Their presence in Rashis on Parshat ChaYaY SaRaH Volume 11, Number 19
Rashi is Simple - Volume 34 Number 19
Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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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.
Advanced Rashi: Rashi gives a supplemental explanation: Chevron is called the County of 4 because of the 4 couples that are buried there: (1) Abraham and Sarah, (2) Isaac and Rivkah, (3) Jacob and Leah and (4) Adam and Eve.
It is a common theme in language that when a word has an initial etymology then that word will acquire additional similar etymologies. For example the word Hebrew means side and refers to Abraham who came from the other side of the river. Later Hebrew acquired a secondary meaning:Abraham was on a different side of the world spiritually. Similarly the County of 4 is named because of the 4 giants. But after a while the name became associated with any 4-ness of the county.
Finally note the subtle point that the Bible only mentions explicitly that 3 couples (the patriarchs) are buried in Chevron. The idea that a 4th couple is buried there - Adam and Eve - is conjecture.
An idiom is a collection of words which means more than the sum of the meanings of each of the phrases' individual words. Verse Gn25-13a discussing the descendants of Ishmael states And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the first-born of Ishmael, Nebaioth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, Rashi explains: The phrase(s) by their names, according to their generations: is an idiom meaning listed in genealogical order Translating the verse with this Rashi translation yields And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in genealogical order the first-born of Ishmael, Nebaioth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam,
Advanced Rashi: Rashi can be understood in a deeper manner if we recall that sometimes descendants are stated in non-genealogical orders. For examples Noach's sons are listed as Shaym, Cham, and Yefeth (Gn05-32) even though Yefeth was the oldest (Gn10-21). The changed order reflects Shaym's superior spiritual importance since Abraham decesnded from him.
Rashi lived before the era of Grammatical textbooks. Hence one of his functions was to teach the rules of grammatical conjugation similar to modern textbooks.
Most people know how to conjugate verbs in different persons, pluralities, tenses and voices. For example, in English, one can say, We were watched, I will watch, I watched. Verbs can also be conjugated by mode. Mode refers to how we deal awith nd perceive the world. The jussive, cohortative mode refers to hoped-for activity versus perceived, actual activity. Hebrew can indicate the jussive mode by suffixing a terminal hey to the verb. Hebrew can also indicate the jussive mode by context. Verse Gn24-14b discussing how Eliezer hoped to recognize Isaac's mate states So let it come to pass, that the girl to whom I shall say: Please let down thy pitcher, that I may drink; and she shall say: Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also; I hope that this girl is the one that you have appointed for Thy servant, for Isaac; and in such a girl I hope to find out that Thou hast shown kindness unto my master.' We have embedded the Rashi comments in the translation of the verse as indicated by the underlined words. We believe this approach and translation is most natural.
Advanced Rashi: This Rashi helps elucidate the Rambam's comments on this verse. Rambam points out that there is a Biblical prohibition against divination. For example one cannot say, a black cat crossed my path so I am sure I will have a bad day. Nor can one say I dropped my sandwich and I am sure my business deal will fall. However a person who divines in the manner of Eliezer has not transgressed.
Without Rashi this Rambam is difficult. For a literal non-jussive interpretation of the verse would be a violation of divination: If I see a girl who is charitable and offers both me and my camels water then I am sure she is Isaac's wife. Some commentators have attempted to resolve this problem by suggestion the legal formulation Divination based on logical criteria (e.g. charitable character) vs. symbolic criteria (e.g. falling bread symbolizing a fallen deal) is not prohibited.
However Rashi greatly clarifies the Rambam. For according to Rashi Eliezer never divined. Rather Rashi would interpret Eliezer's behavior as follows: I, Eliezer, know that I must obtain a wife for Isaac from Abraham's family. But how will I recognize his family. I hope that I can recognize his family by their charitable nature, for example, if they offer to water the camels also when I seek drink for myself. So the Rambam combined with Rashi would be interpreted as follows - To divine, to make future behavior dependent on present symbolic indicators is prohibited. However to pray/ hope that the future will look a certain way is not prohibited. Similarly to initiate one's searches based on criteria (without a committment) is permissable. Applying this to the Eliezer situation we see that Eliezer would not be allowed to insist that Rivkah, Abraham's family, should be recognized by her charitable nature. Abraham gave instructions to marry Isaac to someone from his family, not to someone charitable. Eliezer had no right to insist she be charitable. However Eliezer had a right to hope for a charitable woman. He also had the right to begin his search for Abraham's family with a charitable person.
The above provides a peach of an illustration of the enrichment of classical Jewish law with skillful Biblical exegesis.
The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Gn25-18a, Gn16-12 Both verses/verselets discuss that Arabs dwell all over the world. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: While Ishmael was alive the Arabs were more respected and hence are described as dwelling all over. However after Ishmael's death the Arabs were less respected and hence are described as falling all over. (Falling is a more pejorative term then dwelling.)
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.
Rashi comments on the Theme-Detail-Theme form which creates the illusion of an entire paragraph. Although her life had 3 distinct aspects - maturity, young-adulthood, innocence - nevertheless these 3 aspects were illustrative of her life as a whole. That is her life had a unified theme of personal-fulfillment and growth.
Advanced Rashi: We have not explained why we translated the verse as the 100 year life, the 20 year life, the 7 year life. This is in fact the subject of another Rashi. We are simply not covering it today. However it will be justified, possibly next year. We also seem to have taken sides on what the 100 year, 20 year and 7 year life mean. There is considerable controversy among Rashi-ists on this point. We will explain this also next year. Right now, we are focusing on the general-theme-General form which justifies that the three stages be nevertheless perceived as aspects of one whole life.
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 indication justifies it. For this reason we consider the climax method a distinct and separate method.
Before explaining Rashi let us point out that language and grammar alone would not account for the above translation. Even if a few verses use the word days to mean years it is a non-standard translation. Similarly, normal grammar would require the phrase a few days or ten to mean a few days or ten [days]. That is, 10 should refer to the previously stated unit.
Rather the driving force of Rashi's interpretation is climax. Climax requires that we interpret the sequence of phrases days or 10 in a climactic manner even if the literal meaning does not require this. Rashi explicitly enunciates this climax principle in his commentary: It would not make sense [from the point of view of climax] for someone to ask for a few days and if the few days cannot be given then the person would like more, 10 days. Therefore climax requires that we interpret days in a non-standard manner as meaning year, a meaning which it sometimes has. Climax would further require that the word ten refer to something smaller and hence we interpret ten as meaning, not ten years, but rather as meaning ten months. Therefore we interpret the whole phrase as meaning a year or ten months. This translation is consistent with climax: They wanted her to stay a year, but if that couldn't be granted, let her stay at least 10 months.
Advanced Rashi: The climax principle, typically appears non-intuitive, since it can violate grammar and meaning. The above verseis a good typical example of climax since it leads to a natural interpretation.
Today is a delightful example of the spreadsheet method. The spreadsheet below is a peach of an example of this important Rashi method. The spreadsheet with its underlying assumptions justifies the Rashi assertion that Jacob studied 14 years before going to Laban.
This Rashi is strange because it implies that Eliezer is prophesying that Rebekkah will be a matriarch to a people who will receive the 10 commandments and be commanded on the giving of the half-dollar. Rebekkah was in no position to know this at this stage of her life.
As shown the Rashi symbolic interpretation is plausible and not far fetched. The sole tool we used to make Rashi plausible is replacing examples by the abstract concepts they exemplify. Rashi was not attributing prophetic knowledge to Rivkah or Eliezer. Rather Rashi was explaining how the events which just happened indictated personality traits desirable in a mate.
This week's parshah contains no examples of the Contradiction Rashi method. Visit the RashiYomi website at http://www.Rashiyomi.com for further details and examples.