The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat SheMoTh
Vol 5 #2
- Adapted from Rashi-is-Simple
Visit the RashiYomi website:
(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President, Jan - 10, - 2007
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.


    BRIEF EXPLANATION: Commentary on a verse is provided thru a cross-reference to another verse. The cross references can either provide
    • (1a) further details,
    • (1b) confirm citations, or
    • (1c) clarify word meaning.
    This examples applies to Rashis Ex03-18c
    URL Reference: (c)

Verse Ex03-18c, discussing Moses request for the Jews to go and celebrate a holiday states And the Jews shall listen to your voice; and you,Moses, and the Jewish elders shall come, to the king of Egypt, and you shall say to him, The Lord God of the Hebrews has accidented us; and now let us plesae go away for a three days? journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God. . This verse uses the strange underlined term, accidented, which does not make sense here. Rashi clarifies this unusual term by cross-referencing another verse Nu23-03 presenting Bilam's attempt to achieve prophetic communication to help Moab: And Balaam said to Balak, Stand by your burnt offering, and I will go; perhaps the Lord will accident me; and whatever he shows me I will tell you. And he went to a high place. Hence the Rashi comment: To accident can mean (in the appropriate context) to receive a prophecy.

Sermonic and Advanced Points: Rashi describes but does not explain why: Why is prophecy called accident. Insight is provided by the revelation at the decalogue in Ex19,Ex20. There we see prophecy compared to confrontation with fire. Prophecy very often opens up dimensions of reality we were not aware of--it is sudden, abrupt and confrontational. Hence the use of fire symbolizing a burning revelation. The term accident also connotes something sudden, abrupt and unexpected.

Rashi goes a step further. Comparing the language used for prophecy in Lv01-01 vs. Nu23-03 Rashi comments: Jewish prophecy is termed God calls while non-Jewish prophecy is termed God accidents. The non-Jew sees the prophetic content as shocking and abrupt while the Jew is prepared for the prophecy by a calling by God which orients the prophet mentally to prepare for the unexpected.

    BRIEF EXPLANATION: The meaning of words can be explained either by
    • (2a) translating an idiom, a group of words whose collective meaning transcends the meaning of its individual component words,
    • (2b) explaining the nuances and commonality of synonyms-homographs,
    • (2c) describing the usages of connective words like also,because,if-then, when,
    • (2d) indicating how grammatical conjugation can change word meaning
    • (2e) changing word meaning using the figures of speech common to all languages such as irony and oxymorons.
    This examples applies to Rashis Ex01-07a
    URL Reference: (c)

    Today we explore how conjugations can transform the word meanings of common nouns into the typical activities associated with the objects named by these nouns. Some common examples are
  • to flower, refers to the activity of producing new flowers;
  • to hammer, refers to the typical activity done with a hammer;
  • to dust, refers to the activity of removing dust;
  • to insectify, swarming and producing many children [Rashi: Ex01-07a]
  • to fish-ify, producing a school of many children. [Rashi: Gn48-16c]

Advanced Rashi: Rashi goes further and deeper into these nuances. For example Rashi points out that Fish live in water where they are protected from the natural disasters of the elements such as excessive heat and storms. My goal in this digest is to explain the basic idea of Rashi. Advanced Rashi-ists can (and should) always find further and deeper nuances to the Rashi text.

A rather interesting advanced Rashi point is the classical explanation of the Rashi on Ex01-07a which states: the Jews insectified. Rashi comments: Insectify: This means they produced 6 children at a time. The advanced Rashi-ists claim that Rashi derived the number 6 from the 6 verbs and adverbs occurring in Ex01-07a: the Jews were very, very, fruitful, insectified, multiplied, became-hugh. I think this association of 6 verb-adverbs with 6 children per woman is fanciful and not rule-based. I prefer a conceptual approach to Rashi: The word insectify means swarming with children like insects. Since the maximum number of births is 6 Rashi illustrated this idea using 6. The advantage of using my proposed explanation of Rashi is that it is rule-based and reproducable--it allows the serious student of Rashi to apply similar techniques in other contexts.

    BRIEF EXPLANATION: Rashi explains verses using grammar principles, that is, rules which relate reproducable word form to word meaning. Grammatical rules neatly fall into 3 categories
    • (a) the rules governing conjugation of individual words,Biblical roots,
    • (b) the rules governing collections of words,clauses, sentences
    • (c) miscellaneous grammatical, or form-meaning, rules.
    This example applies to Rashis Ex02-05c
    URL Reference:

Verse Ex02-05c states And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river?s side; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to fetch it. Rashi notes the sudden shift in the underlined words from singular to plural. Hence the Rashi comment (with added explanation): Pharoh, her father had issued a death decree on the Jewish babies. So his daughter couldn't take the risk of allowing any maid to take the baby since word would leak back to her father. Instead she sent her personal maid, the one who was always in attendance on her. The verse indicates this by the shift in plurality: The maidens walked along the river but she sent her maid to fetch it.

Advanced Rashi and sermonic points: Rav Hirsch points out that despite Pharoh's decree the Egypitan people were not blood thirsty and didn't really care to participate in the mass murder. Here we see Pharoh's own daughter violating his decree and conspiring with the child's Jewish mother.

This has relevance for us today. Bad decrees very often emanate from rulers; the masses however may be sympathetic to Jewish causes. This allows formation of an underground that can help Jewish causes. The Jews have frequently exploited this in their various struggles.

Rashi's literal language is as follows: The verse refers to Pharoh's daughter's maiden. However the Talmudic Rabbis referred it to her personal hand which stretched forward several feet to save the baby.

I would interpret personal hand to mean her personal handmaid. I would interpret stretched several feet to mean that Pharoh's daughter carried a royal sceptre by which decrees can be made. We find such a sceptre referred to by Achashveirosh who stretched forth his sceptre to prevent his protective service from killing queen Vashti Es05-02. I would apply this concept here also. Pharoh's daughter strecthed forth her sceptre several feet and prohibited termination of the baby. The stretching forth of her sceptre is picturesquely referred to by Rashi as stretching forth her hand.

Thus, although the literal interpretation of this Rashi appears difficult, I believe that Rashi expresses the simple meaning of the text. We have arrived at this simple meaning using the single-plural distinction and by using well known idioms. Thus we interpreted her hand the same as the English her right hand indicating her personal handmaid. Similarly we have interpreted stretched forth her hand as stretched forth her sceptre. Finally a review of the 6 times that the Hebrew word Stretched occurs in the Talmud justifies interpreting this word not as a physical stretching but as an extension of authority. Consequently I consider this Rashi interpretation an ideal way to approach all Rashis.

    BRIEF EXPLANATION: Aligning two almost identically worded verselets can suggest
    • (4a) 2 cases of the same incident or law
    • (4b) emphasis on the nuances of a case
    • (4c) use of broad vs literal usage of words
    This examples applies to Rashis Ex04-07a
    URL Reference: (c)

    Note the alignment of the underlined words in the following verses: Verse Ex04-06 discussing how God punished Moses with leprosy for slandering the Jewish people that they would not accept a prophet states
  • And the Lord said furthermore to him, Put now your hand into your bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom; and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, white as snow. while verse Ex04-07a discussing how God cured Moses' leprosy states
  • And he said, Put your hand into your bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and when he took it from his bosom, behold, it was returned to healthy flesh.

    Rashi comments on the aligned underlined passages which contrast when the cure and leprosy punishment took place--when he took it out of his bossom vs when he took it out [completely]:
  • He was cured as soon as he took his hand out of his bossom but
  • he was punished after he took his hand completely out.

Hence the Rashi comment: We see from this that God's cure and redemption is faster than his punishment.

Sermonic points: The above passage has obvious relevance for all of us as we improve our lives. We should always be aware of the swiftness of God's mercies despite the length of time we have endured suffering.

    BRIEF EXPLANATION:Rashi resolves contradictory verses using 3 methods.
    • (5a) Resolution using two aspects of the same event
    • (5b) Resolution using two stages of the same process
    • (5c) Resolution using broad-literal interpretation.
    This example applies to Rashis Ex02-06a Ex02-06b
    URL Reference: (c)

    Note the contradiction in the following verses.
  • Verse Ex02-06 discussing the discovery, by Pharoh's daughter, of baby Moses in a basket states And when she had opened it, she saw the child; while
  • Verse Ex02-06 also discussing the discovery of Moses in a basket by Pharoh's daughter, states and, behold, the baby wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews? children.

We see the contradiction: Which is it? Did Pharoh's daughter discover a baby or child?

    Rashi resolves this using the two aspects method of resolution.
  • Moses had the age of a baby but
  • the demeanor of a child.

Advanced Rashi: I make the following conjecture: Moses mother knew that if the child cried she would be caught. Hence at the first sign of crying by the child Moses' mother would run to take care of him. This vested a certain regality in the child--for the child learned that by a simple utterance of a cry he would get what he wants. This differs from most babies who cry excessively when they don't get what they want. Pharoh's daughter was attracted to this regality and therefore wanted to raise the child as her own. Hence the dual language in the verse---agewise Moses was an infant but in demeanor and maturity he had the regality of an older child.

    Rashi examines how rules of style influences inferences between general and detail statements in paragraphs.
    • Example: Every solo example stated by the Bible must be broadly generalized;
    • Theme-Detail: A general principle followed by an example is interpreted restrictively---the general theme statement only applies in the case of the example;
    • Theme-Detail-Theme: A Theme-Detail-Theme unit is interpreted as a paragraph. Consequently the details of the paragraph are generalized so that they are seen as illustrative of the theme.
    This examples applies to Rashis Ex01-20b Ex01-20a
    URL Reference: (c)

    Biblical verses Ex01-20:21 forms a Biblical paragraph with a theme-detail structure:
  • Therefore God dealt well with the midwives; [who enabled] the people to multiply, and became very mighty.
  • And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them socially distinguished.

Rashi paraphrased comments: The two sentences form one paragraph. That is the statement in the first theme sentence God dealt well with the midwives refers to the details mentioned in the second detail sentence God made them socially distinguished.

    Rashi's comment seems rather obvious. His point of emphasis is that the two verses should be read together. Here are the literal verse and Rashi comments:
  • Verse God dealth well with the midwives
  • Rashi: And how did he deal well with them?
  • Verse: God made them houses
  • Rashi: That is, God made them socially distinguished.

Sermonic points: The sermonic inferences from these verses and Rashi are obvious: God rewards good deeds and furthermore the reward God gives to those who do good need not be monetary but may be social. In this case God did not give them money or items of monetary value: Rather God gave them social distinction. It is worthwhile when we seek God's grace to remember that His grace may strongly manifest itself with social graces.

    BRIEF EXPLANATION:Inferences from Biblical formatting:
    • Use of repetition to indicate formatting effects: bold,italics,...;
    • use of repeated keywords to indicate a bullet effect;
    • rules governing use and interpretation of climactic sequence;
    • rules governing paragraph development and discourse
    This example applies to Rashis Ex03-11a Ex03-11b
    URL Reference: (c)

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 that just appeared in the Jewish Bible Quarterly,and available on the world wide web, 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 Ex03-11 presenting Moses' protestation against taking the Jews out of Egypt states And Moses said to God, Who am I,
    • that I should go to Pharaoh, and
    • that I should bring forth the people of Israel out of Egypt?
    Rashi interprets the repeated connective keywords as indicating a bullet format. The bullets create a contrastive emphasis requiring focusing on each underlined item. Hence the Rashi comment:
    • Who am I that I should argue against a difficult king like Pharoh
    • Who am I that I should be a leader of an obstinate and difficult people like the Jews

    BRIEF EXPLANATION:Rashi makes inferences from Database queries. The precise definition of database query has been identified in modern times with the 8 operations of Sequential Query Language (SQL).
    This examples applies to Rashis Gn47-29c
    URL Reference: (c)

In todays query we ask: Does the Bible name events by future incidents connected with that event?

We find many verses where items and events are named by future events. Some of them are presented in the table below. The interpretations of each list item are indicated in the accompanying footnotes.

======== =========================================== ============
Gn01-14e Moon designated for holidays                Ex12-02*1
Gn07-02a Take 7 Kosher animals                       Lv11*2
Gn02-14c Rivers surrounded KUSH & ASSHUR             Gn10-07:11*3
Gn14-07b ...the AMALAYK field                        Gn36-12*4*
Ex03-01b Mountain of God                             Ex19-18*6

*1 In other words, Gn01-14 refers to the moon as being
used for the holidays. Yet we don't find the moon being the
basis for holidays until much later in history (See Ex12-01. )

*2 God tells Noach (Gn07-02) to take 7 Kosher animals.
   But the classification of animals as Kosher or non Kosher does
   not occur till much later in history after the exodus (Lv11)

*3 During the paradise story the rivers are described as surrounding 
   Kush and Asshur,countries which did not exist for several hundred
   ears since the founders of these countries were descendants of Noach.

*4 Gn14-07 written in Abraham's time describes the Amalayk
   field. Yet Amalyak was not born till much later (See Gn36-12).

*5 Ex03-01 describes Moses sheparding at the mountain of God.
   But Mount Sinai was not called the mountain of God till God
   revealed himself on it which happened at a later date (Ex19-18)

Sermonic points: The obvious sermonic point is that the Bible is a book about prophecy and hence future events are frequently forshadowed.

    BRIEF EXPLANATION: The common denominator of the 3 submethods of the Spreadsheet method is that inferences are made from non textual material. The 3 submethods are as follows:
    • Spreadsheet: Rashi makes inferences of a numerical nature that can be summarized in a traditional spreadsheet
    • Geometric: Rashi clarifies a Biblical text using descriptions of geometric diagrams
    • Fill-ins: Rashi supplies either real-world background material or indicates real-world inferences from a verse. The emphasis here is on the real-world, non-textual nature of the material.
    This examples applies to Rashis Ex01-15d
    URL Reference: (c)

Verse Ex01-15d states And the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, and the name of one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah; Remarkably Rashi comments: Shifrah and Pooah were Yocheved, Moses' mother, and Miram, Moses' sister. This Rashi appears as startling and not connected to other verses!

We believe that this Rashi can be plausibly defended using the Fill in method. Recall that Pharoh ordered all male babys murdered. Moses was not murdered when born but was kept in hiding for 3 months. His mother put him in a box floating on the Nile. When Pharoh's daughter found the box Miryam, Moses sister, approached Pharoh's daughter to ask if she wanted help from a Midwife.

If Miryam was a nobody this would have aroused suspicion Why was she mysteriously appearing to offer help after the baby was found. Furthermore it would be reasonable that the mysterious midwife that Miryam offered is probably the child's mother. Such suspicions could have led to an investigation and place both Miryam's and Yocheved's life in danger.

Therefore a plausible conjecture is that Miryam was probably a professional midwife. She could offer help without suspicion. Similarly Yocheved must have been a midwife...she made her living thru nursing and delivering so no body would suspect her of being the mother.

This proof is not iron clad---but rather the identification of Miryam and Yocheved as midwives alleviates some of the coincidences that happen in the story and makes it more plausible.

I have from time to time indicated that each Rashi rule has a distinct flavor. The above example illustrates the flavor of the Fill in rule. It is a flavor of plausibility and conjecture. By contrast the word meaning rule has a flavor or punchiness and definitiveness.

Note: We can always claim that there was a tradition to this effect. However even if there was a tradition we should still seek what hints there are in the text.

Advanced Rashi: Rashi goes a step further and identifies Shifrah as Yocheved and Pooah as Miryam. Pooah comes from the root Pay-Ayin-Hey which refers to the hissing like sound of a snake. Rashi explains Pooah was known for her hissings and goo-goos which women frequently make to calm down crying babies. It would therefore seem reasonable that Pooah was Miryam since younger people are more likely to behave like this. Rashi further explains that Shifrah from the root Shin-Pay-Resh, to make proper and nice, could refer to all the activities of a midwife after a birth. Obviously if Pooah is Miryam then the remaining midwife, Shifrah must be Yocheved.

Verse Ex03-02b describing the Revelation of God to Moses in the thornbush states And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a thornbush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. Rashi, using the symbolism of the fire and thornbush states God appeared with burns from the midst of the suffering and pain. Here Rashi interprets fire and thornbush as indicating pain and suffering. The verse, according to this interpretation indicates that God was empathic with the suffering of the Jews.

The idea of God using symbolic objects in prophecies is quite common and occurs frequently in the Bible. To take another example we cite Nu17-16:20 where a tree-branch symbolically indicates a tribal branch. Hence the blossomed branch indicates a productive tribe who is worthy of service in God's temple: And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the people of Israel, and take from every one of them a branch according to the house of their fathers, from all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods; write every man?s name upon his rod. ... And you shall lay them up in the Tent of Meeting before the Testimony, where I will meet with you. And it shall come to pass, that the man?s branch, whose [tribe] I shall choose [to serve in the temple], shall blossom; ...

Advanced Rashi: We can not fully defend the symbolic Rashi's in a newsletter of this size. We refer the more interested reader to my article on symbolism, available on the world-wide-web.


This week's parshah contains examples of all Rashi rules. This concludes this weeks edition. Visit the RashiYomi website at for further details and examples.