He believed in the traditional tri-literial (3-letter) root methdos used to conjugate verbs and taught in all elementary schools.
Besides the conjugational root system Rashi also believed in a semantic root system. This is a separate system that enables derivation of root meaning from other roots.
For example the meaning of a 4-letter root, ABCD, is derived from the meaning of its two 2-letter subroots,
Rav Hirsch following Rashi (Jb38-28) explains that the letter Aleph
can refer to a person, animal, thing. Some simple examples are
- Aleph-Caph-Resh The farmer, the person Aleph who Careh digs.
- Aleph-Beth-Nun The stone, the thing Aleph used for Boneh building.
- Aleph-Gimel-Lamed The droplet, a thing Aleph that Golel rolls. (Rashi, Jb38-28)
- Aleph-Beth-Daleth loss, Bad isolated
from a person Aleph.
- Aleph-Lamed ram, leader, god, oak/cedar, the animal, person, plant Aleph lamed to which others turn.
Rashi literally says that Eylim means
the strong. Rashi also cites verses to support
this translation. However as indicated in the above list, I think
the fundamental meaning is leader. The verses cited by Rashi
can also be translated with leader. Of course, strong men are
very often leaders but I think the real meaning is leader. The interested
reader is encouraged to examine the verses cited by Rashi and use the
meaning leader vs. strong and verify that the translation
still makes sense.