The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat BoH
Vol 8, # 14
- Adapted from Rashi-is-Simple
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(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President, Jan - 10, - 2008

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 Ex011-08e
    URL Reference: (c) Brief Summary: Ex11-08a, MOSES LEFT WITH GREAT ANGER reference Ex10-28 where Pharoh said DONT SEE ME ANYMORE

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.

Text of Target verse Ex11-08e Text of Reference Verse Ex10-28
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. 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.
Rashi comments: 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.

      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 Ex12-02a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Relative pronouns like THIS, IT should be translated in Biblical Hebrew using the adverb ONLY: ONLY THIS, ONLY IT.

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.

      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 Ex10-22b Ex12-15a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Numbers in construct imply groupings: e.g. A TRIPLET OF DAYS, a WEEK OF DAYS.

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.

    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 Ex13-09c
    URL Reference: (c) Brief Summary: The aligned contrast HAND - HANDLET suggests a dynamic new meaing: HANDLET=Weaker hand = LEFT.

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.

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
Ex13-09c And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thy hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the law of HaShem may be in thy mouth; for with a strong hand hath HaShem brought thee out of Egypt. The underlined words require that the Tefillin be placed on presumably any hand.
Ex13-16 and it shall be a sign upon your handlet .... The word handlet never occurs in the Bible. The contrastive alignment with hand suggests a coined term meaning the weaker hand. Hence the requirement is to place tefillin on 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

      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 Ex10-14a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Moses' locust-plague was the worst single-species plague in human history; Joel's locust plague was the worst multiple-species plague.

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.

Summary Verse / Source Text of verse / Source
The locust plague in Moses' time was the worst in human history. Ex10-14a And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the borders of Egypt; very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.
The locust plague in Joel's time was the worst in human history. Yo01-02:04 Hear this, you old men, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the land. Has such a thing been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell you your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. That which the cutting locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; which the swarming locust has left, the hopping locust has eaten; and that which the hopping locust has left, the destroying locust has eaten.
Resolution: Two aspects 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. [This resolution is explicitly hinted at by the verse as indicated by the underlined words]

    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 Ex11-05c
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: All firstborn will die: Firstborn of a) Royalty b) People c) Animals.

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.

    Verse Ex11-05c discussing the plague of the firstborn states
    • and all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die,
    • from the first-born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne,
    • even unto the first-born of the maid-servant that is behind the mill;
    • and all the first-born of cattle.

    The Rabbi Ishmael rules require exhausting the meaning of the general clause in the enumerated details. Rashi explains why the three detail categories are explicitly enumerated.
  • The firstborn of royalty was punished since the Royal house enslaved the Jews.
  • The firstborn of the people in the street were punished since they abused their slaves and mistreated them
  • The firstborn of the animals were punished because the Egyptians worshipped animals and God always punishes the gods of a nation before punishing the nation itself.

      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 Ex12-35b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The Jews took from the Egyptians a) silver utensils, b) gold utensils, and c) clothes (which were the most needed)

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.

    Verse Ex12-35b discussing what the Jews took from Egypt when they left states And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they asked of the Egyptians
    • Silver utensils
    • Gold utensils
    • and clothing

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.

      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 Ex12-01a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Most Biblical paragraph begin: GOD SPOKE TO MOSES. Those that mention MOSES AND AARON or AARON are special.

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.

Verse Verse Text Who is to transmit Significance
Lv10-08 And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, Aaron Aaron was silent when his drunken sons were killed by God. Hence he was given the commandment against drunkedness
Ex12-01 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, Moses and Aaron Aaron participated in the delivery of the 10 plagues (Ex04-14:16); Hence he merited to participate in the transmittal of the first commandment
Lv12-01 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Moses Normal style - no comment
Ex14-01 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Moses Normal style - no comment
Lv17-01 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying Moses Normal style - no comment.

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.

      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 Ex12-04a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Initially the number of families participating in a single pascal lamb should be sufficient to consume it(Add people if necessary)

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 for further details and examples.