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 methods 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.
When dealing with the word Tauv-Caph-Lamed-Tauv, Techelet we see
- A Biblical root of Caph-Lamed which mean the end, finish, completion,
- The prefix and suffix Tauv which literally means sign.
In general words with a prefix or suffix Tauv usually indicate a sign, example,resemblance
of what follows. Some simple examples of this principle might be the word pairs,
As can be seen the principle of Tauv as meaning sign, example, resemblance can
have some vagueness and subjectivity associated with it.
- Shin-Beth:Tauv-Shin-Beth-Hey; Shov:Teshuva which means return:repentance (a return
to ones former state), or
- Resh-Aleph-Shin:Resh-Aleph-Shin-Yud-Tauv; Rosh:Reshith which
means head:beginning, or
- Pay-Lamed-Lamed:Tauv-Pay-Lamed-Hey; Palel:Tefilah which
means judgement:prayer (Prayer is considered self-judgement before God), or
- Yud-Lamed-Daleth:Tauv-Vav-Lamed-Daleth-Vav-Tauv; Yalad:Toldoth which means
Rashi's comment follows from the above: Tauv-Caph-Lamed-Tauv:Techeleth means
sky-blue, a resemblance of the end of the day. Here the Tauv indicates
resemblance while Caph-Lamed means end, completion.
In deriving this etymology we don't mean to take sides on all the controversies that
exist on the exact meaning of Techeleth. The basic meaning is that Techelet
refers to a sky-blue.
- Rashi posits that Techelet refers to the dark blue of dusk (the end of day)
- Rambam posits that Techelet refers to the blue of midday, a resemblance to
the colors of the end of the day
- Rav Hirsch suggests that Techeleth refers to the midday blue of the horizon. Here
horizon refers to the end of the field of vision.
I have brought these controversies to show how an underlying Rashi method, meaning of a
root and prefix letter, while shedding light on a word can still allow for controversies and
differences of opinion.
Advanced Rashi: We have ignored the double Tauv of Techeleth,
which has both a prefix and suffix tauv. Perhaps some advanced study can shed more light on