The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat VaYayRah
Vol 4#4
- Adapted from Rashi-is-Simple
Visit the RashiYomi website: http://www.Rashiyomi.com/
(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel President, Nov 9, 2006
English translations of the Bible come from www.Davka.Com with minor emendations by me.

The goal of this Weekly Rashi Digest is to use the weekly Torah portion to expose students at all levels to the ten major methods of commentary used by Rashi. It is hoped that continual weekly exposure to these ten major methods will enable students of all levels to acquire a familiarity and facility with the major exegetical methods.

1. RASHI METHOD: OTHER VERSES
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Rashi explains one verse by citing an other verse
This examples applies to Rashis Gn21-01b Gn21-01c Gn21-01d
URL Reference: (c) http://www.Rashiyomi.com/gn21-01b.htm

Gn21-01:02 states And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

    The three underlined passages cross reference other verses with promises by God that Sarah would give birth to a child. Rashi identifies these other verses:
  • Verses Gn18-01:10 states And the Lord appeared to him in the plains of Mamre; ... And he said, I will certainly return to you at this season; and, lo, Sarah your wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
  • Verses Gn17-15:16 state And God spoke to Abraham, As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give you a son also of her; and I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
  • Verses Gn15-01:04 states After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram; I am your shield, ... And, behold, the citation of the Lord came to him, saying, This shall not be your heir; but your own descendant shall be your heir.

Using these 3 other verses we can understand the bracketed Rashi comments on Gn21-01:02 And the Lord visited Sarah [with a child] as he had cited, [in verses Gn15-01:04] and the Lord did to Sarah as he had spoken [To Abraham] ....[in verses Gn17-15:16] For Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

    Advanced Rashi: We have introduced several novelties in explaining this Rashi:
  • We have mingled the Rashi comments with the Biblical text so that the combined text-commentary flows; this gives added clarity to the Rashi comments
  • We have explained above the basic Rashi method, Other verses. However Rashi also gives advanced comments.Rashi notes that Gn21-01:02 uses the words cited and spoken.These two words correlate with the distinct usages in the cited verses since
    • Gn17-15:16 uses the word spoke while
    • Gn15-01:04 uses the word cited.

Such plays on words naturally arise when using the other verse method. They add luster to the Rashi comments. However, the reader should never lose sight of the core method of other verses.

2. RASHI METHOD: WORD MEANING
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Rashi uses 10 methods to explain the dictionary meaning of words
This examples applies to Rashis Gn19-14a Gn19-14b
URL Reference: (c) http://www.Rashiyomi.com/gn19-14a.htm

One of Rashi's 10 major methods is the word meaning method. One word meaning sub-method is the synonym sub-method. Synonyms are pairs of words with almost identical meanings. Rashi frequently takes a synonym pair and distinguishes the nuances of the two underlying words. Todays verse provides an illustrative example.

    Gn19-14a states And Lot went out, and spoke
  • to his sons-in-law,
  • [to those] who had taken his daughters, and said, Arise, get out from this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But to his sons-in-law it seemed that he was joking.

    Rashi explains the nuances of the underlined synonym pair
  • son-in-law refers to someone already married
  • taken his daugthers refers to someone engaged

    Rashi's comments can be better appreciated thru a verse translation that incorporates it: And Lot went out, and spoke
  • to his sons-in-law,
  • [to those] who had engaged his daughters, and said, Arise, get out from this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But to his sons-in-law it seemed that he was joking.

Advanced Rashi: We have approached Rashi as using the synonym method. Rashi's translations of take daughters as engaged can be further supported by citing verses with this usage. For example verses Gn20-01:04 state And Abraham journeyed from there toward the Negev, and lived between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister; and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and became engaged to Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, you are but a dead man, because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a manís wife. But Abimelech had not consumated the marriage; and he said, Lord, will you slay also a righteous nation? In this example the contrast of took which we have translated became engaged vs. the lack of consummation is clear.

3. RASHI METHOD: GRAMMAR
BRIEF EXPLANATION:Rashi explains verses using principles of verb conjugation and grammar.
This examples applies to Rashis Gn21-30b
URL Reference: (c) http://www.Rashiyomi.com/gn21-30b.htm

Today's Rashi example focuses on the grammar rule of pronoun reference. Here is a simple example: Abe called Bob. He answered the phone. Here the pronoun he could refer to either Abe or Bob. In this particularly simple example the pronoun he refers to the last mentioned person, Bob -- it was Bob who answered the phone. Rashi will not comment on ordinary pronoun references where the pronoun refers to the last mentioned person. However, Rashi will comment on unusual pronoun references. Todays example illustrates this.

Verse Gn21-29:31 states And Abimelech said to Abraham, What do these seven ewe lambs mean which you have set by themselves? And he said, These seven ewe lambs shall you take from my hand, in order that it will be a witness to me, that I have dug this well. Therefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they swore both of them.

Rashi explains that the underlined word it refers back to the act of taking. In other words the taking of the 7 lambs acknowledges that the wells belonged to Abraham.

Advanced Rashi: A pronoun like it typically refers to a previous noun. For example, it is tempting to say that it refers to the seven sheep. However in such a case the pronoun would have been plural. The verse should have said: in order that they will be a witness to me.

A more serious question is how? How do either the 7 sheep or their taking constitute witness that the wells belonged to Abraham. This is discussed in rule #9, spreadsheets below. There we show that Abraham not only dug the well but knew its ins and outs; he knew the best times to draw water from it. Consequently, Abraham's sheep were healthier then other sheep. By taking the seven sheep Avimelech acknowledges that they are worth taking; in other words, Abraham's sheep were better than Avimelech's own sheep because Abraham not only created the well but knew when it gave its best waters.

This set of Rashis--one on the pronoun and one on how the taking constituted witness to Abraham's ownership--offer more mature insight into the dialog between Abraham and Avimelech. Abraham did not simply say: This is mine. Such an apodictic statement would not earn any respect. Rather Abraham said: This is mine;in fact I can prove it by showing that I am more familiar with the well then other people. Such an analysis serves as a role model for future generation dialogs between Jews and non-Jews. Jews are encouraged in their assertions of ownership to both assert and defend their claims. Such presentations earn respect and yield results.

Finally we should bring to the attention of the reader the literal translation of Rashi: In order that it may be a witness to me: Rashi: This.

Rashi's terse this does not really tell us what he was commenting on. I would therefore amend Rashi by adding one word: This taking. As explained above the emphasis on Rashi is on the singular vs. the plural: This vs. these. For this reason I have interpreted Rashi as referring to This taking.

This type of Rashi emendation in the face of excessive Rashi terseness is often required. The acceptance of the emendation depends on the degree of clarity and elegance provided. In this case I have added only one word This taking and I have distinguished between Rashi's singular this vs. the plural these. Such an analysis gives a certain degree of punchiness to the emendation making it plausible.

4. RASHI METHOD: ALIGNMENT
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Rashi examines minor differences in almost identical verses.
This examples applies to Rashis Gn20-06a
URL Reference: (c) http://www.Rashiyomi.com/gn20-06a.htm

Today we present a peachy example of exegetical analysis involving the alignment, contradiction, and formatting rules (rules #4,5,7). The particular method of Rashi exegesis used resembles modern reading between the lines as occurs everyday in our newspapers.

    Note the alignment of the underlined words in the following verses discussing the dialog between God and Avimelech who was accused by God of committing adultery with Sarah.
  • Avimelech's statement: Verse Gn20-05 states said he not to me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother;
    • in the integrity of my heart and
    • in the innocence of my hands have I done this.
  • God's response: And God said to him in a dream, Yes, I know that you did this
    • in the integrity of your heart;...

    Rashi is terse, punchy and comical: Notice that
  • King Avimelech protested both
    • integrity of heart and
    • innocence of hands.
  • By contrast, God only agrees to Avimelech's
    • integrity of heart

The implication is obvious: God did not consider Avimelech to be innocent with his hands. He had no business engaging a married women.

Advanced Rashi: Such reading of nuances is often mocked at as not the simple intended meaning of the text. This is rediculous! Simply pick up any daily newspaper and one will see many editorials in which such Rashi-like alignments, analyzing the statements of world politicians, occur daily and are taken very seriously!

On a more serious note the Bible teaches us etiquette. You never rebuke a King in power directly. God only rebukes Avimelech discretely; God mentions the positive, integrity of heart, rather than explicitly criticizing Avimelech for the negative, innocence of hands. We can only infer the nuance innocence of hands by omission. This is the proper etiquette and method for criticism of people in power!

5. RASHI METHOD: CONTRADICTION
BRIEF EXPLANATION:Rashi resolves contradictory verses using 3 methods.
This examples applies to Rashis Gn20-04a
URL Reference: (c) http://www.Rashiyomi.com/gn20-04a.htm

Today we present a peachy example of exegetical analysis involving the alignment, contradiction, and formatting rules (rules #4,5,7). The particular method of Rashi exegesis used resembles modern reading between the lines as occurs everyday in our newspapers.

    Gn20-04:06 discusses the attempted marriage by Avimelech to Sarah, a married woman. Notice the contradiction indicated by the underlined phrases in the following verses
  • Verse Gn20-04 states But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, Lord, will you slay also a righteous nation?
  • But verse Gn20-06 states And God said to him in a dream, .... for I ...kept you from sinning against me; therefore I did not let you touch her.

We see the contradiction indicated by the underlined words: Which is it? Did Avimelech abstain from sinning with her or did God prevent him from sinning?

    Rashi's resolution of this contradiction using the 2 stages method of resolving contradictions is rather straightforward. Avimelech did not sin because God sent down an angel to prevent him from sinning. In other words
  • In stage 1, God prevented Avimelech from sinning, say, by sending down an angel
  • In stage 2, Avimelech consciously abstained because he was afraid of God.

Sermonic points: A pithy dictum states that the stories of the Patriarch's lives are role models for the entire Jewish people. The Torah teaches us here how to protect oneself from sexual abuse. Many people think that as you grow up you protect yourself from sexual abuse by joining groups and benefitting from the new friends that you have made. The Torah teaches us that such joinings are not necessary. Sarah was totally alone in a foreign land. Sexual advances were made on her by the King of the land. Yet she was protected by God. Sarah teaches us how we should behave today. We too can rely on God's protection to save us from improper advances. Most of us know of survivors who escaped similar advances in Nazi Germany.

An important historical point should be emphasized here. We take marital dignity for granted today. All the major religions--some differently than others--acknowledge the importance of respecting a couple's privacy and rights to each others. But this concept was not widespread in Abraham's time. Rather it was common for Kings to take whatever women they wanted, whether they were married or not. Abraham and the other two patriarchs introduced, each in their own way, respect for marital fidelity. The Genesis stories reveal an important transitional epoch in human legal history by delineating the evolution of the concept of marital fidelity, privacy and dignity.

Too often we credit the patriarchs with the positive vs. the removal of the negative. The 3 Patriarchs are praised for personifying charity, sacrifice, and simplicity. But they also introduced the idea of Divine protection of marriage through, if necessary, Divine violence supporting marital privacy.

7. RASHI METHOD: FORMATTING
BRIEF EXPLANATION:Inferences from Biblical formatting: --bold,italics--and paragraph structure.
This examples applies to Rashis Gn20-05b Gn20-05c
URL Reference: (c) http://www.Rashiyomi.com/gn20-05b.htm

Today we present a peachy example of exegetical analysis involving the alignment, contradiction, and formatting rules (rules #4,5,7). The particular method of Rashi exegesis used resembles modern reading between the lines as occurs everyday in our newspapers.

Modern authors frequently use bullets to indicate contrastive emphasis on a list. The idea of bullets is that each bullet should receive an emphasis that distinguishes it from the other items in the list.

The Biblical Author did not use the traditional modern format of bullets which consist of a list of items preceded by black dots. Instead, the Biblical authors used repeating keywords to indicate a bullet effect. The following verse illustrates this.

    Verse Gn20-05b, presenting Avimelech's protest that he didn't know that the woman he made overtures towards was married states Said he not to me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother;
  • in the integrity of my heart and
  • in the innocence of my hands have I done this.

    Rashi explains the emphasis indicated in the two bulleted items:
  • in the integrity of my heart, [Rashi:I did not intend to sin]
  • in the innocence of my hands, [Rashi: I did not actually sin yet]

Sermonic points: Recall that Sarah claimed she was Abraham's sister. Consequently Avimelech did not intend to sin when he made overtures to her. Nevertheless we saw above in rule #4, alignment that God did blaim him for getting engaged to her. But why? If he thought she was Abraham's sister what would be wrong with marrying her?

Rashi's point echoes modern concepts in workplace sexual abuse laws. Consent in certain situations is not believed. For example in some supervisor-subordinate situations the subordinate has a harassment-lawsuit even if there was verbal consent to the relationship. Similar laws apply in many states to relations between professors and consenting college students. The law is also echoed in Jewish law: The consent of a married woman for her husband to sell real-estate assets brought into the marriage is not believed and the sale is not valid. As the Talmud states: She is simply trying to be pleasing to her husband. The underlying concept in the sexual abuse laws in many states is that a supervisor-subordinate relationship involving power intrinsically nullifies the possibility of consent. Thus the Rashi on this verse echoes important ethical perspectives on highly personal relations.

8. RASHI METHOD: DATABASES
BRIEF EXPLANATION:Rashi makes inferences from Database queries
This examples applies to Rashis Gn19-01d
URL Reference: (c) http://www.Rashiyomi.com/gn19-01d.htm

In todays example Rashi asks the following database query: What type of personality attributes did Lot have. The table below compactly summarizes verses and attributes.

======================== LIST606f ======================================
Query of  Moral vs Immoral traits of Lot
========================================================================
VERSE      (IM)MORAL? VERSE SHOWS FOLLOWING ATTRIBUTES OF LOT
========   ========== ================================================== 
Gn19-33    IMMORAL    Lot committed INCEST with his daughters
Gn13-07    IMMORAL    Lot FOUGHT/BICKERED with Abraham over property
Gn13-10    IMMORAL    Lot sought MATERIALISM (even in bad neighborhoods)
--------   ---------  -------------------------------------------------- 
Gn19-09    MORAL      Lot was a respected JUDGE in his city 
Gn19-05:07 MORAL      Lot FOUGHT homosexual RAPE
Gn19-01:02 MORAL      Lot was HOSPITABLE
========================================================================

    Prior to analyzing this list let us review the verses supporting Lot's good attributes.
  • Gn19-09And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he became a judge...
  • Gn19-05:07 And they called to Lot, and said to him, Where are the men who came in to you this night? Bring them out to us, that we may know them. And Lot went out the door to them, and closed the door after him, And said, I beg you, my brothers, do not act wickedly.
  • Gn19-01:02And there came two angels to Sodom at evening; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom; and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face to the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I beseech you, to your servantís house, and remain all night, and wash your feet, and you shall rise up early, and go on your way. And they said, No; we will stay in the street all night.

A glance at the above list raises an obvious question: How could a moral hospitable person, a judge who protested rape, also be involved in incest, property fights and bad neighborhoods. Rashi answers this question by making the reasonable conjecture that Lot learned hospitality from Abraham.

Advanced Rashi: It is important to emphasize that Rashi is not making a word play association here: Abraham is hospitable, Lot is hospitable; so it is reasonable to assume that they learned from each other.

Some Rashi commentators see parallel language and acts in Gn18-01:06 and Gn19-01:02. Almost the same words, phrases and concepts indicating hospitality are used: my lords, stay over, take water, wash yourselves, festive meals. Such an approach has supportive merit but does not fully answer the question of how Rashi infers that Abraham taught Lot hospitality.

A deeper mature approach to Rashi is to fully analyze Lot's personality. The above table allows the the blatant contrast of moral vs. immoral traits to emerge. We can vividly see the struggle between the inner Lot struggling for materialism and the spiritual influence of uncle Abraham who brought out the good in Lot. Such a contrast makes reasonable the conjecture that Lot learned hospitality from Abraham. It was not his natural way but rather something learned.

The above analysis exposes what we have called the flavor of Rashi rules. Some Rashi rules are punchy and deterministic while other Rashi rules have a speculative and subjective nature. Both rules yield objective true results--but the results feel different. For example the list above clearly shows a stark contrast in personality traits. The stark contrast demands a resolution. A simple obvious resolution is the reasonable conjecture that Abraham taught Lot hospitality and moral values. True, it could have been someone else, or maybe Lot just had a split personality. But this approach--that Abraham taught him--- is most reasonable.

Finally we learn an important moral point: Every person no matter how materialistic can change by apprenticing him/her-self to a moral role model who will instruct them on a new right path.

9. RASHI METHOD: SPREADSHEETS
BRIEF EXPLANATION: Inferences from a) computations, b) diagrams or c) consequences.
This examples applies to Rashis Gn19-29a Gn21-30c
URL Reference: (c) http://www.Rashiyomi.com/gn19-29a.htm

We repeat the analysis presented in rule #3, grammar above.

Verse Gn21-29:31 states And Abimelech said to Abraham, What do these seven ewe lambs mean which you have set by themselves? And he said, These seven ewe lambs shall you take from my hand, in order that it will be a witness to me, that I have dug this well. Therefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they swore both of them.

Rashi explains that the underlined word it refers back to the act of taking. In other words the taking of the 7 lambs acknowledges that the wells belonged to Abraham.

A natural question is how? How does the taking of the seven sheep constitute witness that the wells belonged to Abraham. Rashi conjectures: Abraham not only dug the well but knew its ins and outs; he knew the best times to draw water from it. Consequently, Abraham's sheep were healthier then other sheep. By taking the seven sheep Avimelech acknowledges that they are worth taking; in other words, Abraham's sheep were better than Avimelech's own sheep because Abraham not only created the well but knew when it gave its best waters.

This offers more mature insight into the dialog between Abraham and Avimelech. Abraham did not simply say: This is mine. Such an apodictic statement would not earn any respect. Rather Abraham said: This is mine;in fact I can prove it by showing that I am more familiar with the well then other people. Such an analysis serves as a role model for future generation dialogs between Jews and non-Jews. Jews are encouraged in their assertions of ownership to both assert and defend their claims. Such presentations earn respect and yield results.

    Advanced Rashi: We have left to clarify the inference method used by Rashi. Note that the
  • words of the verses
  • grammar of the verses
  • comparison with other verses are all clear and require no resolution. The verses clearly state that by Avimelech taking the 7 sheep acknowledgement is given that Abraham dug these wells. What Rashi adds to this clear verse is a conjecture on the causal relationship between the taking and the acknowledgement of ownership. Rashi conjectures that the taking was a symbol of acknowledgement since his sheep were healthier because they were fed by the waters of the well whose ins and outs Abraham knew.

Such a conjecture of causal relationship on an otherwise clearly understood verse is classified by us as a Spreadsheet Rashi since spreadsheets are used to conjecture possible causes. The flavor of spreadsheet Rashis is very often a flavor of conjecture and subjectivity. Analysis of sources frequently shows alternate approaches.

Finally we make some comments on Rashi's literal language: Rashi: The waters of the well rose for these 7 sheep; hence taking them would acknowledge Abraham's ownership of them. We have interpreted well waters rose not literally but figuratively to indicate that Abraham knew the best time to water sheep--that is, he knew how to get the maximum water from the well. Such reinterpretations of Rashi are common. It is for this reason that one must focus on the underlying Rashi method before approaching Rashi.

Conclusion

This week's parshah contains no examples of the Style and symbolism, method. This concludes this weeks edition. Visit the RashiYomi website at http://www.Rashiyomi.com for further details and examples.