A modern author who wishes to indicate special
emphasis to each item in a list uses bullets
to indicate this emphasis. By bulleting the
reader is asked to dwell for a moment on each list item
and listen to its nuances. In my article Biblical
Formatting to appear in the Jewish Bible
Quarterly I have explained that when the
Biblical Author wishes to indicate special emphasis
on each member of a list, repeated keywords
are used. The repeated keywords should be
interpreted as the equivalent of a bulleted format.
The following example illustrates this.
Verse Gn27-25a, discussing the request
by Isaac, of his son Esauv, to bring prepared food to him,
so that he may bless him, states
And Rebekah heard when Isaac spoke to Esau his son.
And Esau went to the field
The repeated underlined keyword to creates a bullet
like effect as shown in the above formatting. The bullet
like effect creates a special emphasis on each item in the
bulleted list---hunt,bring. Rashi will now explain
the specifics of the special emphasis.
- to hunt a hunt, and
- to bring it.
Rashi explains that Isaac wanted Esauv to hunt for food
and then he would give Esauv a blessing. Esauv went out to hunt.
But even an experienced hunter like Esauv sometimes returns
empty handed. Esauv wanted his father's blessings---if he couldn't
find a hunt he would bring the food, by buying or stealing.
Hence Rashi explains the bulleted list, hunt,bring
as referring to hunting, buying-stealing. In making this
explanation Rashi is not commenting on the extra words
hunt,bring but rather Rashi is commenting on the bulleted
list which contains a contrastive emphasis: hunt, buy-steal
Advanced Rashi: Rashi's literal comment is
...By hunt and if not by bringing in by theft.
We however have explained above more broadly that
Bring means buy-steal. Our explanation is based
soley on the bulleted structure---the complement of hunt is
However Rashi was commenting from two sources: The bullet
source emphasizes something other than hunting which could
refer to buying-stealing. However a knowledge of Esauv's
personality as indicated in Gn25-27
a skilful hunter, a man of the field
suggests that Esauv preferred a good battle--theft--to a tranquil
commercial act. In other words Rashi's comments emanate from
two sources: the bullets and Esauv's personality.
The above analysis seems to me the proper way to approach
this Rashi. We first see Rashi as commenting on the bullets
which indicates hunting,buying,stealing. We then see
Rashi as commenting on Esauv's personality: the man of hunting
Sermonic points: Rashi illustrates for us the classical
religious hypocrisy: Blessings were important for Esauv;
but he didn't mind stealing to obtain them. Such bifurcated
hypocritical values---pursue the religious but ignore the ethical,
happen from time to time in all religious communities. It is
important for people making requests, such as Isaac, to properly
word them so that at least the preference for ethical behavior