The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat MiKeTz
Volume 11, Number 24
Rashi is Simple - Volume 34 Number 24

Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President,
Dec 26th, 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 Gn39-03a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: He saw that GOD WAS WITH JOSEPH (Gn39-03 ) because Joseph always mentioned God (God will help)(Gn40-08,Gn41-16).

Verse Gn39-03a discussing Joseph's success as an Egyptian slave states And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. Rashi notes The underlined words, the LORD was with him references verses Gn40-08,Gn41-16 which explicitly show that Joseph frequently mentioned God's name (e.g. God will help). Hence we interpret The lord was with him as meaning God's name was frequent in his mouth.

Text of Target Verse Gn39-03 Text of Reference Verse Gn40-08,Gn41-16
And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And they said unto him: 'We have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it.' And Joseph said unto them: 'Do not interpretations belong to God? tell it me, I pray you.' ... And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying: 'It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.
Rashi comments: The underlined words the LORD was with him, besides referring to Joseph being successful at the hand of God, also referred to Joseph constantly mentioning God's name (e.g. God will help) as indicated in the underlined phrases 'Do not interpretations belong to God? 'It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.

Advanced Rashi: Rashi literally says God is with him: refers to the fact that God's name was frequently in his conversation. This appears strange. Isn't the natural interpretation of God is with him that he is successful. Why interpret the phrase in terms of his lingual patterns?

We have approached this Rashi using the fundamental technique of seeing Rashi as supplementing the meaning of the text vs. exhausting the meaning of the text. In other words Rashi was not saying God is with him only means that God's name was frequent on his mouth but rather Rashi is saying besides the obvious meaning of the phrase God is with him indicating that he was successful, the phrase also means that God's name was frequent with him. Such an interpretative approach - an emphasis that Rashi is supplementing the simple meaning of the text - is deep, mature, and consistent with the simple meaning of the Biblical text.

      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 Gn43-15a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: TAKE can refer to a) physical transfer of an object b) social transfer of a person to a cause.

When Rashi uses, what we may losely call, the hononym method, Rashi does not explain new meaning but rather shows an underlying unity in disparate meanings. Rashi will frequently do this by showing an underlying unity in the varied meanings of a Biblical root.

In my article Peshat and Derash found on the world wide web at I advocate enriching the Rashi explanation using a technique of parallel nifty translations in modern English. Today's examples show this.

    The Heberw Biblical root Lamed-Kuph-Cheth has a fundamental meaning of take. Hence this Biblical root can mean
  • Grab: to physically take an object
  • Accompany: to socially take people to a cause
  • Deal: to economically acquire

Applying the above translation to Gn43-15c discussing the children's reaction to Jacob's advice to bring Joseph a gift and a second payment when bringing Benjamin we obtain And the men grabbed that present, and they accompanied double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph. In providing this English translation notice that we have used the English idioms grabbed, accompany which mirrors the Hebrew take objects, take people since grab, accompany and take are semantically close.

Advanced Rashi: The careful reader will note that technically the brothers did not grab the present, which connotes a snatching, rather they took it. Similarly the verse uses one verb, Lamed-Kuph-Cheth to refer to both the money and benjamin. Hence there is no single translation that captures all nuances. In fact Rashi was motivated by the aramaic translation: The aramaic translation translates the two occurrences of Lamed Kupth Cheth differently since in aramaic the word for taking a person differs from the word for taking an object.

The proper perspective is the following: We are not claiming that grab and accompany are superior translations to take. Rather we are using the translation as a vehicle to highlight the different nuances in the two occurrences of take.

Finally we point out that there are several other usages of take: Nu16-01 Korach took hold of himself.....and stood up to Moses.... Pr04-02 For a good deal have I given you, do not forsake my Torah. Here we see the utility of using punchy English translations.

      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 Gn42-16a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The prefix of a Biblical HEY can indicate declaration (The) or the interrogative.

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 prefixes. Prefixes in Hebrew can indicate prepositional connectives, declarative articles or questions.

A prefix hey in Biblical Hebrew can indicate either a declarative article or an interrogative sentence. The punctuation of the hey depends both on its function as well as on the letters in the word it modifies.

There are about a half dozen Rashis on Hey. For example the very first question in the Bible occurs when God asks Adam if he ate the forbidden fruit. The Hey in that verse is punctuated with a chataf patach which Rashi explains is the default punctuation for interrogative heys (Gn03-11a). From time to time on several other verses Rashi comments on hey which has quite a number of subrules governing it.

Biblical verse Gn42-16a states Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and you shall be kept in prison, that your words may be proved: Is there any truth with you? and if not by the life of Pharaoh surely you are spies. The underlined phrase is interpreted by Rashi as a question (as indicated). However it is also possible to translated it declaratively: That your words will be examined - [to ascertain if] the truth is with you There is an interesting exegetical point here: Joseph by using an inquiry form - Is there any truth with you? - is accusing them of being liars - they are assumed guilty till proven otherwise. Joseph took a tough line to the brothers. He could have equally assumed them truthful until proven otherwise. That would be indicated in the Biblical text by a declarative hey. Hence the punctuation of the hey reflects the hard line tactics Joseph used which is also explicitly mentioned in the Biblical text Gn42-07.

The first letter of the sentence the truth is with you? is a Hebrew aleph. A hey when used declaratively with a following Hebrew aleph is punctuated with a kamatz (Cf. Gn42-18, Gn42-27). However when a hey is used interrogatively with a following aleph it is punctuated with a patach as in Gn42-16a and in Nu32-06.

    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 Gn42-03a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: The SONS OF JACOB, JOSEPHS BROTHERS came to Egypt. RASHI: They had repented - they wanted brother Joseph back.

The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Gn42-03a Both verses/verselets discuss the Jews journeying to Egypt for food. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: The Jews were not just Jacob's sons. They were also Joseph's brother. They no longer wished Joseph dead. They wanted him back.

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
Gn42-03 And Josephís ten brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt The Jews were not just Jacob's sons. They were also Joseph's brother. They no longer wished Joseph dead. They wanted him back.
Gn42-05 And the sons of Israel came to buy grain among those who came; for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

      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 Gn42-15a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Joseph swore by God when he wanted to be truthful; He swore by Pharoh when he might break his word.

The table below presents two contradictory verses. Both verses speak about Joseph's beliefs The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says Joseph swore by Pharoh while the other verse states God was with Joseph. We see the contradiction--- was Joseph God-fearing or Pharoh-fearing. Rashi simply resolves this using the 2 Aspects method: Joseph believed in God. When he swore truthfully he would swear by God. When he anticipated he might have to break his word he swore by Pharoh.

Summary Verse / Source Text of verse / Source
Joseph believed/affirmed in God Gn37-03:04 And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. There is none greater in this house than I; nor has he kept back any thing from me but you, because you are his wife; how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
Joseph swore by Pharoh Gn42-15 Hereby you shall be tested; By the life of Pharaoh you shall not go from here, except if your youngest brother comes here.
Resolution: 2 Stages Joseph believed in God. When he swore truthfully he would swear by God. When he anticipated he might have to break his word he swore by Pharoh.

    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 Gn43-20a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Joseph wished to cry on seeing his brother - Rashi: He also heard from his brother how he was missed.

Certain Biblical paragraphs are stated in a example form. In other words an example of a law is stated rather than the full general rule. The reader's task is to generalize the example. The idea that all Biblical laws should be perceived as examples (unless otherwise indicated) is explicitly stated by Rashi (Pesachim 6.). This is a rule of style since the rule requires that a text be perceived as an example rather than interpreted literally. The Rabbi Ishmael style rules govern the interpretation of style.

Verse Gn43-29:30a discussing Joseph's emotional reaction upon seeing him after 17 years of separation states And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his motherís son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom you spoke to me? And he said, God be gracious to you, my son. And Joseph made haste; for his insides yearned upon his brother; and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there. The Rabbi Ishmael example rule requires generalization of this passage. In this case we simply generalize from ...his eyes and saw to ..he saw and spoke; he lifted up his eyes and saw and spoke about family to his brother Benjamin and Joseph made haste..and he sought to weep

Advanced Rashi: As indicated Rashi is simply generalizing the verse. Rashi is indicating that besides seeing his brother other things aroused his emotions. We have indicated above that Joseph and Benjamin spoke. The Talmud fills in what probably happened. Joseph asked Benjamin about his family and the reasons for their names. Benjamin then explained that each of the ten children were named after his missing brother. One child was named swallow because Joseph was swallowed; another child was named Eldest because missing Joseph was eldest. Another child was named MyBro because Joseph was Benjamin's brother. The Talmud reasonably conjectures that this also aroused Joseph's emotions.

    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 Gn43-23a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: a) YOUR God, b) YOUR father's GOD merited you this. Rashi: If you aren't worthy then your father is.

We have explained in our article Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at, 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.

    Verse(s) Gn43-20:23 discussing the guard's statement that the brothers could keep the money they found states And said, Oh my lord, we came indeed down the first time to buy food; And it came to pass, when we came to the inn, that we opened our sacks, and, behold, every manís money was in the... sack, ... And other money have we brought down ... we can not tell who put our money in our sacks. And he said, Peace be to you, fear not;
    • your God, and
    • and the God of your father,
    has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money. And he brought Simeon out to them.
    The repeated underlined phrase God creates a bullet effect. The bullet effect in turn creates an emphasis on the distinctness of all enumerated items. Rashi interprets the distinctness as follows
    • See the found money as a gift of God.
    • Should you protest that you are not worthy of a gift of God then see the money as a gift of Your father's God.
    In other words the money was a gift of God. The langauge God, God of your fathers is simply a linguistically pleasant way of ascribing the gift to God without confronting a person who does not believe himself worthy.

      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 Gn42-24c
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Joseph jailed Shimon because he instigated attacking him.

    We ask the following database query: Which of the brothers instigated the attempt on Joseph's life which led to his being sold. 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: Shimon instigated the sale. The main proof is that Joseph is call "ox" by Moses and then Jacob on his deathbed cursed Shimon and Levi for attempting to castrate an "Ox." This reference to "attempting to castrate an ox" is a reference to the inevitable consequences of stripping Joseph and throwing him into the pit (However Judah, and if not Judah, Reuven, intervened so the inevitable consequence did not happen)
The list below presents the results of the database query.

Verses Point of verse
Dt33-17 Moses compares Joseph to an Ox
Gn49-05:06 Jacob curses Shimon and Levi for attempting to castrate an Ox
Gn37-23:24 Joseph is stripped and thrown into a pit
------- ---------------------
Gn34-25:26 Shimon and Levi take the law into their own hands (They destroy a city where their sister was raped)
Nu25-18 Shimon's tribe is hit worst by the sin with Moabite woman
Gn37-21 Reuven, the eldest protested Joseph's treatment
Gn37-26 Judah, 4th eldest partially protests Joseph's treatment
Gn37-18:19 At least 2 brothers conspired on Joseph - probably the remaining oldest - Shimon and Levi

Advanced Rashi: First we point out that we haven't conclusively proved that Shimon instigated Joseph's sale. Maybe most of the brothers disliked him. All we have done is given a reasonable piece of evidence - Joseph is called ox and Jacob curses Shimon and Levi for attempting to castrate an ox which would tie in with the stripping and placing in a pit. This is typical of the flavor of the database rule. It is not always punchy and to the point. Sometimes it simply points, albeit strongly, in a certain direction.

The point of the rows at the bottom of the table, that of the 4 oldest brothers, Reuven, #1, and Judah #4, protested to Joseph's treatment also points to the idea that the remaining oldest, Shimon and Levi conspired on Joseph. This is based on the reasonable assumption that the older brothers in a family lead. I heard this argument by Rabbi Boncheck. I would add, the point in the middle (my point) that Shimon and Levi took the law into their own hand when their sister was raped and Shimon seems to have been the most hotheaded of the tribes as evidenced by the fact that his participation in the sin with the Moabite women stood out. So even if the other brothers felt enmity towards Joseph, still, it required a brother who had experience in taking the law into his own hands, Shimon, to instigate the action.

I especially note the Talmudic treatment of Gn37-18:19, which states And they - each person to his brother - said, 'Behold the master of dreams comes.' This verse seems to say that all the brothers spoke this way. However the verse could be interpreted to mean that a minimum of two brothers spoke this way. We therefore cannot prove anything from this verse. However we can use our other proofs - Jacob's curse, Shimon/Levi's taking the law into their own hands, and the protest of only Reuven and Judah - to justify reinterpreting this verse to refer to Shimon and Levi. As already indicated this is characteristic of the flavor of the database rule. What we have importantly done in the table above is carefully distinguished between the most important arguments, supportive arguments, and arguments arising from reinterpretation after an initial examination.

    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 Gn44-12a, Gn44-13a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Investigation started with oldest so as not to arouse suspicion of frameup.

Verse Gn44-12:13 discussing Joseph's framing of Benjamin states And he searched, and began at the eldest, and ended at the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjaminís sack. Then they tore their clothes, and each person loaded on his ass, and returned to the city. Rashi explains the purpose of the underlined passages: Benjamin was framed. It would look peculiar if the agent went straight to the youngest and found it. Therefore he started with the eldest so that when the planted stolen object was found it would look real. Similarly the verse emphasizes that each person loaded on his ass to emphasize that all 10 of them were strong. The nuances of these underlined phrases helps clarify the reasons for Joseph's behavior. He was framing somebody and the brothers were powerful. He had to make everything look real and natural.

The above Rashi is rather straightforward. However the meaning of the verse was clear enough before we read the Rashi. That is, Rashi does not clarify meaning or grammar or comparisons with other verses. Rather Rashi brings in non-verse facts - methods of interrogation - to clarify why the verse mentions the eldest-youngest order of interrogation. Since the Rashi comment focuses on explaining context by using non-verse facts instead of explaining meaning, grammar or referencing other verses we classify this Rashi as using the non-verse method.

      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 Gn41-01b Gn41-02a Gn41-03a Gn41-04a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: We provide a LINEAR SYMBOLIC translation of Pharoh's dream about the 7 years of plenty and 7 years of starvation.

We are all familiar with the basic idea of Pharoh's dreams. Pharoh dreamt of 7 thin cows devouring 7 plump cows. Joseph symbolically interpreted this to mean that 7 years of starvation would come and make people forget the 7 years of plenty which had preceded them. In the table below we provide a linear symbolic translation of Pharoh's dream and its interpretation.

Verse text Symbolic interpretation Source
Pharoh stood on the Nile Pharoh reviewed the Egyptian economy Gn41-01b
And from the river from the economy Gn41-01b
there arose 7 cows there arose 7 years Numerical symbolism
good looking and plump good years with plenty to eat Gn41-02a
grazing in the meadow with brotherhood and no economic jealousy Gn41-02b
But then 7 other cows came after them 7 other years followed them
bad looking and thin bad years with little to eat Analogy with Gn41-02a
and they stood by the cows on the river bank Two sets of years affected the economy but Gn41-04a
the bad looking cows consumed the good looking cows the bad years made people forget the good years Gn41-04a

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.