Their presence in Rashis on Parshat VaYayTzaY Volume 11, Number 21
Rashi is Simple - Volume 34 Number 21
Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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Dec 4th, 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(s) Gn29-18:20 discussing the 7 years that Jacob worked for Rachel, which emotionally felt like a few years states And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter. And Laban said, It is better that I give her to you, than that I should give her to another man; stay with me. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed to him but a few years, for the love he had for her. Rashi clarifies the underlined words seven years ... a few years by referencing verse(s) Gn27-44 which states And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah; and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself by planning to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee to Laban my brother to Haran; And remain with him a few days, until your brotherís fury turns away; Hence the Rashi comment: Jacob chose a seven year work period to earn the right of marriage for Rachel because of his mother's suggestion that he lie low for a few years
Advanced Rashi: It is especially interesting in this reference example that identical Biblical phraseology is used in both the target and reference verse.
The literary techniques of synechdoche-metonomy, universal to all languages, states 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. Today's Rashi can best be understood by applying these principles.
The word brother refers to a particular social relationship. However metonomy allows this word to refer to any social relationship, even those not based on family. The following verses, with the referents to brother enclosed in brackets illustrates this usage. Verse Gn29-12a discussing Jacob's relationship to Rachel states And Jacob told Rachel that he was her fatherís brother, [actually Jacob was Rachel's father's nephew] and that he was Rebekahís son; and she ran and told her father. Similarly verse Gn31-46a discussing the help Jacob received in making a treaty with Laban states And Jacob said to his brothers, [his children, students and staff] Gather stones; and they took stones, and made a heap; and they ate there upon the heap. As can be seen these verse(s) illustrate a metonomycal use of brother to refer to any social relationship, even those not based on family.
Advanced Rashi:Rashi on Gn31-46a actually says Brothers: This refers to his children who were brotherly with him in times of danger. However, I, above, translated brothers as meaning [his children, students and staff]. This is an important principle in Rashi - Rashi will often let the obvious comment on a verse be supplied by the reader and will supplement this obvious comment with a non-obvious comment. In this verse it is obvious that to make a heap of stones you call your staff and servants. However family members may not want to indulge in manual labor. Rashi's point is that even the family members helped out also since they wanted to show brotherly solidarity with Jacob in making a treaty. After all, Laban not only mistreated Jacob - he mistreated Jacob's children and their mothers. So yes, Rashi supplements the obvious metonomy - Jacob's servants helped him - with the non-obvious comment that even family members helped.
We feel that the understanding of Rashi can be greatly enriched by using this supplemental-method approach to Rashis.
Most people are aware that Hebrew has 3 tenses: Past, present, future. However most people are unaware that there are over a dozen meaning needs of tenses. Consider the following two sentences: I am walking to synagogue versus I walk to synagogue every day. The first sentence - I am walking to synagogue - indicates something happening now, in the present, while the second sentence, I walk to synagogue every day indicates something habitual.
We can summarize this as follows: There are at least two types of present: A simple present - I am walking to synagogue - and a habitual present - I walk to synagogue every day. We will refer to these as verb semantics or verb meanings. They are the types of meaning that a verb can have.
By contrast the form in which we write the verb - walk, walking, walked, will walk, did walk - will be referred to as the verb conjugations.
The challenge in learning grammar is to learn which verb conjugations go with which verb meanings. Most people are unaware that Hebrew uses the same conjugation for multiple meanings!!!!
Because this concept is complicated let me re-summarize it with the examples given above: The sentences I walk to synagogue every day and I am walking to synagogue illustrate two verb meanings: simple present activity and habitual activity. The verb forms - walk, walking are two verb conjugations, forms. In English walking is a verb form or conjugation associated with the verb meaning of something done at the present time while walk is a verb form or conjugation associated with the verb meaning of a habitual activity.
Scholars have erroneously not distinguished between verb meaning and form. This has created complications. However once you distinguish between meaning and form many things become clear. Todays example illustrates this.
To recap: In this verse the shepards were not telling Jacob that they were waiting for the stone to be rolled in order to water the flocks but rather they were telling Jacob a habitual activity - we roll the stone daily and then water the flocks.
The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Gn31-47 Both verses/verselets discuss the name given to the heap of stones by which Jacob and Laban made a treaty. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: Jacob named the place Stone-heap-witness; Laban named it Yegar Sahadusa which is the aramaic translation of Stone-heap-witness
Advanced Rashi: So one of Rashi's points is that the meaning of the unknown Aramaic translation can be inferred from the alignment. For a further Rashi point see rule #9 below.
The table below presents two contradictory verses. Both verses speak about Jacob's wedding night The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter. ...And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in to her. while the other verse states And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah; and he said to Laban, What is this that you have done to me? did not I serve with you for Rachel? why then have you deceived me? We see the contradiction---Was Jacob double crossed by day or night? Rashi simply resolves this using the 2 Aspects method: Jacob wanted Rachel. Rachel knew how Jacob liked to be flirted with. She shared his flirting preferences with Leah. When Jacob married Leah he thought he was marrying someone who understood his physical needs. But in the morning Leah resumed to her old self and it was only then that Jacob understood he was double-crossed.
Advanced Rashi: This is a beautiful example of refutation of a flippant reading of Rashi. Rashi literally says: Rachel did not want her sister Leah to be embarassed. Jacob had personal signs with Rachel since he expected to be double-crossed. But Rachel gave these signs to Leah. Notice that Rashi already leaves out the more explicit statements, found in some midrashim, that Rachel hid under the marital bed so that Jacob should think he was relating to Rachel.
From a conceptual point of view I am interpreting the Rashi comment Rachel gave Leah the personal signs she and Jacob had agreed on to mean that Rachel shared highly personal preferences of Jacob in flirting. I would similarly interpret the phrase found in other midrashim Rachel hid under the bed to mean Rachel shared personal flirting signs with Leah.
Advanced Rashi: Men and women view physical relations differently. Men are more biological while women are more personal. Men are more likely to select a spouse based on physical items like flirting. At early stages of their life this is important to them(or more important then it should be). Women sometimes belittle this need of men and play games with men. It doesn't have to be as extreme as the Rachel-Leah case. If people think that two people belong together they may give instruction to each other on how to flirt with specific men with the goal of facilitate the creation of a marriage. As is clear from the Jacob-Rachel-Leah story such attempts, however noble their intention, do not always work. Rather the social area requires special emphasis on equality of sensitivity in all areas.
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.
Note the underlined phrase in the citation, I bore the loss of it. The Hebrew root used here Cheth-Tet-Aleph primarily means sin and secondarily means to miss. So the verse literally means It was my sin [when an animal was killed]; or, alternatively, the verse means It was an [emotional] loss for me [when an animal was killed]. Rashi however interprets the verse phrase to mean It was my miss /mistake [when an animal was killed and hence I paid for the loss].
Rashi presents two defenses for this comment: One defense based on word meaning and the other defense based on comparative aramaic meaning. But I argue that the driving force for the Rashi comment is context. The theme-development-theme style indicates that Jacob absorbed all losses - whether change of wages, natural losses (animal killings), man-caused losses (thefts), personal losses (work environments and work times with poor climate control and lack of sleep), or willful acts (e.g. eating flock rams). It is precisely because of this underlying context that Rashi interprets this particular phrase as meaning I paid for the losses of beast-torn flock. However after Rashi derived the meaning of this cryptic phrase Rashi then provides supplemental support from aramaic and the underlying meanings of Hebrew roots.
We have explained in our article Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at http://www.Rashiyomi.com/biblicalformatting.pdf, that the Biblical Author indicated bullets by using repeating keywords.
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.
Jacob's description of himself to Rachel states
And Jacob told Rachel
Some readers look at Rashis such as the above as homiletic and fanciful. They argue that the Rashi nuances are read into the text. It is important to emphasize that Rashi read the text the same way that a modern reader would read a bulleted text: Each bullet indicates a distinct intended emphasis by the author. The idea that Rivkah refers to an upbringning by a mother who understood the world and its machinations is reasonable. I also take note that the above argument is a strong refutation of the ideas expounded by Livni and others who argue that Rashis such as above are homiletic and not the simple meaning of the text. For indeed, if a modern reader would understand the text this way then indeed it is the simple meaning.
Rashi further explains that People who are alive have sexual temptations and may sin - therefore it would not be proper to call them God of so and so since if they sin they would not deserve the title. Hence Jacob was reluctant to say God of Isaac during his father's lifetime and instead said The Fear of Isaac.
Advanced Rashi: Several points should be made. First: Rashi only states that God does not let his name lie on the righteous during their lifetime. We have extended Rashi's principle. God does not do this but people will do it. The justification for this is the above table.
Rashi points out that Isaac is the one exception where we find God calling Himself The God of Isaac during Isaac's lifetime. Isaac had led a monogomous life, never had a concubine, and had reached a mature stage of marriage. Hence it was very unlikely he would sin. Rashi expresses Isaac's spiritual emotinal security by citing the Biblical verse stating his eyesight dimmed which we interpret to mean his passions were dimmed. This justified God saying The God of Isaac. However while God could be reasonably certain that Isaac would never sin, Jacob could not be and therefore Jacob took the more conservative approach and used the phrase the The fear of Isaac.
The NonVerse method includes all methods of understanding the Bible that are not internal. Internal methods include grammar, meaning, alignment, database queries, symbolism and formatting techniques. The Non-Verse methods include diagramatic methods, spreadsheet methods and other non-verse methods. A classic non-verse method is the use of other, or distant, near-eastern languages to clarify the meaning of Biblical texts. This in fact is a primary method used by both religious and secular scholars. As we have shown in this newsletter, very often, meaning can also be inferred by a variety of other methods.
It is rare that Rashi uses other languages to infer Biblical meaning but it does happen. Verses Gn31-46:47 discussing the treaty that Jacob and Laban made states And Jacob said to his brothers, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made a heap; and they ate there upon the heap. And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha; but Jacob called it (Stone)-HeapWitness. Rashi: JegarSahadutha is the aramaic translation of (Stone)-HeapWitness. In this verse, the driving force for the Rashi comment is the external aramaic translation.
This week's parshah contains no examples of the Symolism Rashi method. Visit the RashiYomi website at http://www.Rashiyomi.com for further details and examples.