The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat VaYaYSheV
Vol 8, # 8
- Adapted from Rashi-is-Simple
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(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President, Nov - 29, - 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 Gn39-09a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Jews are called HEBREWS from EYVER-OTHER SIDE. They are DIFFERENT - OTHER SIDE.

Verse Gn39-09 discussing Joseph's refusal to commit adultery states There is none greater in this house than I; nor has he kept back any thing from me but you, because you are his wife; how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? Rashi notes The underlined words, how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? references verses Gn12-17:18, Gn26-11 which explicitly indicate general awareness among non-Jews that adultery leads to Gods killing people.

Text of Target Verse Gn39-09 Text of Reference Verse Gn12-17:18, Gn26-11
There is none greater in this house than I; nor has he kept back any thing from me but you, because you are his wife; how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram?s wife. And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?... And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death
Rashi comments: The underlined words-plagues...put to death - show that the non-Jewish world was aware that the prohibition of adultery was not something religious and abstract but rather real-world and perceived, consistent with Gods punishment and bringing plagues on people here and now in this world.

      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 Gn39-14b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: HEBREW comes from EYVER meaning OTHER SIDE and refers to a) Person EYVER who fathered cutting world into 2 sides, b) Abraham who stood on one side against world and c) Joseph who was an OUTSIDER (other side).

Verse Gn39-14a discussing how Potifar ranks out Joseph for allegedly making advances on her states That she called to the men of her house, and spoke to them, saying, See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to mock us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice; This is the first time in the Bible that Jews are called Hebrews from the Hebrew Eyver.

    Rashi derives the meaning of the word Hebrew from its root Eyver. Rashi presents a variety of reasons for the etymology. Very often words will have multiple explanations.
  • The Jews are descendants of Abraham who are descendants of Eyver the person who fathered the split of the world into factions(Gn11-16, Gn10-21, Gn10-25.)
  • Eyver literally means side. So to speak, the world is on one side while we (the Jews) are on the other side (So here Potifar's wife was poking fun on Joseph who came from the other side, that is, was an outsider.)
  • Chazal however state that Abraham stood on one side of the world against everybody. Here side is seen as referring to standing up for oneself.

Notice how the side in the name Eyver who fathered the split of the world mirrors Abraham's further split of the world by also standing on the side of monotheism. Such multiple meanings and echoing nuances are common in etymologies.

      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 Gn37-31b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: English indicates construct using OF. Hebrew indicates CONSTRUCT using two word forms.

Verse Gn37-31 states And they took coat of Joseph, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; Rashi comments: The phrase coat of Joseph uses the construct ( coat of) and hence is punctuated in Hebrew, Kuh-To-Neth while the second underlined phrase coat occurs absolutely without a construct and is punctuated Koo-To-Neth. In other words while English uses the word of to distinguish between the construct and non-construct, Hebrew uses two different punctuations for the construct vs. non-construct.

Advanced Rashi: The reader may wonder why Rashi explains this. After all, schoolchildren routinely learn the difference between construct and non-construct. However grammar was just beginning in Rashi's time and one of his major functions was to communicate grammatical rules to his readers who had no other way of finding them out.

    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 Gn37-35e
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Jacob MOURNED; His (Jacob's) father CRIED (Isaac new Joseph was alive but couldn't tell Jacob about it and felt bad).

Today's example uses both the Formatting-Climaxrule #7 as well as the alignment rule #4. The Climax rule states that a sequence of phrases describing some event or activity should be interpreted in climactic order.

    Verse Gn37-34:35 discussing Jacob's severe reaction to the news of Joseph's death states
    • And Jacob tore his clothes,
    • and put sackcloth upon his loins,
    • and mourned for his son many days.
    • And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted;
    • and he said, For I will go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.
    • Thus his father wept for him.

Note the anti-climax in the sequence of underlined words: tore, sackcloth, mourned, comfort-refusal,mourn, cry. Cry should not be the climax of the list; it should preferably be in the middle. Hence, based solely on this anti-climax Rashi suggests that The first part of the list tore, sackcloth, mourned, comfort-refusal,mourn. applies to Jacob, but the second part of the list cry applies to his father that is, Jacob's father, Isaac.

Rashi now must explain the aligned verselets: Jacob mourns while Isaac cries: Jacob mourned but Isaac only cried. Apparently Isaac knew Joseph was alive. This is reasonably possible since Isaac's daughter in law was Arab and it was Arabs to which Joseph was sold and transported to Egypt. Hence Isaac could have known the whole story from his Arab contacts since the presence of a Hebrew slave in Egypt would arouse a buzz and Isaac would eventually find out. Rashi continues: Isaac was crying for Jacob who was unnecessarily mourning. He wasn't crying for Joseph since he knew Joseph was alive. This is indeed possible. But it is equally likely that Isaac was crying for Joseph who had been transformed into a slave by his brothers. Perhaps then Rashi's point is that Isaac was crying for the entire situation where a brother was sold into slavery and his father thought him dead. This is the most appealing explanation.

The table below summarizes this analysis of Rashi.

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
  • And Jacob tore his clothes,
  • and put sackcloth upon his loins,
  • and mourned for his son many days.
  • And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted;
  • and he said, For I will go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.
Climax see Jacob as tearing, sackcloth, mourning, no-comfort, mourning to grave.. (The crying does not fit in here and belongs to another person as shown in the rest of the table).
  • Thus his father wept for him.
His father, that is, Jacob's father, Isaac cried since he knew the entire story (Probably because his daughter-in-law was Arab and the Arabs rescued Joseph) He knew the brothers sold him into slavery, framed his death, and Jacob was mourning a live person. He couldn't intefer (because the brothers would go down to Egypt and kill him).

      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 Gn38-13a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: TIMNAH was in the MIDDLE of a mountain. You go UP from the bottom and DOWN from the top.

The table below presents presents two contradictory verses. Both verses speak about travelling to Timnah. The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says ...Judah went up to Timnah while the other verse states ....Shimshon went down to Timnah Which is it? Was Timnah at the top or bottom of a mountainous region? Rashi simply resolves this using the 2 Aspects method: Timnah was in the middle of a mountain range. Hence you went up to it from the bottom while you went down from the top.

Summary Verse / Source Text of verse / Source
You go up to Timnah Gn38-13 And in process of time the daughter of Shuah, Judah?s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheep shearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.
You go down to Timnah. Ju14-01 And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.
Resolution: 2 Aspects Timnah was in the middle of a mountain range. Hence you went up to it from the bottom while you went down from the top.

      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 Gn37-07c
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The phrase ROSE AND aLSO STOOD connotes a standing of the sheaf without falling.

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.

Verse Gn37-07c discussing Joseph's dream of the standing sheafs states for, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves came round about, and bowed down to my sheaf.' Note the repetition indicated by the underlined words. This repetition creates an unspecified emphasis. Rashi comments The phrase arose and also stood upright connotes a permanant standing in which the sheaf remains standing. (An ordinary object, stood up, would fall if its center of gravity was high the dream showed a standing that remained without subsequent falling).

Advanced Rashi: Undoubtedly, the permanant standing connotes the non-transient reign of Joseph.

      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 Gn37-01a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Biblical style focuses on the excelling person in a group and token mentions the others.

    We ask the following database query: If one person excels in a group how much space does the Bible devote to discussions of the group vs. the individual? 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: The answer to the question, When one person excels in a group how does the Bible record the history of group/person? is
    • The Bible token mentions everyone in the group--typically for a verse or 2
    • The Bible devotes a lot of text to the person who excels
    The list below presents the results of the database query. Rashi brings the first 3 examples in the list below. We have supplemented this list with two further examples. In each example in this list the excelling person has a great deal of Biblical text devoted to him while the surrounding group has minimal text devoted (2-3 verses per person).

Verses Group Who excels Many verses to whom
Gn05, Gn06 10 Generations-Adam-Noach Noach Noach
Gn11, Gn12 10 Generations from Noach to Abraham Abraham Abraham
Gn36, Gn37 History of Isaac's children: Esauv, Jacob Joseph, Jacob's son Joseph
Nu07, Nu08 Gifts of tribes at Consecration of Temple Aaron's gift Aaron
1C01, 1C12, 1C13, 1C17 Human history - Adam-David King David King David

With regard to the last example, Chronicles is giving a political history and hence someone like David is more important (politically) than say Abraham and Moses (Who were more important prophetically).

      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 Gn38-28a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Rashi diagrams the birth of the twins: a)Twin A sticks out hand b) Twin A's hand back to womb c) Twin B comes out first d) Twin A comes out second.

    Verses Gn38-27:30 discussing the birth of Tamar's twins states And it came to pass in the time of her labor, that, behold, twins were in her womb. And it came to pass, when she labored, that one put out his hand; and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first. And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out; and she said, What a breach you have made for yourself. Therefore his name was called Perez. And afterward came out his brother, who had the scarlet thread upon his hand; and his name was called Zarah. Rashi provides clarification by so-to-speak diagramming what happened. Rashi accomplishes this by adding the bracketed words.
    • Twins were in her womb
    • Twin A put his hand out and the midwife tied a band saying twin A is first
    • But twin A then withdrew his hand [back into the womb]
    • Then Twin B came out [first]
    • Then Twin A (with the band) came out [second]
    Diagram Rashi's are not always considered profound - rather they simply illustrate sequences of events.

      BRIEF EXPLANATION: Rashi provides symbolic interpretations of words, verses, and chapters. Rashi can symbolically interpret either
      • (10a) entire Biblical chapters such as the gifts of the princes, Nu-07
      • (10b) individual items, verses and words
      The rules governing symbolism and symbolic interpretation are presented in detail on my website.

      This examples applies to Rashis Gn37-17b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Joseph had a dream in which he was WANDERING / CONFUSED. His goals were BROTHERHOOD but his brothers didn't trust him-they wanted a new religion not based on prophecy.