Many Biblical passages repeat a theme several times in what appears
to be almost similar phraseology. The Climax principle requires
that such passages be re-interpreted to reflect a climactic sequence.
This re-interpretation should take place even if the language and grammar
do not require it. Rather the existence of several almost identical passages, by itself,
is the driving force requiring re-interpretation. Today's example illustrates this.
the requirement to serve God not idols
- Thou shalt fear HaShem thy G-d;
- and Him shalt thou serve,
- and by His name shalt thou swear.
Rashi re-interprets the three listed requirements, Fear, service, swearing as listed
in a Climactic fashion. To clarify the Rashi comment, presented immediately below,
think whether a person could instantly become religious by starting to swear in God's name.
Obviously not. People in bars swear all the time. However their swearing is physical. By
contrast a person who is really afraid of God and serves him would not lightly swear at every
frustration the way people in bars do. Rather the religious person's oath are recognizable
and distinct from the oaths of the people in bars. Religious people only swear
on serious occasions and only to affirm matters in doubt.
Hence the Rashi comment:
If you really fear God and serve him then you will be careful in your oaths
and only swear by God's name and at appropriate times.
As can be seen the focus of the Rashi comment is on the climactic nature
of the phrases which are reinterpreted to indicate the stages required to being
recognized as religious.
Rashis using the climax rule are always sermonic. In this case the
Rashi illustrates the ladder to being recognized as religious. First you
have to be afraid of God. For example, instead of saying 'What will
people say' you should ask 'What will God say if I do such and such.' At a
second stage you should be involved in serving God and doing his commandments.
Finally using the first two stages as a basis, a person should curb his
speech patterns at times of frustration - oaths should not be taken lightly
but only to reflect serious affirmations in the name of God. These three
stages define the prerequisites for being known as religious.