Today anyone wanting to learn Hebrew can take a course
and learn Biblical Hebrew grammar. But in Rashi's time
Grammar was just beginning. One of Rashi's major tasks
was to teach basic Hebrew Grammar the same way
we find in modern Hebrew textbooks. Modern Hebrew Grammar deals with such issues as conjugation of
verbs, indication of possessive pronouns, gender etc. Today's
example illustrates this.
Verse Gn32-18 states three questions:
And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meets you,
and asks you, saying,
Gn32-19 states a corresponding 3 responses
Then you shall say,
- Whose are you? and
- where are you going? and
- whose are these before you?
- They are your servant Jacobís;
- it is a present sent to my lord Esau; and, behold, also
- he is behind us.
Thus Rashi here teaches the grammatical rules governing
answering questions: A sequence of answers following a sequence
of questions should be parallel: That is the first answer responds
to the first question, the second answer responds to the second
question, etc. This parallel rule is depicted above
in the numbered lists.
Advanced Rashi: We have presented this Rashi as
grammatical. But most people see this Rashi as indicating
etiquette: It is proper etiquette to answer questions
sequentially, rather than in a random order.
The reason for the grammatical and etiquette rule are the same.
It is less burdensome on the listener if you use the same
order of inquiry in your answers. Both grammar and etiquette are
equally interested in minimizing listener confusion.