We have explained in our article
Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at
that the Biblical Author indicated bullets
by using repeating keywords.
That is, if a modern
author wanted to get a point across using bullets -
a list of similar but contrastive items -
then the Biblical
Author would use repeating keywords.
Today's verse illustrates this principle.
Bullets whether indicated through modern notation or
through the Biblical method of repeating keywords always indicate
contrastive emphasis - that is, each bullet is presumed
to be a distinct item contrasted to the other items on the list. Very often
the bullets are also used to indicate that the entire list of exhaustive
of some spectrum.
Bilams blessings that the Jewish homes and Temples are good
- How good are
The repeated underlined phrase
creates a bullet effect. The bullet effect in turn
creates an emphasis on the distinctness of all enumerated items.
Rashi interprets the distinctness as follows
- your tents, Jacob
- your Temples, Israel.
- (1) Jews have good houses: The doors and windows don't face each other facilitating privacy.
- (2) Jews have good temples - the Priests and sacrifices atone for their sins. And even when destroyed
the exile atones.
- Rashi literally says The temples when destroyed atone for the Jews. But that
is now what the text says!
- So I added the underlined phrases: The Jewish Temples have beautiful sacrificial procedures and priests that
atone for Jewish sins, and even when the Temple is destroyed the destroyed Temple atones for sins.
- We can go a step further. Although in the majority of cases the Hebrew Mishkan means Temple its primary
meaning is mansion. So a full interpretation of the verse would be as follows:
- Houses: Poor Jews have good houses, since
despite their poverty they preserve privacy.
- Rich Jews have good mansions since they give charity to the poor.
- The Temple mansions
are good since they atone on sins and
- Even when the Temple mansion is destroyed the pain of exile atones.
But if the latter is the simple meaning of the verse why did Rashi exclusively state the destroyed Temples atone?
By doing this Rashi avoids the broader meaning of the text and focuses on exceptional cases (Destroyed temples/exile). I would
argue however that the simple meaning of the text - mansions, temples - is clear. Rashi's job was to add meanings not
obvious. It is fallacious to assume that the Rashi comment was meant to exhaust the verse's meaning. Rather the Rashi
comment was meant to supplement the verse's meaning. Rashi expected the teacher to supplement Rashi's advance
meaning with the simple meaning of the text.
This approach - supplement vs exhaust - is fundamental to understanding Rashi and will enrich the Rashi experience
of all students of Rashi from young to old and from novice to advanced.