When Rashi uses, what we may losely call, the hononym method, Rashi
does not explain new meaning but rather shows an underlying unity in disparate
meanings. Rashi will frequently do this by showing an underlying unity in
the varied meanings of a Biblical root.
In my article
Peshat and Derash found on the world wide web at
I advocate enriching the Rashi explanation
using a technique of parallel nifty translations in modern English. Today's examples
The Heberw Biblical root
has a fundamental meaning of
a walk or trail.
Hence this Biblical root can mean
a walk or trail, such as a forest or vineyard trail
an animal who is known for his stealth and crawls on trails
the leg from toe to top
the organ you walk with.
Applying the above translation to
the appearance of the Angel to Bilam
Then the angel of God stood in a vineyard trail, a fence being on this side, and a fence on that side.
In providing this English translation notice that we have used the English idiom
which mirrors the Hebrew
a trail and a walk are semantically close.
The following comments give insights into the whole drama of Biblical interpretation. There is only one verse in
the entire Bible where the Hebrew Shin-Ayin-Lamed means what I have translated foot. The verse, Is40-12
states Who has measured sea [depths] with his foot or fixed the horizon with his fist... Because this verse talks
about measurement some have interpreted Shin-Ayin-Lamed to refer to a cupped hand. So the verse would read Who
has measured waters with his cupped hand.... These same people see a cupped hand as a hollow and then they interpret
the verse in Numbers as The angel stood in a hollow between vineyards with a fence on each side. These people would then
name a fox by the hollows foxes hide in.
There is no way to settle this contrversy between the hollow translation and the foot-walk translation.
The reason there is no way to settle this is that there are so few Biblical verses with these terms. Appealing to other
languages also does not help as these terms are rare in other languages. I brought this controversy to show the flavor of Biblcial
interpretation. It is a dynamic and exciting field, begging for creativity, with researchers basing inference on extremely
I also brought this example to show the why of this email newsletter. Both translations use the same fundamental
meaning-hononym method. In other words the methods presented in this newsletters are universal rules of interpretation
which all agree to.