The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat VaYiGash
Volume 11, Number 25
Rashi is Simple - Volume 34 Number 25

Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President,
Jan 1st, 2009

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 Gn45-27b
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: And the SPIRIT of Jacob LIVED. .... God PROPHETICALLY APPEARED to Jacob at night.

Verse Gn45-27b discussing Jacob's reaction upon hearing that Joseph, whom he suspected dead for 22 years, was really alive, states And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them; and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, and the spirit of Jacob their father lived; Rashi notes that the underlined words, the spirit of Jacob their father lived references verses Gn46-02:04 discussing the prophetic vision that Jacob had immediately after hearing this good news. Hence the Rashi comment The phrase in Gn45-27b the spirit of Jacob their father lived refers to a renewal of an ability to receive prophetic visions as indicated immediately aftewards in verse Gn46-02:04

Text of Target Verse Gn45-27b Text of Reference Verse Gn46-02
And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them; and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father lived; And God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, I am ready. And He said, I am God, ...
Rashi comments: The phrase in Gn45-27b the spirit of Jacob their father lived refers to a renewal of an ability to receive prophetic visions as indicated immediately aftewards in verse Gn46-02:04

Advanced Rashi: This Rashi echoes the well known Biblical story of Elishah, 2Ki03-15 who couldn't prophesy in a state of anger until music assuaged him. In a similar manner Jacob could not prophesy while depressed about Joseph. The good news removed the depression and Jacob could prophesy again. Such Biblical lessons are not only important for prophecy but also important for our (non-prophetic) daily lives. Many activities - intellectual research, social relationships, marriages, etc. - deteriorate if we are in a state of depression and improve when that depression is removed.

      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 Gn47-25c
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The Hebrew word CHETH-KUPH, CHOK, refers to a LAW that holds ABSOLUTELY independent of circumstances

When Rashi uses the synonym method he does not explain the meaning of a word but rather the distinction between two similar words both of whose meanings we already know.

    The following Hebrew words all refer to laws.
  • Mem-Shin-Pay-Tet, MishPat: civil law;
  • Daleth-yud nun, Din: court law / ruling;
  • Mem-Tzade-Vav-Hey, Miztvah: religious law;
  • Cheth-Kuph, Chok: absolute / statutory law;

In our article Peshat and Derash: A New Intuitive and Logical Approach, which can be found on the world-wide-web at we have advocated punchy translations of Biblical verses as a means of presenting Rashi comments. The following translation of verse Gn47-25c:26 embeds the Rashi translation Chok means an absolute law. And they said, You have saved our lives; let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants [to pay an annual 20% tax under all circumstances] And Joseph made it an absolute / statutory law over the land of Egypt to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.

Advanced Rashi: The difference between an ordinary law and an absolute law is that ordinary laws can be situational. For example, if the 20% tax was an ordinary law then it could be waived under circumstances of poverty or expensive illness. By making the law absolute Joseph assured the monarchy a 20% cut of all profit in Egypt.

Many people erroneously interpret Chok to mean a law without reason. Rabbi Hirsch shows this is an incorrect approach. His best proof is the verse Pr30-08 Remove far from me falsehood and lies; do not give me poverty nor riches; hunt for me my absolutely needed food supply. Rav Hirsch points out The word Chok in this verse does not refer to an irrationally decreed food amount but rather to the person's minimal absolutely needed food amount. Chok in general refers to a law that addresses a deep seated need that does not change.

I have often explained Rav Hirsch by using an analogy of poison vs. salt. If you consume poison you die immediately. But if you consume excess salt you will not see deleterious effects for a long while. Thus the prohibition of salt is a statutory prohibition, whose reason is not apparent now but becomes apparent over a long period of time. Using this analogy I explain the Talmudic statement:A Chok is law that the non-Jewish nations make fun of us and ask "Why do you observe these laws?" The point of this Talmudic statement, cited by Rashi, is not that Chok is without reason but rather that its reason is not immediately apparent and only manifests itself over time. In fact this Talmudic dictum rather than questioning the rationality of the chukim is instead questioning the ability of non-Jewish mockers for long-term goals.

The bottom line is that Chok refers to an absolute law based on a reason that is not apparent and will manifest only after a long period. The Chok unlike other laws is less subject to exceptional circumstances.

      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 Gn47-19b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: (Gn47-19b) THE LAND WILL NOT BECOME DESOLATE (Thaysham). RASHI: Thaysham is a rare grammatical form replacing Thissham.

Most people are aware that Hebrew verbs come from three-letter roots. Each root is conjugated in the 8 dimensions of person, gender,plurality, tense, activity, modality, direct-object, and prepositional connective. For example the root Shin Mem Resh means to watch. The conjugations Shin-Mem-Resh-Tauv-Yud and Nun-Shin-Mem-Resh-Nun-Vav mean I watched and we were watched respectively.

The rules for Hebrew grammar are carefully described in many modern books and are well known. Rashi will sometimes comment when a verse is using a rare conjugation of an odd grammatical form.

When presenting grammatical Rashis my favorite reference is the appendix in volume 5 of the Ibn Shoshan dictionary. This very short appendix lists most conjugations.

Verse Gn47-19b discussing the request by the Egyptian people to be given seed so that the agricultural land should not become desolate states Why shall we die before your eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants to Pharaoh; and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not become desolate, Thaysham Rashi translates the Biblical word Tauv-Shim-Mem ThaySham as coming from the Biblical root Shin-Mem-Mem which means desolate. We have conveniently embedded the Rashi translation in the translation of the verse. The closet conjugation rule governing this Biblical word may be found by using table(s) 10 in the Ibn Shoshan dictionary for the Nifal mode (Hifil).

Very Advanced Rashi: Technically table 10 gives the conjugation ThisSham. The actual Biblical text uses ThaySham. To understand this discrepancy we have to use rare grammatical tables not presented in the Ibn Shoshan dictionary. The Cefulim - X-Y-Y - 1-2-2 form with a guttural letter (e.g. X-Cheth-Cheth) is conjugated ThaySham, a form we find in Is11-48, YayChal, Ec04-11, YayCham, Is06-51, TayChat. Neither Rashi nor the Midrash elaborates further. Why was a guttural-Cefulim conjugation used instead of a traditional Cefulim conjugation. To answer this we use the techniques of intended Biblical puns which are discussed in my article Puns located on the world wide web at According to the rules of puns the guttural cefulim conjugation would hint at an alternate pun reading ...give us seed so that the land will not become a sight of terror Thatchat. The Egyptian people well knew that they were dealing with a monarchy who now possessed their land. Ordinary pleaing might not get their land back. Pleas to let the land not become desolate might also not work. After all Pharoh could till the land to obtain enough food for his servants but not for all the people. The people cleverly hinted through a pun at the description terror to remind Joseph of Pharoh's dreams whose interpretation enabled him to ascend the throne. The people in effect said Joseph remember Pharoh's dreams - you were trying to avoid 7 empty and emaciated years - remember how Pharoh stated I have never seen anything as bad as this in Egypt. If you don't give us seed to plow the lands then the lands will become a terrifying sight of total desolation and you will not have succeeded in preventing the dream of 7 bad years, the prevention of which enabled you to have your current job. Now therefore for your own sake as well as for our sake give us seed so we can plow the land.

    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 Gn46-15a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Boys are ascribed to the mother; girls to the father. Rashi: The gender follows whoever cares and allows their partner to reach climax first.

The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Gn46-15a Both verses/verselets discuss the chidren of Jacob and Leah. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: Sons in the verse are related to the mother, a woman; Daughters in the verse are related to the father, a man. The explanation for this is whichever gender allows their partner to reach climax first during intimacy thereby merits that the resulting child is of that gender.

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
  • These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Padan-Aram,
  • with his daughter Dinah; all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty three.
Sons in the verse are related to the mother, a woman; Daughters in the verse are related to the father, a man. That is whichever gender allows their partner to reach climax first during intimacy thereby merits that the resulting child is of that gender.
  • These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Padan-Aram,
  • with his daughter Dinah; all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty three.

Advanced Rashi: This Rashi, which may appear homiletic, has actually been verified scientifically. To make a long story short the seed creating boys vs girls have different acidity requirements and acidity in the female is affected by the timing of climax. It is interesting that our sages new of this through the alignment method over 20 centuries ago. Notice how the Jews of the time could see the Rashi as homiletic without being aware that there is a scientific justification. In this email group we always advocate seeing Rashi as the simple intended meaning of the text.

      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 Gn47-19a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The famine was to last 7 years But the merit of a reunion of Jacob's family led to an earlier termination.

The table below presents two contradictory verses. Both verses speak about the length of the famine The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says there were 5 more years of the 7 years of famine left while the other verse states the famine ended and in fact people were doing agriculture. We see the contradiction---which is it? Were there 2 or 7 famine years? Rashi simply resolves this using the broad literal method: The famine was suppose to last 7 years. But because of the merit of Jacob's family reuniting the famine terminated early after 2 years.

Summary Verse / Source Text of verse / Source
The famine was suppose to last five more years. Gn45-09:11 Hurry back to my father, and say to him, Thus said your son Joseph, ... come down to me, delay not; ...for yet there are five years of famine;
The famine only lasted two years. Gn47-18:19 When that year was ended, they came to him the second year, and said to him, We will not hide it ... buy us and our land for bread, ...and give us seed, that we may live ...
Resolution: Broad-literal The famine was suppose to last 7 years. But because of the merit of Jacob's family reuniting the famine terminated early after 2 years.

Advanced Rashi: Rashi literally says In Jacob's merit the famine stopped early when he came to Egypt. I however said In the merit of Jacob reuniting with his family the famine terminated early. I was not trying to contradict Rashi but rather to supplement his comments. The point here is that through Jacob's merit - for example, the merit that he mourned Joseph 22 years and stuck to his belief (till they reunited) that Joseph was going to become a leader in accordance with his dreams - the famine was stopped early.

There is another subtle point here. Joseph was a prophet and predicted the years of plenty and famine. But Jacob surpassed Joseph in prophetic insight and authority and therefore had the right to curtail the 7 years to 2 years since all bad prophecies may be ameliorated by repentance.

    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 Gn47-27a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: GENERAL: Jews dwelt in Egypt DETAIL: In Goshen county.

Certain Biblical paragraphs are stated in a Theme-Development form. In other words a broad general idea is stated first followed by the development of this broad general theme in specific details. The Theme-Detail form creates a unified paragraph and consequently the law or narrative statement only applies to the enumerated details but not to other cases. Today's example illustrates this as shown below.

    Verses Gn47-27a discussing where the Jews dwelt when they came down to Egypt states
    • General: And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt,
    • Detail: in the land of Goshen;
    The general clause states The Jews dwelt in Egypt and could mean they integrated generally in Egyptian society The detail clause provides specificity to the general clause and describes how it should be interpreted: The Jews stayed in Goshen, a county of Egypt. They sufficed with earning a living there according to their needs and not further integrating with Egyptian society.

Advanced Rashi: Verse Gn47-27a concludes that and they got them possessions therein, and were fruitful, and multiplied exceedingly. Perhaps then the theme-development form is explaining the reason for the Jewish success: Precisely because they dwelt solely in Goshen and did not seek integration, for that reason, they multiplied greatly and were successful in acquiring assets.

    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 Gn45-12b
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: a) Your eyes (Joseph's brothers) and b) the eyes of my brother Benjamin, sees me - you are all equal in love.

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) Gn45-12b discussing Joseph's meeting with his brothers after 22 years states And, behold,
    • your eyes see,
    • and the eyes of my brother Benjamin,
    that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you.
    The repeated underlined phrase eyes 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 Benjamin who was not involved in the kidnapping is put on the same level as the other brothers some of whom were involved in the kidnapping to emphasize Joseph loved all of them equally. A further support for this interpretation of the bullet effect is found in Joseph's explicit statement Gn45-05 you did not send me here but rather God did. Thus we see that Joseph indeed forgave them.

      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 Gn44-33a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Judah referred to Benjamin as the KID - he hoped Joseph would let him go and take him as a replacement

We ask the following database query: How is Benjamin relationally referred to? 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: Benjamin had 10 children. He was an adult. The brothers refer to him as the youngest and sometimes as our younger brother. However Judah refers to him as the kid. Judah was trying to belittle Benjamin so as to get Joseph to accept him, Judah, as a replacement and let Benjamin go back to his father. The list below presents the results of the database query.

Verse Verse speaks about Reference to Benjamin
Gn42-13 Brothers speak to Joseph about family The youngest
Gn42-20 Joseph requests Benjamin be brought to him your younger brother
Gn44-23 Judah summarizes Joseph's requests Your younger brother must be with you
Gn44-26 Judah summarizes dialog with his father We can't go down unless our younger brother is with us
Gn44-20 Judah, in his conversation with Joseph summarizes the brother's request to Joseph young child
Gn44-30,32 Judah in his conversation with Joseph states his request to Joseph lad

    Advanced Rashi: The above list could be built up more (There are about a dozen verses). This Rashi takes place in 3 stages: Our point is one of methodology.
  • Rashi had this database output.
  • Rashi notices that Judah in his conversation with Joseph refers to Joseph as a child/lad while other references are youngest, younger brother.
  • Rashi then conjectures a reasonable explanation to the difference. Judah wanted to replace Benjamin so Benjamin could go back. To persuade Joseph Judah refers to Benjamin as the kid so as to impress Joseph that he isn't getting that much if Benjamin stays.

This is typical of the database method.

    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 Gn47-21a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Joseph moved the people from city to city to a) emphasize they didn't own the land and b) to protect Jews from shame.

Verse Gn47-21 discussing Joseph's decrees after the Egyptian people sold their land to Joseph in exchange for food and seed states And as for the people, he moved them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt to the other end of it. Rashi explains the purpose of the underlined passages: There are two purposes: (1) By moving the people he emphasized (or reminded them) that they didn't own their own land; rather they had sold it to Pharoh because of the famine. (2) By moving the people from their homes the Egyptians, like the Jews, were living in new surroundings. This saved the Jews from shame since they were no longer the only people in new surroundings - all of Egypt lived like this.

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 - city planning methods - to clarify why the verse mentions the the moving of people from their cities. 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.


This week's parshah does not contain examples of the symbolism Rashi method. Visit the RashiYomi website at and for further details and examples.