We have explained in our article
Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at
that the Biblical Author indicates bold, italics, underline by using
repetition. In other words if a modern author wanted to emphasize
a word they would either underline, bold or italicize it. However when the Biblical
author wishes to emphasize a word He repeats it. The effect - whether
thru repetition or using underline - is the same. It is only the
means of conveying this emphasis that is different.
In reviewing the verses below from the suspected-adulterous-woman-ceremony,
note both the context and the several repetitions, indicated by bold letters:
- Then shall the man bring his wife to the priest,
- and he shall bring her offering for her,...
- And the priest shall bring her near, ...
- (A) and stand her before the Lord;
- And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen utensil; and of the dust ...
- (A) And the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord,
- and loosen the hair of the woman’s head,
- and put the offering of memorial in her hands, ...
- (B) And the priest shall swear her by an oath, ....
- (B) Then the priest shall swear the woman with an oath of cursing, ...
- And the woman shall say, Amen, amen.
- And the priest shall write these curses in a book,
- and he shall blot them out with the bitter water;
- (C) And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causes the curse; ...
- Then the priest shall take the meal offering of jealousy ...and shall wave ...
- And the priest shall take a handful of the offering, and...
- (C) and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water.
Rashi paraphrased states:
(1) Note the many repetitions indicated by the letters (A,B,C) referring to repeated
standing, swearing, drinking of water and (2) note the many degrading procedures such
as unraveling of hair, use of dust, and placing heavy objects, like the meal offering, on her hand.
This shows that the underlying idea here is to harass
her during an interrogation procedure so that she should confess. Nothing was just done once:
She was stood up, moved, and stood up again. She was sworn, spoken to, and sworn again. She
was forced to drink the water, spoken to (e.g. asked to confess rather than cause the Holy
Divine name to be erased), and forced to finish drinking again. Throughout, the intent was to
cause her anxiety and break her defenses so that she should confess.
Advanced Rashi: Rashi only speaks about the repetition of standing (#A
above). But as can be seen, there are many items repeated. Furthermore, reviewing the Midrashic
comments on these items we see hints that they also were done, interrupted, and then repeated. For
example, we have explicit midrashic statements that the woman was admonished not to descecrate
the Divine name that is uttered in holiness.. An easy consequence of this is that
the woman was forced to drink the water, was admonished not to totally destroy the Divine
name, and then forced to drink the water again.
Such a reading of Rashi - combining the single repetition mentioned by Rashi with both
(1) other repetitions and (2) the underlying context of harassing proceedures involving dust,
unraveling of hair, and placing heavy objects like the meal offering on her hands
- enriches the understanding of Rashi. Rashi is now perceived as
discussing a general interrogation procedure with several anxiety producing sub-procedures
each of which was broken in half to increase the anxiety with the intent of getting the
woman to confess.