Their presence in Rashis on Parshat BeHaR Volume 10, Number 1
Used in the monthly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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May 15, 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.
Verse Lv25-10d discussing the freedom obtained during the Jubilee year states And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants of it; it shall be a jubilee to you; and you shall return every man to his possession, and you shall return every man to his family. Rashi clarifies the underlined words you shall return every man to his possession by referencing verse(s) Lv25-28 which states But if he is not able to restore it to him, then that which is sold shall remain in the hand of him who has bought it until the year of jubilee; and in the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his possession. Hence the Rashi comment: As the underlined words show the statement that you shall return every man to his possession refers to the redemption process and return-of-land rights that all landowners who sell their land have. These rights are mentioned later in the chapter such as at Lv25-28.
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.
A nifty way of appreciating Rashi comments is to directly embed them in verses. Rashi would translate Lv25-09:10 as Then shall you announce by trumpet(shofar) on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the Day of Atonement shall you announce by trumpet(shofar) throughout your country that: 'you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants of it; it shall be a jubilee to you; and you shall return every man to his possession, and you shall return every man to his family'.
We see how all but the last bullet point to the right to leave slavery: We are told that he may a) redeem himself, b) leave at Jubilee; c) and while working should not be abused. In other words all but the last bullet point to a unified paragraph theme. Rashi explains the last underlined bullet as also contributing to this unified paragraph theme: The foundation of the Jewish people is the redemption from Egyptian slavery. A non-Jew who does not let a Jewish slave redeem himself contradicts the foundation of the Jewish people. In other words redemption from slavery is not just a nicety of Jewish law; rather it is the very foundation of the Jewish people.
The table below presents an aligned extract of verselets in Lv25-41. Both verselets discuss the right of return. The alignment justifies the Rashi assertions that Just as at Jubilee land is returned to its owner even if (s)he could not redeem it, so to slave people return to their free status at Jubilee, even if they could not redeem themselves. Just as the return of land is uncondtional (the owner can do whatever they want even though before hand they were poor) so too the return to freedom is unconditional (the person regains his former social status and recognition even though he was a slave inbetween).
Advanced Rashi: Those familiar with Talmudic studies will recognize this as the analogy method (hekesh). It is a powerful Talmudic tool which adds insight and novelty to laws.
The table below presents presents two contradictory verses. Both verses talk about a Jew who sold himself as a slave to a non-Jew. The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says if the Jew sells himself while the other verse says he and his sons go free. Which is it? Did he sell only himself or did he sell his children also? Rashi simply resolves this using the 2 aspects method: The buyer owns only the Jew but is liable for (food) maintenance of both the Jew and his small children.
Many readers are familiar with the 13 exegetical principles of Rabbi Ishmael which occur in the daily prayer books in the morning prayer. In this email newsletter I have called these rules the style rules. It is important to clarify what the Rabbi Ishmael rules focus on. After all they are distinct from rules of meaning grammar and alignment. What are they?
We have explained in our article Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at http://www.Rashiyomi.com/biblicalformatting.pdf that the Rabbi Ishmael style rules are rules governing the interpretation of examples. In other words if the Biblical text gives a specific example, as a law or narrative, does the Author intend that the law or narrative exhaust its meaning in that particular example, or, does the Author intend the example as a mere example which should be understood by the reader as a paradigmatic example which should be generalized.
Here is a good example. Dt25-04 states don't muzzle an ox while threshing. The Rabbi Ishmael generalization rule requires that we do not see this example as exhaustive of the law but rather as requiring generalization. Hence Jewish law interprets this to mean Don't muzzle any animal while it is doing its typical work. Actually the law prohibits not only muzzling but any type of inteference with the animal eating.
In this particular case we used the generalization style. Sometimes however we use the restrictive style and interpret the example as exhaustive of the law-- the example is all the law says.
That is, if a modern author wanted to get a point across using bullets - a list of similar but contrastive items - then the Biblical Author would use repeating keywords. Today's verse illustrates this principle.
The repeated underlined word, for, creates a bulleted list effect as shown. The bulleted list in turn justifies the perception that each member of the bulleted list contains a distinct item with a distinct message(this is in fact how all authors in all languages use bullets.). Rashi's application of this principle is embedded above in our translation: The inclusion of workers and resident non-Jews clearly justifies the Rashi assertion that The sabbath-land law applies to all non-Jews whether they are residents and accepted Noachidic law or whether they are just ordinary non-Jews who are hired help.
Today we ask the database query: When is the concluding phrase Fear God used to exhort commandment performance. The query uncovers 5 examples. An examination of these examples justifies the Rashi assertion that Fear God is only used as a concluding phrase in a commandment where violation of the commandment cannot be detected by people and only fear of God's providence prevents violation.
The table below presents results of the query along with illustrations of Rashi's comment.
The Bible explains that sold people and land revert to original owners at Jubilee. The redemption value of slaves and the market price of land is determined by a linear method.
Advanced Rashi: There are some subtle moral points here: One could argue that the land will produce more as time goes on and that older people produce less. The Bible simply uses a linear method treating all years as potentially equally productive. Perhaps this is consistent with a variety of recent books and studies which suggest that the disabilities of old age are attributes of non-usage of personal capacities rather than an attribute of age itself. It can also be argued that the Bible agrees that old age decreases output in people and incresaes it in land; however the Bible ordained linearity as a convenience. As pointed out above one approach to pricing stocks assumes that stocks are equal to the present value of a stream of constant, or inflation adjusted, dividends discounted for interest. Clearly stocks might be evaluated otherwise. However the linear method is clearly useful. The Biblical method is consistent with the linear method and its own attitude about not taking interest. It is interesting to take these Biblical ideas of evaluation and compare them in modern contexts.
This week's parshah does not contain examples of the Symbolism Rashi method. Visit the RashiYomi website at http://www.Rashiyomi.com for further details and examples.