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 study a Rashi based on a simple grammatical rule: pronoun reference. In English
the rule is that the pronoun must refer to the nearest noun. But in the Bible the rule is that the pronoun
refers to the most logical antecedent. This Biblical rule appears somewhat strange to English speakers
and they must acclimate to it. Let us apply it to Nu28-15c:
Verse Nu28-15c discussing the requirement to offer a sin offering states
And one he-goat for a sin-offering unto HaShem;
it shall be offered beside the daily day-offering,
and its [the daily up offering] libations
The pronouns its libations could refer to either of the underlined nouns: the daily day offering
or the sin offering. Rashi explains But based on Nu15 only up- and peace- offerings
have libations. Sin offerings don't have libations. Hence the pronoun its refers to the
libations of the daily up offering. Here we see Rashi using the Biblical rule of most logical
antecedent to justify his conclusion.