The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat TeZaVeH
Volume 9, Number 4
Used in the monthly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
Visit the RashiYomi website:
(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President,
Feb - 14, - 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 Ex28-10a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: (Ex28-10) Tribal names on the stones worn by priests were ordered by tribal birth (Gn29-31,Gn30-24)

Verse Ex28-10a discussing the order of tribal names on the stones attached to the priests clothing states states Six of their names on one stone, and the other six names on the other stone, according to their birth. Rashi clarifies the underlined words according to their birth by referencing verses Gn29-31 -- Gn30-24 which states And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived, and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, Surely the Lord has looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me. And she conceived again, and bore a son; and said, Because the Lord has heard that I was hated, he has therefore given me this son also; and she called his name Simeon. Hence the Rashi comment: The tribal names on the two stones were sequenced according to the order in which the 12 tribes were born. Reuven was born first so his name comes first; Shimon was born second so his name comes second.

Text of Target verse Ex28-10a Text of Reference Verse Gn29-31 ... Gn30-24
Six of their names on one stone, and the other six names on the other stone, according to their birth. And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived, and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, Surely the Lord has looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me. And she conceived again, and bore a son; and said, Because the Lord has heard that I was hated, he has therefore given me this son also; and she called his name Simeon.
Rashi comments: The tribal names on the two stones were sequenced according to the order in which the 12 tribes were born. Reuven was born first so his name comes first; Shimon was born second so his name comes second.

Advanced Rashi: The tribal names occurred in several places in the priest garments. There are various controversies on the order of names. My purpose in this email group is only to expose the underlying methods used to determine order. A detail discussion of the controversies and to where they apply would take us beyond the goals of this email newsletter.

      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 Ex28-38a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: NUN-SIN-ALEPH means a)LIFT, b) CLOUD (appears lifted), c) FIRE, d) PRAYER, e) FORGIVENESS (Sin appears HEAVY).

When Rashi uses, what we may losely call, the hononym method, Rashi does not explain new meaning but rather shows an underlying unity in disparate meanings. Rashi will frequently do this by showing an underlying unity in the varied meanings of a Biblical root.

In my article Peshat and Derash found on the world wide web at I advocate enriching the Rashi explanation using a technique of parallel nifty translations in modern English. Today's examples show this.

    Today we illustrate with the Biblical root Nun-Sin-Aleph whose fundamental unifying meaning is lift. From this fundamental meaning we have the following rich set of superficially disparate meanings:
  • Clouds: Clouds appear lifted.
  • Fire: The fire strands appear to be lifted upwards.
  • Promotion: The promoted person achieves a higher position. Note: This social metaphor occurs in English also.
  • Prayer: Prayer is picturesquely seen as being lifted heavenward.
  • Marriage: Similar to English where the bride and groom have a high in emotions.
  • Forgiveness: Sin is seen as something heavy that weighs on a person's mind. In English also we speak about a weighty matter that gets a person down. The forgiveness lifts the heavy sin.

Advanced Rashi: There are several other meanings similar to the above (e.g. the King is the person who has received the biggest promotion or is socially highest.) Rashi in an unusual comment is explicit about the unified meaning approach. Rashi does not typically explain method. But on this verse Rashi says Nun Sin Aleph means forgiveness. But this root does not leave its original meaning of lifting. Forgiveness indicates a lifting of a [heavy] sin.

Some colleagues voice concern that the hononym method is a bit of an overkill. I think however that by reviewing the above list one can appreciate the power and beauty of this method and rightfully see it as enriching the reading of the Bible.

      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 Ex29-43b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: I'll DESIGNATE there [the temple] for meeting with the Jews and it [THE TEMPLE] will be sanctified

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

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

Hebrew is more flexible than English in pronoun reference. In other languages a a pronoun refers to the last mentioned person. However in Hebrew pronoun reference can be determined by the most logical connection even if it is not the last mentioned noun.

Verse Ex29-43b illustrates this principle. In the translation below we have indicated in brackets the referent of each pronoun. I [God] will designate there [the Temple] for a meeting with the Jews, and it [the Temple] will be sanctified by My [God's] honor. Notice how the pronouns shift arbitrarily. The meaning of each pronoun is dependent on context not on the preceding sentence. For example the pronoun it does not refer to the last mentioned subject, God, but rather refers to the Temple. We infer this by context - it is the most logical reading of the verse.

Rashi, when pronouns are varying, will frequently sketch a few comments indicating the shift so as to let the reading flow.

    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 Ex27-20b
    URL Reference: (c) Brief Summary: CRUSHED OIL vs CLEAR OIL CRUSHED FOR LIGHT. Oil for-Light must be higher quality.

The table below presents an aligned extract of verses in Ex27-20b, Lv24-02, Ex29-40, Nu28-05 All verses discuss Temple items requiring oil The alignment justifies the Rashi assertions that The oil used for light was of a higher quality without dregs. The oil used for Minchah offerings could be of lower quality.

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
Ex27-20 And you shall command the people of Israel, that they bring you pure oil beaten for the light, for the lamp to burn always. Candellabrah oil is not only beaten but beaten for the light and clear. It must be of higher quality.
Ex29-40 And with the one lamb a tenth deal of flour mixed with the fourth part of a hin of beaten oil; and the fourth part of a hin of wine for a drink offering. It was permissable that the oil used in the Minchah offerings could be of lower quality - it had to be beaten but not clear (i.e. it could have dregs).

    Advanced Rashi: The verses by themselves only justify the assertion that oil used for the candellabrah was of higher quality while oil used for other items could be of lower quality. The specifics of how higher and lower quality is achieved is not mentioned. However Rashi cites the Talmud Menachoth 86a which describes a 3-stage production process.
    • First the olives were beaten and placed in (or around) a basket until the weight of the oil inside them dripped out. (This oil had no dregs and was used for light)
    • Then the olives were placed under a heavy beam to squeeze out remaining oil (This oil has dregs and could not be used for light)
    • Finally the olives were finely ground (to ooze out the last oil). This oil also has dregs and could not be used for the Candellabrah.
    The Talmud cites alternate opinions on the oil production method. However the common denominator of all methods is that the first oil used a process with minimum beating and weight which resulted in oil without dregs - hence this oil could be used for the Candellabrah. The later oils had considerable poundings and beatings to ooze out leftover oil. These oils could be not be used for the Candellabrah but could be used for Menacoth.

More advanced Rashi: We have aligned above only Ex27-20b and Ex29-40. An almost identical alignment is found in verses Lv24-02 and Nu28-05.

    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 Ex30-08b
    URL Reference: (c)
    ALWAYS OFFER INCENSE - ONLY at morning and evening when the Candellabrah is being worked on.

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.

    Verses Ex30-07:08 discussing the offering of incense states
  • General: And Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense
  • Detail:
    • Every morning; when he dresses the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.
    • And when Aaron lights the lamps at evening, he shall burn incense upon it,
    Hence the Rashi comment: You must offer incense but only in the morning and evening at the time of taking care of the candellabrah.

    Advanced Rashi: Rashi's comment looks almost obvious. Perhaps then we should analyze how the theme and development meanings combine:
  • If it just stated the theme - offer incense every day - then I would think it permissable to offer it any time during the day for example while offering the morning and evening offerings.
  • If it just stated the detail - offer it morning and evening while taking care of the Candellabrah - then I would correctly offer it at those times. But I might think it permissable to also offer it other times. I might think it ok for example to offer it three or four times a day.
  • It is precisely the combination of theme and development that indicates to me that
    • I must offer it in the morning and evening
    • I may not offer it any other time
    I believe this example very typical of the Theme-development method.

More advanced Rashi: The example just presented occurs in my article Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at At the time I thought the Rashi comment an example of the generalization-specification-generalization method. I also thought that the generalization-specification-generalization method was different than the theme-detail-theme method. I thought that in the generalization-specification-generalization method the specifications are exclusive. However since then I have not found comparable examples. Today I think it simpler to interpret Ex29-07:08 as a theme-development method which requires exclusivity. The clause at the end of Ex29-08 - it will be a perpetual incense before God for all generations - could be perceived as a new statement having nothing to do with the previous theme-development part. It could indicate for example that the incense must be perpetual and offered even on the Sabbath and holidays (Similar to the daily offering which overrides the Sabbath).

      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 Ex29-35a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Do this consecration procedure 7 days; do this consecration procedure 7 days. EMPHASIS: All subprocedures required.

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.

Ex29 describes the consecration/induction ceremony of the priests. Verses Ex29-30, Ex29-35 create an unspecified emphasis by repeating: And that son who is priest in his place shall put them on seven days, when he comes into the Tent of Meeting to minister in the holy place. ... And thus shall you do to Aaron, and to his sons, according to all things which I have commanded you; seven days shall you consecrate them. Rashi simply comments: The repetition (equivalent to a modern underline or bold) indicates unspecified emphasis: You must do all of these things 7 days. Hence if even some small subprocedure was omitted the consecration / induction is invalid and must be done again.

      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 Ex29-14a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Remember Egypt: No a) inequality, b) impurity, c) bad business practices. d) God saved you.

We ask the following database query: Which commandments mention that they should be observed becauase 'you are to remember that God took you out of Egypt'? 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: Commemoration of the salvation from Egypt is emphasized as a reason for commandment observance in laws prohibiting a) social inequality b) ritual impurity c) anxiety-business practices and d) acknowledgement of salvation from Egypt by God. The list below presents the results of the database query and shows examples

Verses Verse Content Theme Contradicts Egyptian practice of...
Dt15-15,Dt05-14a Dt16-12, Dt24-18 Treat slaves, orphans, widows nicely. Equality ..slavery.
Lv22-33, Lv11-45, Nu15-41, Ex29-46 Avoid the ritual impurity associated with contact with the dead Purity / holiness ...disassociating a person and destroying his will by continuous exposure to death.
Lv25-38, Lv19-36 Avoid anxiety producing business practices (imprecise weights, loaning on interest). Business atmosphere Disassociating a person and destroying his will by continuous exposure to anxiety producing business practices (like imprecise weights).
Ex20-01:03 / Ex29-46 Acknowledge God as having saved you from Egypt God Saves ...believing that any slave could escape from Egypt.

To understand this list we take a simple example: Dt05-14a:15. discussing the obligation to treat slaves and orphans nicely. This verse states but the seventh day is a sabbath unto HaShem thy G-d, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou. And thou shalt remember that thou was a slave in the land of Egypt, and HaShem thy G-d brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore HaShem thy G-d commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. As can be seen by the underlined words, the Biblical obligation to let slaves/servants rest on the Sabbath is linked to remembering the Exodus. This linkage between the commandment and the exodus, does not occur at all commandments. However this linkage occurs here because the essence of Egypt consisted of a class society in which certain people were free and certain people were slaves. Consequently any commandment attacking class distinctions - such as the requirement to equally let owners and slaves rest on the Sabbath - will explicitly mention the Exodus. The other examples are interpreted similarly.

      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 Ex29-09c
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The altar had a FOUNDATION - a hollowed receptacle like protrusion 1 cubit up from the ground.

Verse Ex29-12c discussing the blood procedures of a sacrifice states And you shall take of the blood of the bull, and put it upon the horns of the altar with your finger, and pour all the blood beside the foundation of the altar.

Notice that the construction of the altar, described at Ex27-01:08 does not mention a foundation. However Ex29-12c does mention a foundation. Rashi uses common sense and knowledge of foundations to outline a picture or draft of the foundation. The foundation was at the altar bottom; it resembled a protrusion that went up one cubit and had a hollow for receiving blood.

    In presenting this interpretation Rashi uses common knowledge about foundations -
    • they are at the bottom,
    • they are like small protrusions from the rest of the building
    • They typically go up only a small amount - here a cubit.
    Rashi also mentions the hollow. Rashi infers the existence of the hollow from the statement in the verse that the blood is spilled to the foundation, implying there was a hollow to receive it.

The point to emphasize here is that Rashi's inferences are by and large non-verse and common sense. Rashi uses the general knowledge of foundations to infer its attributes. They are not derived from verses. Similarly Rashi infers the existence of a hollow receptacle from the requirment of spilling the blood.

      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 Ex29-01b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Priest consecration emphasized RAM (=leadership) and OX (=daily routine productive activity).

The symbolism of the sacrifices: a) the intention by the Biblical Author to perceive the sacrifices symbolically b) the methods by which the sacrifices are interpreted as well as c) the resulting interpretation of the sacrifices is presented by Rav Hirscsh in his monumental essay, Groundlines for Jewish Symbolism, and summarized in my paper on symbolism mentioned above.

Consequently, for reasons of space I will simply present the symbolic interpretation below. Those interested in the associated literary and logical arguments should read the above references.

    Ex29 describes the consecration of the priest ceremony. The ceremony involves sacrifices of a ram and ox (Ex29-01). These animals are interpreted symbolically in terms of their function:
    • The function of the ram is to lead
    • The function of the ox is continuous routine productive behavior.
    Rashi paraphrased further explains: It is clear why priests bring rams since they are suppose to be leaders of the people. They bring oxen to emphasize that in leading the people they must suffice with continuous routine productive behavior. The priests however are not allowed to engage in sudden traumatic non-routine behavior. Too often people try and improve themselves with sudden traumatic actions. However the true way to change is through daily continous routine behaviors which achieve an effect over time.

Advanced Rashi: Rashi literally actually says The ox was brought to atone for the golden calf. Some Rashi commentators see this as sort of a pun: The parent ox atones for the sin with the child calf. However Rashi never explicitly states that his comment is based on a pun. This is only an interpretation!!!

I have supplied a different interpretation of Rashi based on deep, underlhing, universal symbolic methods which are rooted in the function of the items involved. The function of a ram is leadership. The function of an ox is continous routine productive behavior. Here is a simple example of continuous routine productive behavior: If I was miserly and wanted to become more charitable I should not be advised to give a traumatic sudden $1000 donation to a charity. I would rather be advised to start giving small donations every week or month. Over a year I might give in total a $1000 but I would acquire the habit of being charitable by the continuous daily productive behaviors. This example is actually mentioned by Rambam in his commentary on the tractate Avoth. It immediately follows that the requirement of continuous routine productive behavior contradicts the traumatic approach such as happened in the making of the idol, the golden calf.

As can be seen my interpretation accepts Rashi fully - the ox does atone for the sin of the calf. But I don't interpret this atonement as due to a superficial pun. Rather I interpret it as due to a different psychological approach to permanant behavioral change: Permanant behavioral change comes from routine continuous behavior, not from traumatic non-routine behavior. Furthermore by interpreting the ox functionally I use a universal principle of symbolic association which applies uniformly throughout the Bible.


This week's parshah does not contain examples of the contradiction method. Visit the RashiYomi website at for further details and examples.