Their presence in Rashis on Parshat NiTzaViM Volume 11, Number 12
Rashi is Simple - Volume 34 Number 12
Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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Sep 25th, 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.
The next few issues of Weekly Rashi will take place as usual except for the weeks of the Succoth holidays.
Verse(s) Dt29-09:11 discussing the convenant / treaty made between God and Israel states You all stand this day before God..... That you should pass through the covenant with the Lord your God, and into his oath, which the Lord your God makes with you this day; Rashi clarifies the underlined words pass through the covenant by referencing verse(s) Jr34-18 discussing God's punishment of people who violate the convenant which states And I will give the men who have transgressed my covenant, which have not kept the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in two, and passed between its parts. Hence the Rashi comment: The phrase pass through the convenant is an idiom referring to the ancient treaty ceremony of cutting an animal in half, having both parties of the treaty pass through or walk between the two halves and then consuming the animal. Dt29-09:11 refers to this ceremony and uses this language.
Advanced Rashi: Rashi should be supplemented by pointing out that the treaty God made with the Patriarch Abraham (Gn15) involved a similar cutting ceremony and is colloquially known as the treaty of cuts. Perhaps the walking between the cut halves symbolically affirms that both parties respect the property rights of the other and share in joyous occasions (Such as treaty enactments).
One method available to Rashi for explaining meaning is to use the universal literary principles available in all languages. The synechdoche-metonomy literary principles, universal to all languages, state, that items can be named by related items, by parts of those items, or by good examples of those items. For example honey refers to anything sweet since honey is a good example of something sweet. Similarly hot refers to matters of love since the two are related. Todays Rashi can best be understood by applying these principles.
Using the synechdoche principle we see that drunkedness refers to inadvertency or negligence of action since drunkedness is a good example of a state when negligent action happens. By contrastive analogy, if drunkedness refers to inadvertency then parched refers to willful. Applying these principles we translate Dt29-18 as follows: And it should come to pass, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart, to add parched [willful] to the drunkenness [inadvertent].
One component of grammar deals with puns. Puns are a universal literary phenomenon in all languages: Puns indicate a deliberate distortion of the text in order to impart relevant secondary meaning. For more information on puns see my article http://www.Rashiyomi.com/puns.pdf on the world wide web.
Verse Dt30-03 states Then the LORD thy God will return [with] thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. We have translated this Hebrew verse to reflect a pun: The verse says both God will return thy captivity and also says God will return with thy captivity. In the Hebrew text the conjugation Vav-Shin-Beth is used indicating that God himself will return; the proper conjugation would be the causative mode, Vav-Hey-Shin-Yud-Beth indicating that God will cause your (the Jews) return. Using either the Hebrew or English we see a pun: The Bible should be saying that God will return the Jews and instead says God Himself will return. This distortion of grammar indicates a deliberate intent of the Author to impart a secondary meaning. Hence the Rashi comment: Not only are the Jews returned but also God Himself also returns. This pun poetically depicts God as being with the Jews in exile and suffering with us.
The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Dt29-16 Both verses/verselets discuss the detestable idols seen by the Jews. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: There are many types of idols Stone and wood gods lie around houses and gardens. But gold and silver gods are kept inside the house, with the people. Although they are gods people steal them for their monetary value.
Both the Biblical and modern author use the paragraph as a vehicle for indicating commonality of theme. Hence if two ideas are in a paragraph they may be assumed to have a similar context. The reader will no doubt recognize this formatting rule as none other than the most intuitive of the Rabbi Ishmael style rules which orthodox Jews recite every day as part of their daily prayer: the rule of inference from context. Today's example illustrates this.
Advanced Rashi: Let us go over in detail the two uses of the paragraph development methods. First Rashi contrasts within Dt29-11:12: God can't get out of his oath and therefore [causation] you must swear also so as to be similarly bound. This explains the linkage of verses within the two sentence paragraph.
But Rashi also explains the linkage of verses between the Chapters Dt28 and Dt29: God will punish you if you misbehave but [contrastively] since He swore to be your God no matter how bad you are He will never destroy you.
As a result of this analysis we understand the two Rashi comments. One Rashi comment explains the contrastive connection between two Biblical chapters. The other Rashi comment explains the causative connection within 2 Biblical verses. In other words there are two paragraph connections to explain and Rashi explains both of them.
Advanced Rashi: Three points should be made here. First, Rashi literally says ...the verse teaches that Moses gathered them in the Divine presence on the day of his death. So literal Rashi seems to just echo the verse. It is through the use of Rashi methodology that we uncover a detailed description that before God is used in situations of prayer, Temple-related activity, or prophetic revelation.
Secondly, note that Rashi does not make explicit reference to prophecy. However based on our database analysis and the uncovering of three meanings of before God - prayer,prophecy, and Temple related - it would appear that prophecy is the most relevant meaning here.
This verse nicely shows the interplay between Rashi methodology and actual Rashi text. It shows how the student of Rashi must sometimes reinterpret Rashi based on methodological considerations. Such reinterpretations do not contradict Rashi but rather enrich our understanding of Rashi.
Finally we note that this database query illuminates the meaning of an idiomatic phrase. An idiom is a collection of words whose overall meaning surpasses the sum of the meaning of the individual words. Thus this Rashi may be thought of as jointly using rules 2, meaning, and 8, databases.
Verse Dt30-19 discussing Moses' adjuration to the Jews to observe the convenant states I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed;
But Heaven and earth are inanimate. They can't be witnesses. Hence Rashi interprets this symbolically. Rashi's suggestion is simple: Heaven and earth follow the inanimate laws that govern them and as a consequence all is well with them. If only we humans could act similarly.
Advanced Rashi: Rashi's first explanation poetically sees the heaven and earth as two witnesses who punish the accused if convicted (The heavens abstain from rain and the earth from produce). However heaven and earth have no cogitive ability or free will and hence cannot really act as witnesses. Rashi's second explanation correctly sees them as symbolic affirmations adjuring humans to follow their inanimate counterparts. We have therefore concentrated on Rashi's 2nd explanation.
Sermonic Points: We close this year's Weekly Rashi series with a gem of a story from the founder of Chasiduth. The founder of Chasiduth, the Ba'al Shem Tov, that is, the Person with a Good name, as he is affectionately none, was, in his youth, as a sexton, one day, sweeping the synagogue floors. All of a sudden he burst into tears: This lowly broom has fulfilled its maximum potential in existence and has merited to clean synagogue floors, but I, a human created in the image of the Supreme being, have not fulfilled my maximum potential. Of course, the Ba'al Shem Tov was simply echoing the above Rashi that sees Heaven and Earth as inanimate paradigms fulfilling the will of their Creator and contrasting it with human behavior.
This week's parshah does not contain examples of the contradiction, style, and spreadsheet methods. This concludes this weeks edition. Visit the RashiYomi website at http://www.Rashiyomi.com for further details and examples.