The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat YiThRo
Volume 9, Number 1
- Adapted from Rashi-is-Simple
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(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President,
Jan - 24, - 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 Ex20-19b
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: he phrase YOU HAVE SEEN (Ex20-18b) emphasizes the emphasis YOU PERSONALLY HAVE SEEN GOD, NOT BY HEARSAY(Dt11-02,Dt11-07)

Verse Ex20-19b discussing God's advice to the Jewish people who just experience the revelation at the Decalogue states And the Lord said to Moses, Thus you shall say to the people of Israel, You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. Rashi clarifies the underlined words you have seen by referencing verse Dt11-02,Dt11-07 which states And know this day; for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen.... But your eyes have seen all the great acts of the Lord which he did. Hence the Rashi comment:

There is a difference between what a person personally sees and what others only tell him since hearsay is more prone to doubt

Text of Target verse Ex20-19b Text of Reference Verse Dt11-02,Dt11-07
And the Lord said to Moses, Thus you shall say to the people of Israel, You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. And know this day; for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen.... But your eyes have seen all the great acts of the Lord which he did.
Rashi comments: There is a difference between what a person personally sees and what others only tell him since hearsay is more prone to doubt.; var r1s=The phrase YOU HAVE SEEN (Ex20-18b) emphasizes the emphasis YOU PERSONALLY HAVE SEEN GOD, NOT BY HEARSAY(Dt11-02,Dt11-07)

      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 Ex19-01a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: THIS DAY you have come to Sinai implies a pun: TODAY you receive the Torah.

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.

The Hebrew word ZEH meaning this always denotes something pointed to. The list below presents several examples illustrating this fundamental method.

  • Verse Nu08-04 states And this is the workmanship of the lampstand was of hammered gold, its shaft, its flowers, was hammered work; according to the pattern which the Lord had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand. ; Rashi comments: God pointed to a Menorah of fire to facilitate Moses understanding its construction. ;
  • Verse Lv11-02 states Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which you shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. ; Rashi comments: God pointed to fire images of the Kosher animals to facilitate Moses identifying them; ;
  • Verse Ex19-01 states In the third month, when the people of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, on this day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. ; Rashi comments: The phrase This day puns today (which can be pointed at). The verse puns as it were Today you receive the Torah. The verse emphasizes that you shouldn't think of the Torah as something given 2000 years ago but rather something given today. Conceptually, the Torah should be thought of as not belonging to any particular period.

Sermonic points: The Rashi is both psychological and political. Pschologically we are not studying something received 2000 years ago but something received today. Politically this Rashi attacks philosophical positions that the Torah, however great, exists within history at a certain time. Rather, the verse teaches us, that the Torah is equally relevant to each period of history including the current one.

      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 Ex18-07a,Ex18-07b,Ex18-12c
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: MOSES went out to Jethro,HE bowed, HE kissed him...JETHRO took sacrifices, AARON/ELDERS came to eat with JETHRO

Todays example combines the formatting and grammar rules.

Two familiar functions of grammar in all languages are pronoun reference and plurality.

Hebrew is more flexible than English in pronoun reference. However Hebrew frequently follows the rule in all languages that a pronoun refers to the last mentioned person.

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.

Armed with these two rules we review the subjects in the various verselets in Ex18-07:12.

Verse Subject Brief summary of text Repetition? Who did it?
Ex18-07 Moses Went out to greet his father-in-law Moses
Ex18-07 He Bowed Moses Bowed (Pronoun refers to last mentioned person)
Ex18-07 He Kissed him Moses
Ex18-07 They Asked each other how they were Moses and Yithro
Ex18-08 Moses Told the story of the exodus Yes: See below for an explanation.. Moses alone told the stories without any further briefing from his staff(Aaron and Elders) Moses
Ex18-09 Yithro Rejoiced on Exodus Yithro
Ex18-10:11 Yithro Blessed God for saving Jews Yes: See below for an explanation. Yithro alone praised God. (Staff gave respect by allowing him to take the lead) Yithro
Ex18-12 Yithro Took/Offered sacrifices Yithro
Aaron and elders Came to eat with Yithro Yes: See below for an explanation. Rashi explains that Aaron and elders ate only with Yithro. Moses was personally serving his father-in-law! Aaron and Elders

    Advanced Rashi:We clarify further with explanatory points:
  • Notice that if a person's name is repeated explicitly instead of being referred to with a pronoun then we classify this as a repetition which indicates emphasis. For example Yithro took sacrifices...Aaron and the elders came to eat with Yithro .. could more properly be written with a use of a pronoun as follows: Yithro took sacrifices...Aaron and the elders came to eat with him ..
  • Each repetition is viewed the same way a modern reader views underline, italics, or bold: It indicates unspecified emphasis
  • Rashi typically interprets the unspecified emphasis as connoting exclusivity, only that person did the activity mentioned.
  • Hence Rashi sees an emphasis that Aaron and the elders ate only with Yithro. Consequently we have the Rashi comment Only with Yithro? Where was Moses? Moses was serving them! This Rashi comment is derived from the repetition.
  • Although Rashi does not explicitly explain the other repetitions I have interpreted them similarly connoting exclusivity:
    • Only Yithro blessed God. Presumably the others showed respect to Yithro and let him take the lead.
    • Only Moses told the story of the exodus. Presumably Aaron and the elders went out to meet Yithro (as is the custom when heads of states or religion meet). However they showed respect to Moses and let him tell the whole story.
  • Rashi interprets He bowed to refer to Moses since Moses is the last mentioned person. Technically Rashi appears to give a different explanation: How do I know that Moses bowed? Because it says each man asked how they were doing. And Moses is called man, a sign of distinction. I believe the real reason Rashi interprets he bowed as referring to Moses is because of simple grammar - Moses is the last mentioned person and pronouns refer to the last mentioned person. However Rashi wished to emphasize the ethical implications of Moses bowing: Moses was a powerful man and yet did not hesitate to bow to his idolatrous father-in-law and show him respect.
  • Finally Rashi mentions that Moses went out to greet his father-in-law and Aaron and the elders also went out. Quite simply when heads of religion or state meet they bring their staff with them. Furthermore we see that Aaron and the Elders are mentioned later on in the paragraph. Hence it is reasonable that they were there.

This Rashi is an excellent example of a variety of principles and is worth studying by those who wish to master his methods.

    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 Ex18-13b
    URL Reference: (c) Brief Summary: Yithro made two complaints: a) Why do you judge ALONE; b) Why do you SIT while nation STANDS.

The table below presents an aligned extract of verses in Ex18-13, Ex18-14 Both verses discuss Moses' daily judging of the people. The alignment justifies the Rashi assertion that Yithro made two complaints. a) Why does Moses judge alone. b) Why does Moses sit while the nation stands.

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
    And it came to pass on the next day,
  • that Moses sat to judge the people, and
  • the people stood by Moses from the morning to the evening.
Moses sat; the nation stood.
    And when Moses? father-in-law saw ...he said, What is this thing that you do to the people?
  • Why do you sit by yourself alone, and
  • all the people stand by you from morning to evening?
    We see two differences corresponding to two complaints by Yithro.
  • Why does Moses judge alone. Why does he have no helpers.
  • Why does Moses sit while the nation stands.

      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 Ex20-22a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The Torah says IF you build an altar. IF here means WHEN.

The table below presents presents two contradictory verses. Both verses speak about building an altar of stone. The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse set says If you build an altar of stone? while the other verse states When you come to the land you should build an altar of stone? Which is it? Is building an altar of stones optional or obligatory? Rashi simply resolves this using the broad-restrictive meaning method: The word if in this particular verse means when.

Summary Verse / Source Text of verse / Source
Discussion of requirements if a stone altar is built. Ex20-22a And if you will make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of a cut stone; for if you lift up your tool upon it, you have polluted it.
When the Jews come to Israel they must build an altar of stones and offer sacrifices Dt27-02,06 And it shall be on the day when you shall pass over the Jordan .... You shall build the altar of the Lord your God of whole stones; and you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God;
Resolution: Broad-Literal The word if in the above verse means when and indicates an obligatory requirement. Although rare there are three verses where if means when.

    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 Ex18-19a Ex18-23a
    URL Reference: (c)
    GOD BE WITH YOU ....appoint delegates GOD BE WITH YOU (Ask Him First)

Certain Biblical paragraphs are stated in a Theme-Development-Theme form. In other words a broad general idea is stated first followed by the development of this broad general theme in specific details. The paragraph-like unit is then closed with a repetition of the broad theme. The Theme-Detail-Theme form creates a unified paragraph. The detailed section of this paragraph is therefore seen as an extension of the general theme sentences. Today's example illustrates this as shown immediately below.

    Biblical verses Ex18-19:23 form a Biblical paragraph with a theme-detail-theme structure. The paragraph discusses Jethro's advice to Moses
    • General: Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and G-d be with thee:
    • Detail:
      • be thou for the people before G-d, and bring thou the causes unto G-d.
      • And thou shalt teach them the statutes and the laws,
      • and shalt show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.
      • Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear G-d, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all seasons;
      • and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge themselves; so shall they make it easier for thee and bear the burden with thee.
    • General: If thou shalt do this thing, and G-d command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people also shall go to their place in peace.'

    The general-theme-general structure says the following
  • General: God be with you and command you
  • Detail: You will be a prophet for them, teach them, appoint judges, etc.
  • General:God be with you and command you.

Hence the Rashi comment: Yithro's advice to Moses to appoint delegates and a hierarchical system of judges had an accompanying request to first seek God's approval prior to implementing such a hierarchical system.

Here Rashi interprets the Detail clause as developing the General-Theme clause. Everything Moses did should be with God's approval. In particular if Moses wanted to follow Yithro's advice to implement a hierarchical judicial system he should first ask God's approval.

Sermonic points: Jethro teaches an important principal of state and office politics -- suggestions from outside your component or country,no matter how good, should receive leadership, or supervisor approval, before implementation. This way colleagues in the component, or fellow citizens, don't complain about outsider advice. In this case Jethro was telling Moses how to run the Jewish court system. To avoid criticism about accepting advice from outsiders Jethro tells Moses that he must obtain approval from God before implementing Jethro's ideas.

      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 Ex18-07a,Ex18-07b,Ex18-12c
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: MOSES went out to Jethro,HE bowed, HE kissed him...JETHRO took sacrifices, AARON/ELDERS came to eat with JETHRO

Todays example of formatting was presented above in rule #3. We urge the ambitious student to reread that example.

      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 Ex20-22d
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The Torah teaches moral norms by personification. Don't embarass stones ... how much more people.

We ask the following database query: Where, if at all, does the Torah use personification methods to teach moral norms? 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: The Torah teaches moral norms by personification. For example the Torah prohibits embarassing stones by excessively uncovering one's nakedness on them. If even stones should not be embarassed, then a fortiori, one should not embarass one's fellows man sexually. The very beautiful list given in rule #10 below presents the results of the database query with over half a dozen examples. The serious student is urged to carefully review it now.

      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 Ex18-13aa
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The incident of Yithro rebuking Moses for judging by himself occurred on the day following Yom Kippur.

The table below justifies the computation that Yithro rebuked Moses for judging by himself on the day after the day of atonement.

Verse Event Dates Duration from Receipt of Torah
Ex24-18, Dt09-11 1st 40 days on Mount Sinai 6th Sivan - 16th Tamuz 40
Dt09-18,Dt09-25 2nd 40 Days on Mount Sinai 20th Tamuz - 30th Av 80+1,2 days inbetween
Dt10-01,10 3rd 40 days on Mount Sinai Elul 1 - Tishray 10 120 days +3-4 days inbetween
Ex18-13a The next day, Moses Judges nation Tishray 11 125th day

Advanced Rashi: With the above table as background we cite the entire Rashi (leaving out alternative opinions about when Yithro came and left): The verse states that Yithro saw his father-in-law judging the people the next day. However the Torah wasn't received till the 6th of Sivan and there were three ascents of 40 days each on Mount Sinai bringing us to Yom Kippur (24+30+30+30 days with allowances for a one day break between each ascent). Thus the next day means the next day after the day of atonement. At that point Yithro saw Moses judging the entire nation and teaching them the Torah he learned while on Mount Sinai. At that point Yithro approached his father-in-law and suggested delegation of authority, the creation of helpers, who could assist in teaching the law.

      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 Ex20-22d
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The Torah teaches moral norms by personification. Don't embarass stones ... how much more people.

The symbolic method of personification achieves effect by treating inanimate objects as if they were alive. Hence if we prohibit embarassing stones we are morally exhorting against the embarassment of people. The list below presents half a dozen Rashis focusing on the personification technique.

  • Ex20-23a discussing the prohibition of ascending the ark in steps vs. a ramp states Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto Mine altar, that thy nakedness be not uncovered thereon. Rashi, paraphrased explains If one, in a bathrobe, climbs a staircase vs. a ramp, then the footsteps involved are wider and since each step involves leg separation therefore more nakedness is uncovered. The Torah symbolically teaches us that we shouldn't embarass the stones by excessively uncovering our nakedness on them The anthropomorphic implication is that we should not embarass stones and how much more so we should not embarass our fellow human beings.
  • Nu21-09a discussing the copper snake Moses made to cure the Jews who were being bitten by snakes for slandering God states And Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it upon the pole; and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked unto the serpent of brass, he lived. Here the people looking up to the snake is a symbolic gesture reminding them to pray to the God whom they slandered in order to repent from their slander and thereby earn merit to be cured.
  • Gn06-14a discussing the Ark made by Noach to save the Jews states Make thee an ark of lava wood; with rooms shalt thou make the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. Here Noah made the ark of lava wood to symbolize that the generation of the flood would be punished with molten lava for their sins if they did not repent.
  • Ex17-11a discussing the war of the Jews and Amalayk states And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. Here Moses raising his hands is symbolic of urging Jews to raise their hands in prayer which is the real reason they are winning.
  • Lv20-15a presents the punishment of a death penalty to an animal who sleeps with a person. And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death; and ye shall slay the beast. This symbolically affirms how serious sexual crimes are. If we execute animals who violate them how much more so will the people who violate sexual norms be punished.
  • Dt12-02 discussing the requirement to destroy idolatrous trees reinforces the requirement of avoiding idolatrous people: Ye shall surely destroy all the places, wherein the nations that ye are to dispossess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every leafy tree.
  • Ex20-22d discussing the prohibition of making an altar with steel utensils states And if you will make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of a cut stone; for if you lift up your tool upon it, you have polluted it. Rashi explains: Steel is a destructive instrument; the altar by contrast is an instrument of peace. It would hurt the altar's feelings, if after devoting so much of its life to peace, that the altar would have to acknowledge its existence to bad people like steel who spend their time killing. Hence to prevent the altar from being hurt we, at the command of God, abstain from using steel on the altar.

Advanced Rashi: We revisit the Rashi on Ex20-23a which prohibited us from embarassing stones. We can further support Rashi as follows: It turns out that the Hebrew word for steps, Mem Ayin Lamed Tauv is also the Hebrew root for fantasies. Thus the Bible, when it prohibits using steps is also by a pun prohibiting encouraging fantasies. Thus we have a further reinforcement of our moral norm.


This week's parshah contains examples of all methods. Visit the RashiYomi website at for further details and examples.