Their presence in Rashis on Parshat VaYaYTzaY Vol 8, # 6 - Adapted from Rashi-is-Simple
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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.
Verse Gn31-32 discussing who robbed Laban of his idols states With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, she shall not live; before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee.' --For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.-- Rashi notes: The underlined phrase, she shall not live, can be supported by a cross-reference to Gn35-19 discussing the death of Rachel which states . And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Beth-Lehem Recall that in fact Rachel had stolen Laban's idols as stated in verse Gn31-19 which states And Laban went to shear his sheep; and Rachel had stolen the teraphim that were her father?s Hence the Rashi comment: Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen her father's idols. For this reason he cursed with death the person who stole it. This curse led to the premature death of Rachel.
Sermonic Points: The sermonic point behind this Rashi is obvious: Do not curse! Do not swear! Do not take oaths! Be cautious in judgement.
Rashi's explanation of Biblical words can sometimes be etymological. A particularly simple example of this approach occurs with four-letter words. Rashi, following the Talmud, interprets the meaning of every four-letter word as being the combination of the meanings of its two sub-two-letter words. The examples in the list below illustrate this.
Today anyone wanting to learn Hebrew can take a course and learn Biblical Hebrew grammar. But in Rashi's time Grammar was just beginning. One of Rashi's major tasks was to teach basic Hebrew Grammar the same way we find in modern Hebrew textbooks. Modern Hebrew Grammar deals with such issues as conjugation of verbs, indication of possessive pronouns, gender etc. Today's example illustrates this.
Verse Gn31-40 discussing Jacob's complaint that he worked hard for Laban but was double-crossed states Thus I was: in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep fled from mine eyes. Rashi explains The Hebrew word Shin-Nun-Hay means sleep. To indicate my sleep we replace the terminal Hey with a terminal Tauv-Yud, making the word Shin-Nun-Tauv-Yud.
The table below presents an aligned extract of verses in Gn31-17a, Gn36-06 Both verses discuss fathers taking wives and children on a trip. The alignment justifies the Rashi assertion that Jacob preserved the gender role models (men lead) while Esauv did not (women lead). The propriety and implications of this will be discussed in the sermonic points section.
Sermonic points: Sexually, men and women differ physiologically. Male performance is not involuntary. Society has therefore created social structures to show respect for the male need to perform by allowing men to go first. By symbolically affirming that we wait for the men to go first we encourage a maturer approach to marital relations with a resulting greater respect for the women. Conversely, allowing women to lead - Esauv's practice - creates unnecessary anxiety and can lead to lower class behavior. Thus these Rashis emanating from a sound Biblical alignment hilight the underlying reason behind the social customs of letting men go first.
The table below presents two contradictory verses. Both verses speak about Jacob's wedding night The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter. ...And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in to her. while the other verse states And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah; and he said to Laban, What is this that you have done to me? did not I serve with you for Rachel? why then have you deceived me? We see the contradiction---Was Jacob double crossed by day or night? Rashi simply resolves this using the 2 Aspects method: Jacob wanted Rachel. Rachel knew how Jacob liked to be flirted with. She shared his flirting preferences with Leah. When Jacob married Leah he thought he was marrying someone who understood his physical needs. But in the morning Leah resumed to her old self and it was only then that Jacob understood he was double-crossed.
Advanced Rashi: This is a beautiful example of refutation of a flippant reading of Rashi. Rashi literally says: Rachel did not want her sister Leah to be embarassed. Jacob had personal signs with Rachel since he expected to be double-crossed. But Rachel gave these signs to Leah. Notice that Rashi already leaves out the more explicit statements, found in some midrashim, that Rachel hid under the marital bed so that Jacob should think he was relating to Rachel.
From a conceptual point of view I am interpreting the Rashi comment Rachel gave Leah the personal signs she and Jacob had agreed on to mean that Rachel shared highly personal preferences of Jacob in flirting. I would similarly interpret the phrase found in other midrashim Rachel hid under the bed to mean Rachel shared personal flirting signs with Leah.
Sermonic Points: Men and women view sex differently. Men are more biological while women are more personal. Men are more likely to select a spouse based on physical items like flirting. At early stages of their life this is important to them(or more important then it should be). Women sometimes belittle this need of men and play games with men. It doesn't have to be as extreme as the Rachel-Leah case. If people think that two people belong together they may give instruction on how to flirt to facilitate the marriage. As is clear from the Jacob-Rachel-Leah story such attempts however noble their intention do not always work. Rather the social area requires special emphasis on all laws of sensitivity.
Certain Biblical paragraphs are stated in a Theme-Development form. In other words a broad general idea is stated first followed by the development of this broad general theme in specific details. The Theme-Detail form creates a unified paragraph. The Rabbi Ishmael Style rules require exhausting the meaning of the theme sentence in the indicated development sentences. Today's example illustrates this as shown below.
We have explained in our article Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at http://www.Rashiyomi.com/biblicalformatting.pdf, that the Biblical Author indicated unspecified emphasis by using repetition.
That is, if a modern author wanted to get a point across using bold, italics, underlhine - an indication of unspecified emphasis - then the Biblical Author would instead use repetition. Today's verse illustrates this principle.
With this in mind we review verse Gn31-50a, discussing Laban's warning not to afflict his daughters, which states If thou shalt afflict my daughters, and if thou shalt take wives beside my daughters, no man being with us; see, G-d is witness betwixt me and thee.' Note the repeated underlined word, daughters. Malbim, clarifies the nature of this repetition: The verse could have substituted a pronoun for the second occurrence of daughters: If thou shalt afflict my daughters, and if thou shalt take wives beside them,
The repetition of the word, daughters creates an unspecified emphasis, similar to a modern bolding or italicizing of the word. In modern notation we would write If thou shalt afflict my daughters. Rashi comments on the unspecified emphasis: Daughters includes his actual daughters, Rachel and Leah, and apparently also includes their handmaids, BIlhah and Zilpah. Apparently Bilhah and Zilpah were also his daughters from live-in girlfriends (concubines).
Advanced Rashi: For further examples of regarding Biblical styles such as repetition as parallel to modern styles such as bold, italics, underline, see my article Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at http://www.RashiYomi.com/biblicalformatting.pdf.
Rashi further explains that People who are alive have sexual temptations and may sin - therefore it would not be proper to call them God of so and so since if they sin they would not deserve the title. Hence Jacob was reluctant to say God of Isaac during his father's lifetime and instead said The Fear of Isaac.
Advanced Rashi: Several points should be made. First: Rashi only states that God does not let his name lie on the righteous during their lifetime. We have extended Rashi's principle. God does not do this but people will do it. The justification for this is the above table.
Rashi points out that Isaac is the one exception where we find God calling Himself The God of Isaac during Isaac's lifetime. Isaac had led a monogomous life, never had a concubine, and had reached a mature stage of marriage. Hence it was very unlikely he would sin. This justified God saying The God of Isaac. However while God could be reasonably certain that Isaac would never sin, Jacob could not be and therefore Jacob took the more conservative approach and used the phrase the The fear of Isaac.
First some background. Jacob had fled from Laban. Laban makes hot pursuit and overtakes him. Laban clandestinely threatens him: Gn31-29 states It is in the power of my hand to hurt you; but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, Take heed that you speak not to Jacob either good or bad. Later as Laban and Jacob continue their heated discussion Laban states in Gn31-43 And Laban answered and said unto Jacob: 'The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that thou seest is mine; and what can I do this day for these my daughters, or for their children whom they have borne? Rashi Fills in the meaning of the cryptic underlined phrase: and what can I do this day for these my daughters by tieing it to the previous verse with a threat: How can I harm you seeing that my daughters are your wives.
Here the sole purpose of Rashi is to Fill in implied meaning using common sense. For this reason we call this Rashi method the fill-in.
Advanced Rashi: It is also possible to derive this Rashi using the Rabbi Ishmael rules. The rule Inference from context would justify interpreting what can I do to mean How can I harm them--they are my daughters.
Sermonic Points: Laban initially said that God was the reason why he wasn't hurting Jacob as we find in verse Gn31-29 which explicitly states It is in the power of my hand to hurt you; but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, Take heed that you speak not to Jacob either good or bad. However Laban was simply shakin up by having God visit him. He wasn't religious. He therefore tried to cover up his sudden religious experience: The reason I don't hurt you has nothing to do with God - rather, if I hurt you I would have to hurt your wives, my daugthers, and I don't want to hurt them. Thus this Rashi shows us how wicked people cover up religious experiences with alternate explanations.
This week's parshah does not contain examples of the Rashi Symbolism method. Visit the RashiYomi website at http://www.Rashiyomi.com for further examples.