Their presence in Rashis on Parshat BoH Vol 8, # 14 - 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 Ex08-28a discussing how Moses left Pharoh with great anger states And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down unto me, saying: Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee; and after that I will go out.' And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. Rashi clarifies the underlined words in hot anger by referencing verse Ex10-28 which states And Pharaoh said to him, Get out from me, take heed to yourself, see me no more; for the day you see my face you shall die. Hence the Rashi comment: Moses was angry because Pharoh refused to talk to him.
Sermonic Points: The above Rashi has a simple modern interpretation: Pharoh broke off negotiations and this is a cause for anger.
The special word method deals with the few dozen special words that exist in all languages. Familiar examples are also, when, that, because, only, this,.... Rashi's job, when he comments on a special connective words, is to list the varied nuances and usages of the word. The most famous example is the Hebrew word Kaph Yud which can mean because, that, when, perhaps, rather, if. Sometimes Rashi explicitly gives all meanings of a connective word as happens with Kaph Yud while at other times Rashi does not give all meanings at once. In such a case the student must gather all the meanings together from various places.
Rashi following the Talmudic exegetes re-interpreted all superfluous relative pronouns as being modified with the adverb, only. This gives an unspecified restrictive emphasis. Hence Rashi interprets verse Ex13-09c by inserting the underlined word only: Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying: In the tenth day of only this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household; The actual Rashi comment is: Only the original Passover in Egypt required separating the Pascal meal offering on the 10th of Nissan.
A familiar function of grammar in all languages is the use of the construct. The construct has a variety of meanings including possession and association. The construct can also dynamically create new meanings.
Rashi interprets numbers in the construct as indicating groups. Thus three days becomes, when the construct is used, a triplet of days. Similarly 7 days becomes, when the construct is used, a sextuplet of days.
Following Rashi we have the translations of the following two verses: Ex10-22b states And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for a triplet of days; Ex12-15a states For a septuplet of days ye shall eat unleavened bread; howbeit the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses; for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. In both cases the use of construct with number is interpreted by Rashi as indicating grouping.
The table below presents an aligned extract of verses in Ex13-09c, Ex13-16 Both verses discuss the obligation to place Tefillin on the left hand. The alignment justifies the Rashi assertion that The Tefillin must be placed on the handlet - the weaker hand which in most people is the left hand.
Advanced Rashi: The actual aligned Hebrew words are Yud-Daleth-Caph vs. Yud-Daleth-Caph-Hey. A terminal hey in Hebrew indicates a feminine or weaker form. This explains the Rashi comment: the weaker hand, the left hand.
English however has no letter indicating the feminine. To mimic the Hebrew we used the let suffix: hand-handlet. The purpose of this construction was to give the feel underlying the Rashi.
The use of skillfully constructed English analogies to mirror Biblical derivations was advocated in my article Biblical Formatting found on the world wid web at http://www.rashiyomi.com/biblicalformatting.pdf.
The table below presents presents two contradictory verse sets. Both verse sets speak about the worse locust plague in human history. The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse set says the locust plague brought by Moses was the worst while the other verse states the locust plague mentioned by Joel was the worst. Which is it? Was the locust plague in Moses' time the worst or was the locust plague in Joel's time the worst. Rashi simply resolves this using the 2 Aspects method: The locust plague brought by Moses was the worst single-species locust plague in human history. The locust plague mentioned by Joel was the worst multiple-species locust plague in human history.
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. Today's example illustrates this as shown below.
The climax principle asserts that a sequence of similar phrases should be interpreted climactically even if the words and grammatical constructs used do not directly suggest this. That is the fact of the sequence justifies reading into the Biblical text a climactic interpretation even if no other textual source justifies it. For this reason we consider the climax method a distinct and separate method.
Rashi interprets this Biblical verse Climactically: Silver utensils were the least important, gold utensils were more important and clothing was most important. We infer this from the fact that clothing is mentioned last in the verse.
Sermonic points: Rashi tells us that clothing were the most important but does not elaborate further. Perhaps he is being discrete. After all slaves do not traditionally wear good clothing. The Midrash relates that Vashti, the Queen or Persia, used to make her Jewish slaves work naked to humiliate them. In such a context Rashi's statement the clothing was the most important emphasizes the degraded state in which the Jewish slaves were - all they could think about was getting a good pear of appairel.
We ask the following database query: To whom does God ask to tell the Biblical commandments to the Jews. 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-Midrashic inference: 86% of the commandment paragraphs begin God spoke to Moses; 13% being God spoke to Moses and Aaron; 1% begin God spoke to Aaron. Whenever the majority, to-Moses, form is deviated from, we should explain it. For example, since Aaron participated with Moses in the delivery of the 10 plagues (Ex04-14:16), therefore God trasmitted the first commandment with a God spoke to Moses and Aaron form. The list below presents the results of the database query and shows examples.
Advanced Rashi: This database Rashi has special historical significance. We normally think of databases as a 20th century phenomenon. It frequently shocks people when I tell them that advanced database and SQL theory was routinely performed by the Masorites who preserved the Biblical text with an error rate that is considered low even by 20th century standards. Not all database methods used by the Masorites are practiced yet. Scattered throughout the Midrash we have explicit numerical results, such as the one given above, which can be rederived in a straightforward manner from routine database theory.
Verse Ex12-04a discussing the requirements of the pascal lamb states and if the household is too little for a lamb, then shall he and his neighbour next unto his house take one according to the number of the souls; according to every man's eating ye shall make your count for the lamb.
Rashi clarifies the numerical meaning of the underlined words if the household is too little for a lamb. Suppose a particular lamb can feed 25 people but a family, say family A, only has 10 people. Then the family / household is too little for the lamb. In such a case family A should invite family B, which say also has 10 people. In this case the 20 people in family A and B are still too little for the lamb. In this case they should invite family C who may also have 10 people.
Rashi in a somewhat beautiful afterthought adds to his explanation. Rashi was well aware that the phraselogy if the household is too little for a lamb does not occur elsewhere in the Bible. Consequently Rashi cannot just attach a meaning to this phrase without further justification. Rashi therefore beautifully cites verse Ex12-10 which prohibits leaving food over until the morning. This is the desired supporting verse that Rashi needs. Indeed, Ex12-10 by itself which prohibits leaving food over would, by itself, require that family A invite family B and C.>
Many people overlook this aspect of Rashi. Rashi was not milking meaning from an obscrure phrase. Rather the opposite; Rashi inferred the invitation requirement from Ex12-10, - the prohibition of leftover Pascal meat - and applied, not derived, this requirement to interpret Ex12-04.
This approach that the Rashi comment came first (from another verse) and was then applied to interpret the verse - rather than the opposite approach in which people erroneously think that Rashi somehow magically derives the meaning from the obscure phrasing - this approach was first advocated by me in my article Peshat and Derash and is very useful in interpreting Rashis.
Advanced Rashi: But lo and behold Rashi cryptically adds yet another derivation to Ex10-04: We can also read the verse as follows: If the house (family A) limits itself away from the lamb it has chosen then it has the right to join another family (e.g. Family B).
This looks like the height of homily. How can Rashi who gave a straightforward interpretation of the verse turn around and twist the verse out of its simple meaning. The Hebrew word Mem-Ayin-Tet means too little not delimit. Such homilys have driven some interpreters to create a peg theory in which they advocate that No one takes these exegetical derivations seriously - rather they are known laws which are pegged onto a Biblical text.
Not so! If Rashi says it, it is pure logic. Here is the simple and straightforward interpretation of Rashi using all three components of the Rashi comments mentioned above: (1) We start with Ex12-10 which prohibits leftover pascal meat. This leftover prohibition implies that if family A has only 10 people and the lamb can feed 25 then family A should invite familys B and C. (2) Using this fact we can easily interpret Ex10-04: If the household (family A) is too little in numbers for the lamb then it invites other families. (3) But wait a minute. If family A invites family B what happens to the lamb that family B designated. Do they have the right to leave their designated lamb after designating it? We therefore conclude that a family that designated a lamb can undesignate the lamb and go elsewhere. Finally (4) Rashi takes this logical inference and creates a pun If the family limits itself from its designated lamb then it should go elsewhere. Here Rashi is not deriving the law from the pun but rather Rashi derives the law by logic and then connects the law with a pun on the verse. The law is logical but the mnemonic is a pun.
The above approach to Rashi is fundamental and may be found in my article Biblical Formatting alluded to above.
This week's parshah contains no examples of the Symbolism method. Visit the RashiYomi website at http://www.Rashiyomi.com for further details and examples.