The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat VaYayShev
Volume 11, Number 23
Rashi is Simple - Volume 34 Number 23

Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President,
Dec 18th, 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 Gn38-25a
    URL Reference: (c);
    Brief Summary: Judah said: She committed adultery - TAKE HER OUT TO BURN. As she was TAKEN OUT [TO BURN]

Verse(s) Gn38-25a discussing the death penalty decreed on Tamar for having committed pseudo-adultery states As she was brought out, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child; and she said, Discern, I beg you, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. Rashi clarifies the underlined words she was brought out, by referencing verse(s) Gn38-24 which states And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by harlotry. And Judah said, Bring her out, and let her be burned. Hence the Rashi comment: The phrase in Gn38-25 as she was brought out means as she was brought out to be burnt.

Text of Target verse Gn38-25a Text of Reference Verse Gn38-24
As she was brought out, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child; and she said, Discern, I beg you, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by harlotry. And Judah said, Bring her out, and let her be burned.
Rashi comments: The phrase in Gn38-25 as she was brought out means as she was brought out to be burnt.

Advanced Rashi: There is sarcastic irony here. After all as she was brought out could mean as she was brought out to trial! Rashi is being sarcastic - Judah didn't even think of giving her a trial. After all - she was obviously guilty and couldn't possibly have a defense. Thus Rashi hilights Judah's arrogance and lack of judicial process, a comment which clearly also echoes back to how he treated Joseph - Well murder is wrong, why don't we just sell him so he will die in slavery.

      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 Gn37-35a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: His sons and daughters [Rashi: daughter-in-laws] came to comform him.

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 words brother and daughter refer to particular social relationships. However metonomy allows these words to refer to any social relationship, even those not based on family. The following verses, with the referents to brother and daughter 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.
  • 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.
  • Similarly verse Gn35=27a discussing the comforting of Jacob while mourning his son's death states And all his sons and daughters [his daughters and daughter-in-laws] arose to comfort Jacob....
As can be seen these verse(s) illustrate a metonomycal use of brother and daughter 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.

Similarly the word daughters in Gn35-27a should be understood to refer to both his actual daughters as well as his daughter-in-laws. There is nothing gained by understanding Rashi as interpreting the verse as exclusively referring to his daughter-in-laws; rather we interpret Rashi as indicated that the verse also refers to this daughter-in-laws.

We feel that the understanding of Rashi can be greatly enriched by using this supplemental-method approach to Rashis.

      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 Gn37-18b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: They saw him from afar and before he got nearer they plotted on him for death.

Rashi lived before the era of Grammatical textbooks. Hence one of his functions was to teach the rules of grammar similar to modern textbooks. One aspect of grammar deals with the proper use of prepositional connectives. A classical approach to prepositional connectives is to list the multiple meanings they can take. Todays example illustrates this.

The Hebrew prepositional connective Aleph-Tauv, Eth can have at least four meanings. These meanings are presented in the table below.

Meaning of Aleph-Tauv A Supportive Verse Sample Biblical Text
Indicates direct object Gn01-01 God created [eth] heaven and [eth] earth
Indicates indirect object - from Gn49-25 From God and you wil be helped, and from [eth] the Almighty and you will be blessed
Indicates indirect object - to Jb26-04 To [eth] whom have you spoken such words
Indicates indirect object - on him / concerning him Gn37-18b They saw him from afar and before he came near they plotted [eth] on him for death

Advanced Rashi: Above, we have approached the meanings of eth with a list. But we can more deeply approach these meanings conceptually. Both Hebrew punctuation and Hebrew grammar regard the grammatical unit of the sentence as consisting of a verb, connoting an activity, with a sequence of complements. These complements can have any grammatical function: direct object, indirect object, adverbial clause,... The Hebrew word eth simply indicates some sentence complement whether it be a direct or indirect object.

In other words it is a mistake to think of eth as primarily indicating a direct object and secondarily indicating an indirect object. Rather eth can indicate any type of sentence complement.

This is similar to the rule for the Hebrew conjunction vav. Vav is erroneously translated as meaning and, and secondarily as meaning if, but, because etc. A more satisfying approach is to say that in Hebrew vav indicates any conjunctive function whether it be and, or, but, however, because, etc.

Seen from this perspective vav and eth are semantic markers that simply announce conjunctive or complement components. Their particular meaning in a specific context is inferred from context.

    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 Gn40-13a Gn40-13b
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Pharoh will a) count you among his staff and b) restore you to your leadership position (as Maitre-de of wine).

The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Gn40-13a Gn40-13b Both verses/verselets discuss the restoration of the Maitre-de of wine from prison. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: The Maitre-de of wine would have two things returned: a) He would be reinstated as Pharoh's staff (out of prison) and b) he would be reinstated to his former position of leadership - Maitre-de of wine.

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
Gn40-13a In three days Pharoh will
  • count you among his staff and
  • return you to your former position.
The Maitre-de of wine would have two things returned:
  • a) He would be reinstated as Pharoh's staff (out of prison) and
  • b) he would be reinstated to his former position of leadership - Maitre-de of wine.
Gn40-13b In three days Pharoh will
  • count you among his staff and
  • return you to your former position.

Advanced Rashi: The nuances of Rashi's comment should be clear: Pharoh will not only pardon the maitre-de's prison sentence and restore him to his staff; Pharoh will also restore him to his former position (total forgiveness)

      BRIEF EXPLANATION:Rashi resolves contradictory verses using 3 methods.
      • (5a) Resolution using two aspects of the same event
      • (5b) Resolution using two stages of the same process
      • (5c) Resolution using broad-literal interpretation.
      This examples applies to Rashis Gn37-13a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Even though Joseph's brothers hated him (Gn37-04) nevertheless Joseph was ready to go to them since he craved brotherly unity (Gn37-08).

The table below presents two contradictory verses. Both verses speak about Joseph's relationship with his brothers The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says Joseph's brothers hated him, while the other verse states Joseph was eager to see his brothers. We see the contradiction--- Was there hatred or desire between Joseph and his brothers. Rashi simply resolves this using the 2 Stages / 2 Aspects method: Joseph's brothers hated Joseph because he slandered them(Gn37-04). But Joseph really wanted to rule over this brothers to help them (Gn37-08). Although Joseph's brothers hated him also because of his dreams and aspirations Joseph still was anxious to meet them in the hope of reaquiring their friendship.

Summary Verse / Source Text of verse / Source
Joseph's brothers hated him due to slander Gn37-03:04 ... Joseph, being seventeen years old, ... and Joseph slandered them ...And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
Joseph desired to meet with his brothers Gn37-13 And Israel said to Joseph, Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them. And Joseph said to Jacob, I am available.
Resolution: 2 Aspects / 2 Stages Joseph's brothers hated Joseph because he slandered them(Gn37-04). But Joseph really wanted to rule over this brothers to help them (Gn37-08). Although Joseph's brothers hated him also because of his dreams and aspirations Joseph still was anxious to meet them in the hope of reaquiring their friendship.

    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 Gn37-02b
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Joseph was a) 17 and b) immature - [Rashi: groomed his hair, tattletailed, suspected people of affairs.]

Certain Biblical paragraphs are stated in a detail-Theme form. In other words a detailed specific passage is stated first followed by a thematic restatement of a broad general nature. Today's example illustrates this as shown below.

    Verse Gn37-02b discussing Joseph's mannerism states
  • Detail: Joseph was 17 years old
  • General: And he behaved like a kid with the sons of the handmaids...

    Rashi interprets the underlined verbal form of kid, behaved like a kid, as indicating
  • excessive grooming
  • tattletailing (mentioned explicitly in the verse)
  • exaggerating normal sexual fears and wonders about people.

It is important to emphasize what Rashi is and is not doing. Rashi is not inferring from the verbal phrase behaving like a kid that Joseph excessively groomed, tattletailed and exaggerated normal sexual fears and wonders.

Rather, Rashi is inferring from the detail-general style - 17 years old - behaved like a kid that Joseph did typical behaviors of an immature 17 year old.

Having established this general fact Rashi then enumerates three primary typical immature behaviors: excessive grooming, tattletailing, exaggeration of sexual fears and wonders.

In other words the driving force for the Rashi comment is not meaning but the paragraph style which indicates a general statement of immature behavior. Rashi then used his knowledge of psychology to provide three broad areas of immaturity.

Advanced Rashi: Rashi goes further: Rashi points out that Joseph was punished for each of these immature acts. For example since Joseph was obsessed with grooming he eventually was approached by his master's wife which got him into trouble when he refused.

However Rashi's primary purpose on this verse was to present the fact of immaturity and sketch immaturity patterns. A secondary purpose of Rashi was to indicate God's method of justice. We will therefore discuss God's justice elsewhere.

    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 Gn39-01a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Joseph's brothers, on Judah's advice, sold him - (Judah had to separate from his brothers) - Joseph sold to Egypt.

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.

    There are three broad methods of paragraph unity:
  • cause-effect
  • contrast
  • unifying theme with multiple effects

    Paragraphs Gn37 - Gn39 have the following structure:
  1. Gn37 Joseph's brother, on Judah's advice, sell him
  2. Gn38 Judah separates from brothers - goes into business with merchants
  3. Gn39 Joseph sold to Egypt where he is successful.

    Rashi sees
  • Paragraphs #1 and #3 as having a common theme
  • Paragraphs #1 and #2 having a cause-effect relationship.

In other words: Joseph, on Judah's advice, was sold by his brothers down to Egypt where he was successful. The brother's blaimed Judah for giving this advice and he was forced to separate from his brothers.

Grammatically Rashi characterizes this sequence of three paragraphs as a parenthetical interrupt. That is, paragraph #3 is a continuation of paragraph #1. Paragraph #2 interrupts the paragraph #1-#3 sequence. Paragraph #2 interrupts this sequence to emphasize that paragraph #1 indicates the cause of paragraph #2. In our situation this means that Judah's separation from his brothers was due to blaim for advice to sell Joseph.

      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 Gn37-01a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Biblical style focuses on the excelling person in a group and token mentions the others.

    We ask the following database query: If one person excels in a group how much space does the Bible devote to discussions of the group vs. the individual? 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: The answer to the question," When one person excels in a group how does the Bible record the history of group/person?" is
    • The Bible token mentions everyone in the group--typically for a verse or 2
    • The Bible devotes a lot of text to the person who excels
    The list below presents the results of the database query. Rashi brings the first 3 examples in the list below. We have supplemented this list with two further examples. In each example in this list the excelling person has a great deal of Biblical text devoted to him while the surrounding group has minimal text devoted (2-3 verses per person).

Verses Group Who excels Many verses to whom
Gn05, Gn06 10 Generations-Adam-Noach Noach Noach
Gn11, Gn12 10 Generations from Noach to Abraham Abraham Abraham
Gn36, Gn37 History of Isaac's children: Esauv, Jacob Joseph, Jacob's son Joseph
Nu07, Nu08 Gifts of tribes at Consecration of Temple Aaron's gift Aaron
1C01, 1C12, 1C13, 1C17 Human history - Adam-David King David King David

With regard to the last example, Chronicles is giving a political history and hence someone like David is more important (politically) than say Abraham and Moses (Who were more important prophetically).

    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 Gn37-34a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Jacob mourned Joseph MANY DAYS [22 years]

Verse Gn37-34a discussing Jacob's mourning of Joseph states And Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. Rashi explains the underlined phrase mourned for his son many days as 22 years of mourning. The table below justifies this Rashi assertion. The table is presented in Spreadsheet format. In this particular Rashi the spreadsheet is the best method to understand Rashi. We in fact see at a glance from the table that Joseph was 17 when he was kidnapped and was reunited with his father at age 39, 22 years later.

Joseph's age Event Supporting verse / Reason
17 Joseph sold into slavery; Jacob think's Joseph dead Gn37-01:34
30 Jacob appointed Vice King of Egypt Gn41-46
30 The 7 years of plenty commence Gn41-47
37 The 7 years of plenty finish 30 + 7 = 37
37 The 7 years of famine begin Gn41-53:54
39 Jacob and Joseph reunite - 5 years of famine remain; So two of the 7 years of famine have passed. Gn45-03:11

      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 Gn40-16a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Three [days till my] baskets [body] with holes [is exposed vulnerable] on [after] my head [my beheading]

We all know that the three baskets in the chief baker dream corresponded to three days to execution. In the table below we interpret other aspects of the baker's dream. For example the holed baskets symbolize an exposed body (after beheading). This aspect of the symbolic interpretation of the baker's dream is often overlooked!

We could summarize the table as follows: I saw [that in] three days my basket [body] is holed [exposed / vulnerable]. And even though the] topmost [goal] basket [of my being was providing ] all types of royal food, professional baker standards, to Pharoh, [nevertheless] the birds were eating them [my flesh] from the basket [my body] on [upon] my head [after my beheading].

Verse text Symbolic interpretation Source
My dream showed My dream predicted that in Joseph/ Bible
three three days Joseph/ Bible
holed there is exposure / vulnerability to my Rashi / Me
baskets body Me
on after Hebrew Grammar
my head; my beheading Joseph/ Bible
And in the uppermost basket there were Even though my uppermost goal in life was providing Me
all kinds of baked food for Pharaoh; all kinds of baked food for Pharaoh;
and the birds ate them out of the basket nevertheless the birds ate my flesh from my body Joseph / Bible
upon after Hebrew Grammar
my head. my beheading Joseph / Bible.

Advanced Rashi: The above table uses the so called linear translation method. This method was introduced (or popularized) by Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Sharfman in his Linear Translation of the Bible and Rashi. Rabbi Sharfman's linear translation is still very popular among those who are beginners in learning Rashi. Rabbi Sharfman was in fact Rabbi of my synaggoue when I was young and I spent many enjoyable Shabbath afternoons listening to his very lucid explanations of Rashi.


This week's parshah contains examples of all Rashi methods. Visit the RashiYomi website at and for further details and examples.