The 10 RashiYomi Rules
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.
Visit the RashiYomi website:
(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President,
Nov 21th, 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 Gn23-02a
    URL Reference: (c);
    Brief Summary: The COUNTY OF 4 (Gn23-02) refers to the county of a) the 4 giants ( or b) the 4 couples buried there (Nu13-22).

    Verse(s) Gn23-02 discussing that Chevron is also named the County of four states And Sarah died in the county of 4-- the same is Hebron--in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. Rashi clarifies the underlined words the county of 4 by referencing verse(s) Nu13-22 which states And they ascended by the south, and came to Chevron;
    1. where Ahiman,
    2. Sheshai, and
    3. Talmai,
    4. the sons of Anak [giant], were.
    Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.
    Hence the Rashi comment: Chevron is called the County of 4 because of the 4 giants that lived there: Anak the giant and his 3 sons.

Text of Target verse Gn23-02 Text of Reference Verse Nu13-22
And Sarah died in the county of 4-- the same is Hebron--in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. And they ascended by the south, and came to Chevron;
  1. where Ahiman,
  2. Sheshai, and
  3. Talmai,
  4. the sons of Anak [giant], were.
Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.
Rashi comments: Chevron is called the County of 4 because of the 4 giants that lived there: Anak the giant and his 3 sons.

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.

      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 Gn25-13a
      URL Reference: (c)

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.

      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 Gn24-14b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The girl who will give both me and the camels drink... this is the type of girl I WOULD like to see as proof for Isaac

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.

    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 Gn25-18a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: The Arabs DWELT all over while Ishmael was alive; The Arabas FELL all over after Ishmael's death.

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.)

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
Gn16-11:12 And the angel of the Lord said to her, Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Ishmael; because the Lord has heard your affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every manís hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brothers. 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.)
Gn25-16:18a These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their encampments; twelve princes according to their nations. And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, a hundred and thirty seven years; and he expired and died; and was gathered to his people. And they lived from Havilah to Shur, that is before Egypt, as you go toward Assyria; and he fell in the presence of all his brothers.

    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 Gn23-01b
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: SARAHS LIFE - had 3 stages - SARAHS LIFE (One unified life with 3 aspects).

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.

    Verse Gn23-01b discussing Sarah's life states states
    • General Theme: This is the life of Sarah
    • Detail:
      • The 100-year life [maturity],
      • The 20-year life [the young-adult life]
      • The 7-year life [innocence]
    • General: The years of Sarah's life

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.

    BRIEF EXPLANATION:Inferences from Biblical formatting: --bold,italics, and paragraph structure.
    • 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 example applies to Rashis Gn24-55c
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: [No] Let the girl stay with us a YEAR or 10 [MONTHS].

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.

    Verse Gn24-54a discussing Rivkah's family's petition to let Rivkah stay over some more states And her brother and her mother said: 'Let the damsel abide with
    • us a few days, [Rashi: i.e. a year]
    • or ten [Rashi: i.e. 10 months];
    after that she shall go.'

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.

      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 Gn24-52a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: BOWING in the Bible symbolizes to 4 things: a) Thanks b) Acknowledgement of power c) Greeting d) Worship

    We ask the following database query: What does bowing symbolically affirm in the Bible? 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: Bowing can symbolically affirm 4 items:
    1. A greeting of 'Hello.'
    2. Expression of Thanks
    3. Acknowledgement of Power
    4. Worship
    The list below presents the results of the database query and shows examples.

Meaning of Bowing A Supportive Verse Text of Verse
Greeting of Hello Ex18-07 And Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent
Expression of Thanks Gn24-52 And it came to pass, that, when Abraham's servant heard their words, he bowed himself down to the earth unto the LORD
Acknowledgement of Power Gn37-10 he told it to his father, and to his brethren; and his father rebuked him, and said unto him: 'What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down to thee to the earth?'
Worship Ex24-01 And unto Moses He said: 'Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and bow ye afar off;

    9. RASHI METHOD: Non Verse
    BRIEF EXPLANATION: The common denominator of the 3 submethods of the Spreadsheet 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 Gn25-17a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Jacob studied 14 years before going to Laban

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.

'Egyptian Time*1 'Event 'Abraham's age 'Ishmael's age 'Isaac's age 'Jacob's age 'Joseph's age 'Jacob working for Laban 'Supporting Verses
' 0 'Abraham visits Egypt '75 ' ' ' ' ' 'Gn12-04
' 14 'Ishmael Born '86 '0 ' ' ' ' 'Gn16-16
' 25 'Isaac Born '100 ' '0 ' ' ' 'Gn21-05
' 88 'Yaakov Born ' ' '60 '0 ' ' 'Gn25-26
' 151 'Ishmael's death ' '137 ' ' ' ' 'Gn25-17
' 151 'Isaac's blessings ' ' ' ' ' ' '*2
' 151 'Jacob Completes Studies ' ' ' ' ' ' '*3
' 165 'Jacob Starts with Laban ' ' ' ' ' '0 'Gn28-10, Gn29
' 179 'Joeseph is born ' ' ' ' '0 ' 14 'Gn30-25, Gn31-41
' 209 'Joeseph VP of Egypt ' ' ' ' '30 ' 'Gn41-46
' 216 '7 Years of plenty ' ' ' ' ' ' 'Gn41-53:54, Gn42-01
' 218 'First 2 years of famine ' ' ' ' ' ' 'Gn45-11, Gn47-09
' 218 'Jacob stands before Pharoh ' ' ' ' ' ' 'Gn45-11, Gn47-09

  • *1: The 400 years of exile started in Abraham's 75th year and is numbered 0. The Jews left Egypt in year 405. To understand the table construction look at the next row. Verse Gn16-16 states that Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born. Therefore this event happened in the 11th of the 400 years (11=86-75). Furthermore, Ishmael's age is 0 at the time of birth. Each row is constructed in a similar manner: The verse links to events which are notated in the spreadsheet and justify an update of the Egyptian-time column. Simultaneous events are indicated by two rows with identical Egyptian-time entries. We will not in this newsletter discuss how the blank cells in the spreadsheet are filled in but such filling in is the whole basis of spreadsheets like excel. Our purpose in this newsletter was to expose students of Rashi to the idea of spreadsheet approach to Rashi. This spreadsheet is simply a nice form by which to teach Rashi. This spreadsheet does not come from me or Rashi but comes from the Gemarrah, Megilah 17. We encourage students who understand spreadsheet methodology to study the spreadsheet in depth.
  • *2 Gn25 discusses the blessings of Isaac and that Ishmael married someone more religious. But the verse says that Esauv went to Ishmael and married Basmath the sister of Nevayoth. The Talmud assumes that Ishmael died at this time and therefore the marriage had to be completed by Basmath's brother. This is an assumption and like other assumptions makes the spreadsheet flow.
  • *3 There is no verse for this. But without this 14 year row Jacob would not be 130 when he stood before Pharoh (Last row of table) The assumption that these 14 years were spent learning is a reasonable assumption but not explicitly stated in the tet.

      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 Gn24-22a Gn24-22b Gn24-22c
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Eliezer gave three gifts to Rivkah symbolizing three aspects of her personality needed in a good marriage: a) A cheap bracelet = caring about the cheap person; b) dual bracelets = dual - man God - approach c) $10 item = concern about community vs single digit=person.

    Verse Gn24-22c discussing the gifts that Eliezer gave Rivkah states And it came to pass, as the camels finished drinking, that the man took
  • a golden ear ring of half a dollar value, and
  • two bracelets for her hands of
  • ten shekels weight of gold;

    The Rashi symbolic interpretations of these gifts seems strange:
  • a golden ear ring of half a dollar value, [Rashi: corresponding to the Biblical commandment to give a half-dollar]
  • two bracelets for her hands of [Rashi: Corresponding to the 10 commandments given on two stones]
  • ten shekels weight of gold; [Rashi: Corresponding to the 10 commandments]

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.

    However the Rashi interpretations can be made plausible if we use one simple Rashi rule: Rashi does not speak using abstract concepts but rather Rashi speaks using examples of these concepts. Hence
  • The concept of caring about the little man in the street is symbolized by the half dollar vs. say the $1 bill. The half dollar symbolism is also used in the commandment for every Jew to give a half dolloar symbolizing that all the little people in the nation count. Consequently instead of using the abstract concept of the little man in the street Rashi uses an example of this concept: The commandment to give a half dollar. Here we have used our understanding of Rashi's style to make his commentary plausible.
  • The abstract concept of a dual emphasis on commandments between man-and-man vs. commandments between man-and-God is exemplified by the two tablets containing the ten commandments since one side the ten commandments contains commandments between man-and-God while the other side contains commandments between man-and-man.
  • The abstract concept of community is symbolized by the plural number ten. One example of this is the quorum of people needed for a religious service,10, since the service must be delivered by the community. Another example might be the 10 commandments which contain the basic laws and ethics needed by the community.

    Using this principle that Rashi expresses abstract concepts by using examples of them we can translate the Rashi symbolism into traditional abstract language. Rashi is explaining what Eliezer liked about Rivkah which would make her a good wife for Isaac:
  • a golden ear ring of half a dollar value, [Rashi: She cared about the little man; Eliezer knew this since she gave a slave water to drink]
  • two bracelets for her hands of [Rashi: She had a dual caring about both people and God---since she cared about the person, Eliezer, and also showed caring behavior to his animals(a man-God commandment)
  • ten shekels weight of gold; [Rashi: Corresponding to her concerns for the community since she fed the camels which were presumably carrying commercial loads for community business]

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 for further details and examples.