The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat VaYiShLaCh
Vol 8, # 7
- Adapted from Rashi-is-Simple
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(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President, Nov - 22, - 2007

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 Gn32-08a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Jacob FEARED and WAS DISTRESSED. The word FEAR refers to possible loss of life mentioned explicitly in Gn32-12.

Verse Gn32-08 discussing Jacob's fear of being smitten by Esau states Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, in two bands; Rashi notes The underlined word, afraid, references verse Gn32-12 which explicitly states Jacob was worried about Esauv smiting him.

Text of Target Verse Gn32-08 Text of Reference Verse Gn32-12
Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, in two bands; Save me, I beseech you, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he will come and strike me, and the mother with the children.
Rashi comments: The underlined words-fear - show that Jacob was worried about being conquered militarily and the resulting loss of life.

We continue this example in Rule #4 below.

      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 Gn34-14a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Cheth-Pay-Resh means WINTER and COLD/EMBARASSING/DISGRACEFUL

    The FFF submethod states that words can be named by Form, Feel, and Function.
  • Some examples of naming words by Form include (a) the leg of a chair, (b) the handle of a pot, (c) the branch of a family tree, (d) surfing the net or (e) brainstorming Some of these examples illustrate naming objects by form while other examples illustrate naming activities by form.
  • A good punchy example distinguishing naming by form vs. function is pentagon-UN. The pentagon is named after the shape and form of the building while the United Nations is named after the function and purpose of the building. Although both these buildings have as a purpose world peace they are named differently.
  • Examples of naming by feel/substance are glasses, hardship, ironing-board, plaster etc.

The FFF principle is a special case of the literary techniques of synechdoche-metonomy. These literary principles, universal to all languages, state that items can be named by related items, by parts of those items, or by good examples of those items. For example honey refers to anything sweet since honey is a good example of something sweet. Similarly hot refers to matters of love since the two are related. Todays Rashi can best be understood by applying these principles.

Verse Gn34-14 discussing the requirement of circumcision for marriage states and said unto them: 'We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a cold thing unto us. The Hebrew word Cheth-Resh-Pay-Hey is usually translated as a disgrace. However the same Hebrew root means Winter. Consequently I have chosen to translate the word in Gn34-14 as meaning cold. Here I use the universal and powerful metonomy principle which asserts that passion can be named heat and disgrace/embarassment can be named cold. Similar idioms exist in English.

      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 examples applies to Rashis Gn32-06a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Collective nouns can use the singular.

Verse Gn32-06a discussing Jacob's assets states And I have cattle and..., and men-servants and maid-servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favour in thy sight.' Rashi comments: Cattle is a collective noun. Although there are many cattle in each heard we use the singular cattle. By contract, men-servants is plural.

To further clarify this Rashi I use the simple technique of reviewing the identical grammatical concepts in other languages. Such commonality sheds credibility on Rashi. I simply googled collective noun and found the website It is not a profound website but you can find everything there.

The website gives many examples of collective nouns: army, faculty, family, jury, school, class, team, society... Each of these items is a collective noun: That is, it is a single entity like an army which consists of many members. therefore these collective nouns can take singular or plural. The following golden rule of collective nouns is given on the above website: Here is the key: Imagine a flock of pigeons pecking at birdseed on the ground. Suddenly, a cat races out of the bushes. What do the pigeons do? They fly off as a unit in an attempt to escape the predator, wheeling through the sky in the same direction. People often behave in the same manner, doing one thing in unison with the other members of their group. When these people are part of a collective noun, that noun becomes singular. As a result, you must use singular verbs and pronouns with it.

Sermonic Points: Armys throughout the Bible sometimes have their attacks described in the singular or plural. The Malbim explains that a singular verb connotes unified activity while a plural verb connotes lack of unity. The most famous example is Ex19-02 which describes the Jewish people when they received the Torah: and he [the Jews] encamped by the mountain. Rashi comments: The encamped as one unit with a common goal and feeling.

Such Rashis and Malbims are very often perceived as homiletic. The typical cynical comment is: Nice idea and good for a sermon but you don't have to believe it. This is simply not true. The rule is common to both English and Hebrew. It is a rule of gramamr not a flimsy afterthought of sermonics. If such an interpretaion is OK for an English class then should we as Jews be inferior?

A chilling Talmudic tale relates that students asked their Rabbi for a deathbed blessing. He responded May you fear God the way you fear public opinion. They retorted: Is that all you can bless us with? To which he responded: This is a great blessing because the major deterent to sin is public opinion, not God. In a similar manner I would bless and urge all readers that their respect for Midrash should be as great as their respect for English literature.

    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 Gn32-08a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Jacob was AFRAID and DISTRESSED. AFRAID of being KILLED and DISTRESSED that he MIGHT HAVE TO KILL.

The table below presents an aligned extract of verselets in Gn32-08a Both verselets discuss the fear Jacob had. The alignment justifies the Rashi assertion that There were apparently two fears. We have seen in rule #1 above that the word fear refers to fear of being killed, explicitly mentioned with that langauge in Gn32-12. Rashi therefore assumes that distressed refers to a complimentary fear which Rashi suggests is the fear of having to kill.

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
Gn32-08 Jacob was afraid Afraid of being killed, as mentioned explicitly in Gn32-12.
Gn32-12 ....and distressed Rashi assumes that the aligned verbs - fear distress - refer to complimentary fears. Since fear refers to fear of being killed Rashi suggests distress as referring to fear of having to kill.

Advanced Rashi: A similar fear - of having to kill - is seen by Abraham who was afraid after a military conquest over an alliance. Since he was afraid after victory we assume he was concerned about the life he took (Rashi: Gn15-01a). However since this fear of his is not explicitly mentioned we sufficed with use of the alignment principle to justify the current Rashi.

Sermonic points: At the synagogue where I lein during the week the Rabbi learns a little bit before leining. The Rabbi cited this Rashi and mentioned Golda Meir's famous quote that We will forgive the Arabs for killing our boys but we will not forgive them for making us kill. The feelings behind such a quote emanate from this Rashi on Jacob.

      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 Gn36-24b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Zibeon committed incest with his mother who gave birth to Anah. Thus Zibeon and Anah had a common mother and were brothers even though Zibeon was Anah's father.

The table below presents presents two contradictory verses. Both verses speak about The relationship of two people name Zibeon and Anah. The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says These are the sons of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land; Lotan, and Shobal, and Zibeon, and Anah, [They were both sons of the same person implying they were brothers;] while the other verse states And these are the children of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah--this is Anah who found the hot springs in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father. Which is it? Was Anah the son of Zibeon or his brother? Rashi simply resolves this using the 2 Aspects method (and some simple adult humor). Zibeon was the older brother. He had an affair with his mother and the child was Anah. Hence he was the father of Anah. However since he and Anah had a common mother he was also his brother.

Summary Verse / Source Text of verse / Source
Zibeon and Anah are brothers. Gn36-20 These are the sons of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land; Lotan, and Shobal, and Zibeon, and Anah, [They were both sons of the same person implying they were brothers.]
Anah was Zibeon's son. Gn36-24 And these are the children of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah--this is Anah who found the hot springs in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.
Resolution: 2 Aspects Zibeon was the older brother. He had an affair with his mother and the child was Anah. Hence he was the father of Anah. However since he and Anah had a common mother he was also his brother.

Sermonic Points: Although Rashi resolved this through some simple adult humor there are nevertheless serious implications. For just as Anah was illegitimate he went out and experimented with creating wild-mules (animals from two species). The resulting animals were known for their wildness. Here Rashi explores the consequences of illegitimacy. It encourages wild experimentation without regard to the possible wild consequences of this experimentation. By contrast, normal people will think first about consequences.

    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 examples applies to Rashis Gn33-04b
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: The angels said WHERE IS YOUR SPOUSE Rashi: Strike out the words TO HIM. They said it to both!

We have explained in our article Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at, that the Biblical Author indicates bold, italics, underline by using repetition. In other words if a modern author wanted to emphasize a word they would either underline, bold or italicize it. However when the Biblical author wishes to emphasize a word He repeats it. The effect - whether thru repetition or using underline - is the same. It is only the means of conveying this emphasis that is different.

When a modern author wishes to deemphasize a concept they will strike it out. When the Biblical author wishes to deemphasize a concept He places dots over it. The dots in the Biblical version, or the strikeout in the modern version, indicate deemphasis.

    There are 6 examples of dotting or strikeout in the Bible. They are presented in the list below along with the accompanying Rashi interpretation. In each case Rashi interprets the verse as if the word was Stricken out.
    • Nu03-39a: All that were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of HaShem, by their families, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand. Rashi: Aaron was stricken from the census--that is he wasn't counted since he was a Levite.
    • Gn33-04b: And Esau ran to meet him [Jacob], and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept. Rashi: The kiss should be stricken from the record! It wasn't a real (i.e. sincere) kiss since Esau really hated Jacob. Rashi offers an alternative explanation: The kiss should be stricken from the record since it was the only sincere kiss. All other kisses were insincere.
    • Dt29-29a: The secret things [sins] belong unto HaShem our G-d; but the things [sins] that are revealed belong [are visited] unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. Rashi: Revealed should be stricken. Revealed sins weren't always visited upon the community; they weren't visited upon the community till after the conquest of Israel in the time of Joshua.
    • Gn37-12a: And his brethren went to shepard their father's flock in Shechem. Rashi: The word shepard should be stricken out since they didn't really go to shepard sheep; rather they went to escape their father who favored Joseph.
    • Nu09-10a: Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: If any man of you or of your generations shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto HaShem; Rashi: The requirement far off should be stricken. One need not be absolutely far away - but far away enough not to be able to come to Jerusalem.
    • Gn18-09: And they said to him: 'Where is Sarah thy wife?' And he said: 'Behold, in the tent.' Rashi: The phrase to him should be stricken. They said it generally, not just to him. When they met Abraham they said to him where is your spouse. Similarly when they met Sarah they said where is your spouse.

Advanced Rashi: Each of the above Rashis might look homiletic by itself. However the list of Rashis creates an aura of credibility that we would otherwise not be able to achieve. The list of examples is thus an important vehicle for understanding and explaining difficult Rashis.

Rashi actually gives a more detailed technical explanation. Rashi distinguishes between cases when the number of dots on the word is more than the number of letters. However the above set of explanations is straightforward and does not require such technicalities.

      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 example applies to Rashis Gn36-03b Gn34-25b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Genealogies are usually patriarchal. If a genealogy is not patriarchal it emphasizes some special relationship. 'Dinah daughter of Leah' emphasizes she learned how to handle men from Leah. Basmath sister of Nevayoth implies he helped her get married.

We ask the following database query: How are genealogies listed? The reader is encouraged to perform the query using a standard Biblical Konnkordance or search engine. This database query yields the list below. The list justifies the following Rashi inference: Genealogies are usually patriarchal. If a genealogy is not patriarchal it emphasizes some special relationshiph. 'Dinah daughter of Leah' emphasizes she learned how to handle men from her mother. 'Basmath sister of Nevayoth' implies he helped raise her and get her married. 'Shimon and Levi the brothers of Dinah' emphasizes they risked their lives to save her. The list below presents the results of the database query. Although there are several examples throughout the Bible there are three in this weeks Parshah.

Verses Who Genealogy by ... The Emphasis
Gn34-25b Shimon, Levi Dinah's brother They risked their lives for her
Gn36-03b Basmath Sister of Nevayoth He helped raise her/get her married
Gn34-01 Dinah Daughter of Leah She imitated her mother in male-female relations.

To further clarify this table we cite Gn34-01 which states And Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. A more thorough analysis would require showing the many verses where genealogies are patriarchal (e.g. language of the form Dinah the daughter of Jacob.).The reader is encouraged to read thru various chapters of the Bible and see how people are described. There are about a dozen genealogy Rashis in the Torah.

Sermonic Points: See below in rule #9 where we discuss the unfair treatment of Rashi in his analysis of Gn34-01. Rashi was not blaiming Leah. Rather he was empathizing with her natural feelings of guilt on Dinah's rape. Guilt is a feeling and can sometimes arise in a blameless person. The feelings of guilt manifest themselves in thoughts such as the following: I should have told her / talked to her more. There must have been something I could have done. Maybe I should have been more discrete around the house. ... As indicated such thoughts of guilt are normal. They occur throughout history. It is important for Jewish women to have a matriarchal role model to help them deal with what they are going through.

      9. RASHI METHOD: NonVerse
      BRIEF EXPLANATION: The common denominator of the 3 submethods of the NonVerse 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 Gn34-07a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Even criminals have boundaries. Going into their turf may invite rought treatment but they know that rape is off-limits.

Verse Gn34-07a discussing the rape of Dinah, who wandered into a third world neighborhood, states And the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought a vile deed in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; which thing is not done.

Rashi comments on the underlined phrase which thing is not done. Rashi explains You might argue contributory fault of the rape victim. After all, she should have known better than to go into a third world neighborhood (even if she was socializing with the girls). The Bible therefore emphasizes that although roughing people up and macho behavior is to be expected when you go to a third world neighborhood, rape is not to be expected. Even third world nations know the seriousness of Rape and have their own cultural methods, which usually involve heavy bonding in groups, to prevent people from going overboard. So Schem was the real rapist

Advanced Rashi: Someone asked me a few weeks ago if I deal with Rashi contradictions. We have such a Rashi contradiction in Gn34 since at Gn34-01 Rashi, commenting on the unusual genealogical phrase, Dinah the daughter of Leah states, Leah was frequently forward with her husband and set a bad role model for Dinah, who was forward with men. This led to her rape. But on Gn34-07 Rashi states that Schem was the rapist. Which is it? Did Leah cause the rape by showing Dinah how to be forward or was Schem solely responsibile for the rape. Or, perhaps Rashi is implying that Schem and Leah both contributed to the rape.

Before answering this contradiction I note that many non-Rashi scholars have vehemently attacked this Rashi, the lastest example, being the book The Red Tent. It would behoove those who comment on Rashi to at least inquire as to what he is saying. He couldn't have meant that Leah was the rapist since he goes out of his way to blaim Schem and remove any defense.

It appears to me that we can understand Rashi if we distinguish between blaim and guilt. Leah is not to be blaimed for Dinah's rape. She did not contribute to it. Indeed, Leah was Dinah's mother. Rather Leah, upon hearing of the rape, felt guilty that perhaps her forward behavior with Jacob sent an incorrect signal to her daughter that such behavior is always appropriate. She felt guilty that she never taught her the dangers of being forward with men So at Gn34-01 Rashi is explaining the natural feeling of guilt coming from a role model of female forwardness. The reader might ask How can you be blameless and feel guilty? The answer is that guilt is an emotion not a moral judgement. The symptoms of blameless guilt are thoughts such as the following: Maybe I should have spoke to her more about men? Maybe I should have been more discrete around the house. Maybe I could have done something and this wouldn't have happened. Blaim however is correctly placed on the rapist and Rashi goes out of his way to blaim him despite the fact that she walked into his turf - even criminals have boundaries and borders. Furthermore it is important for Rashi to comment on Leah's guilt since in all generations Jewish mothers do feel guilty when something happens to their daughters and they need appropriate role-models to identify with.


This week's parshah contains no examples of the symbolism, and style Rashi methods. Visit the RashiYomi website at for further details and examples.