The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat VaYeChi
Volume 12, Number 1
Rashi is Simple - Volume 35 Number 1

Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
Visit the RashiYomi website:
(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President,
Jan 8st, 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 Gn49-14a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Moses' blessing, REJOICE, ZEBULUN ON GOING OUT, YISSACHAR IN YOUR TENTS references Jacob's blessings of Sea/agriculture.

Verse Dt33-18 discussing Moses' blessing to Yissachar and Zebulum states And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out; and, Issachar, in your tents Rashi notes that the underlined words, Zebulun - out, Yissachar - in references verses Gn49-14:15 discussing Jacob's blessings to Yissachar and Zebulun Hence the Rashi comment Yissachar was blessed with agriculture ( strong donkey) and Zebulun with sea merchantry. Dt33-18 links the two together suggesting that Zebulun marketed Yissachar's agricultural products - that is they were in partnership as producer and transporter.

Text of Target Verse Gn33-18 Text of Reference Verse Gn49-13:14
And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out; and, Issachar, in your tents Zebulun shall live at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be to Sidon. Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens;
Rashi comments: Yissachar was blessed with agriculture ( strong donkey) and Zebulun with sea merchantry. Dt33-18 links the two together suggesting that Zebulun marketed Yissachar's agricultural products - that is they were in partnership as producer and transporter.

Advanced Rashi: This partnership is famous. It is erroneously used to justify people sitting and learning while others support them. But this is not what the text says. The text indicates that both were gainfully employed - Zebulun as a sea merchant and Yissachar as an agricultural person. They then entered partnership.

What is true is that people in agriculture have more spare time to learn. While at sea, by contrast, you have to continuously navigate and deal with winds, waves, etc. What the verses allow is the use of a partnership to create extra time for learning. In fact the Bible explicitly states that the Yissachar-tribe was known for its great wisdom (1C12-32). However the Torah in this particular passage does not sanction one person working and the other person doing nothing at all but learning. Rather, as I described, it is permissable for a person to give an investor money - the other person shares proceeds with the first person who then has additional time to learn.

      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 Gn48-16c
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: May you TEEM and OVERFLOW in the land.

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 reproduction.
  • Pay-Resh-Hey, PRU reproduce, [plant/fruit reproduction; a few at a time]
  • Shin-Resh-Tzade, SHERETZ, swarm, [insect reproduction; many at a time]
  • Daleth-Gimel, YIDGU, teem, overflow [fish reproduction; many at a time but not nuisances like insects]

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 Gn48-16c embeds the Rashi translation YIDGU means teeming. The Angel who redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them teem and overflow in the midst of the earth.

Advanced Rashi: Rashi explains the basic idea: Swarm, means to have many; teem, means to have many. What we have added to the understanding of Rashi is the citation of three Rashis together and the supplementation with nuanced synonyms from English. This approach enables us to naturally see the difference between swarm and teem. We have therefore brought in the Rashis on the Hebrew words PRU, SHIRTZU as well supplied the English synonyms fruitful, swarm, teem. This use of English captures the nuance of teem - welcome proliferation vs. swarm - unwelcome proliferation.
      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 Gn49-22d
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: A terminal TAUV can indicate a SPECIFIC CONSTRUCT, OR, it can indicate a new concept: For example, END-OF means REWARD, HEAD-OF means CHOICEST

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.

A fundamental principle in all languages is the construct form. Languages must have a way of indicating belonging. In English this is done through the word of. In Hebrew it is done through a terminal Hebrew Tauv.

Biblical Hebrew introduced the idea of an unspecified construct. The unspecified construct indicates a new concept. The list below gives some examples. Here is a simple example: The Hebrew Rayshith means head of. So the head of a nation would be indicated by the construct-head of - followed by the item it refers to - head of nation. When head of occurs by itself - a construct without the noun it modifies - it takes on a new meaning. It refers to the head of anything and hence means the choicest and best - that which is a head over everything. This basic idea of unspecified construct helps explain many of the examples in the list below.

  • Head of - means head of anything - the choicest
  • end of - means the end of anything - the wages/reward for an object
  • fruitful of - means fruitful anyplace, independent of environment
  • From of (Mem Tauv) - means from all - that is, death
  • woman of - means a woman belonging to somebody - that is, a married woman

We apply the above list to the translation of Gn49-22: Joseph is a branch fruitful in all locations; as fruitful as a branch by a well; whose shoots creep over the wall. Here the Patriarch Jacob praises Joseph for being fruitful - both socially and professionally - even in a non-Jewish environment. There is a subtle point here. Joseph was successful in Jewish matters- interpretation of dreams. Yet he remained successful even in a non-Jewish environment. And it wasn't just a matter of success but of extreme success as if he was flourishing among people who based their life on dreams and prophecy.

Advanced Rashi: Rashi simply says The suffix Tauv is an elegance of language. Rashi does not give the elaborate explanation we give above. Why then did I inject into Rashi what I did? Why do I act as if my ideas really originated from Rashi? The answer is that this is not the only Rashi on terminal Tauv. Other Rashi's on terminal Tauvs such as the Rashis on Gn01-01 or Dt22-11 - beginning-of means choicest; woman-of means married woman - show us a general pattern and attitude of Rashi toward terminal tauv. Therefore, we feel justified in extending this approach of Rashi, found explicitly in other verses, to the present verse where Rashi is not as detailed. We believe this approach to Rashi - extending techniques and methods, explicitly stated in other verses to new situations - is proper, deep, and authentic to what Rashi really believed and meant.

    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 Gn49-27a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: All other tribes are either COMPARED to an animal or, blessed to be COMPARED. Benjamin however WILL TEAR THE WOLF.

The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Gn49-27, Gn49-14 Both verses/verselets discuss relations of Jacob's children to animals. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: Other tribes are either compared to animals or blessed to be compared to animals. Benjamin however is told He will tear the wolf. Thus he himself is not a wolf but will destroy non-Jewish enemies who are like wolves.

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
Gn49-14 Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens; Other tribes are either compared to animals or blessed to be compared to animals. Benjamin however is told He will tear the wolf. Thus he himself is not a wolf but will destroy non-Jewish enemies who are like wolves.
Gn49-27 Benjamin will tear a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the booty.

    Advanced Rashi: A few points should be made:
  • Besides the comparison with Yissachar we could also bring the verses which compare Judah to a lion, Naphtali to a hind or that bless / pray that Dan should become like a serpent.
  • Certain tribes (e.g. Shimon and Levi or Joseph) were not compared to an animal at all
  • Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch emphasizes this Rashi in a stronger manner: God forbid that one of the Jewish tribes should be compared to a wolf! Rather the emphasis is that Benjamin will tear and devour the wolves that prey on the Jewish people
  • Finally we should mention that Rashi, as is his custom in these blessings, actually cites verses, for example, the verses stating that King Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, was successful in defeating non Jewish enemmies. However our goal here is not to bring all supportive verses but to focus on the underlying Rashi method.
  • Note that we could have also approached this Rashi with the Database method comparing the half dozen tribes by which animals are mentioned and showing the anomaly that Benjamin is not compared now or in the future to an animal.

      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 Gn49-28a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Jacob blessed ALL his children, even those he cursed

The table below presents two contradictory verses. Both verses speak about the deathbed statement of Jacob to his sons The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says cursed be their anger.... while the other verse states he blessed them We see the contradiction---which is it? Did he bless them or curse them? Rashi simply resolves this using the 2 Aspects method: Jacob indeed blessed all his children. Although he cursed certain aspects of some of his children every child received a blessing.

Summary Verse / Source Text of verse / Source
Jacob cursed some of his sons Gn49-05:07 Simeon and Levi are brothers; their assembly, let my honor not be united; ...Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; ...I will divide them in Jacob,
Jacob blessed his sons Gn49-28a All these are the twelve tribes of Israel; and this is it what their father spoke to them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them
Resolution: 2 Aspects Jacob indeed blessed all his children. Although he cursed certain aspects of some of his children every child received a blessing.

Advanced Rashi: Rashi does not provide further details. However the curses of Shimon and Levi show cursed be their anger as well as I will apportion them in Israel. We may regard this last statement I will apportion them in Israel as a blessing (The Shimonites were involved in all aspects of Israel).

In other words the resolution is that certain children had only blessings while other children had some curses and some blessings. But each child has some blessing.

    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 Gn50-12a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: GENERAL: The brothers did as their father commanded him. DETAIL: [namedly] they carried him to Canaan.

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. The style rule requires that we interpret the general theme with special focus on the attributes of the illustrative detail selected. Today's example illustrates this as shown below.

    BIblical verses Gn50-12:13 forms a Biblical paragraph with a theme-detail structure:
  • Theme: And his sons did to him according as he commanded them;
  • Detail: [For] his sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a burying place of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre.

Rashi comments: The two sentences form one paragraph. That is the statement in the theme sentence and his sons did to him according as he commanded them refers to the details mentioned in the second sentence his sons carried himm to Canaan and buried him.

The Davka English translation facilitates this Rashi interpretation by inserting the underlined, subordinating conjunction, for which explicitly connects the two sentences. The use of such punchy textual interpolations hi-lighting Rashi translations was first advocated in my article Peshat and Derash.

    BRIEF EXPLANATION:Inferences from Biblical formatting:
    • 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 Gn49-01a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: 1) Children come and I will tell you about the Messianic era. 2) Children come and listen to my blessings.

An author who wishes to communicate several similar ideas will use a paragraph as a vehicle or container to collect these ideas. The paragraph is a formatting technique. By using a paragraph - for example by surrounding the paragraph with white space or by using indentation - the author thereby indicates that all items in the paragraph are related, reflecting a common theme.

    Sometimes an author will bullet this collection of items. At other times the items will be indicated by similar phraseology without actual bulleting. The paragraph principle which is an offshoot of the Rabbi Ishmael interpretative technique of meaning from context requires that
  • each paragraph item be identified
  • each paragraph item be interpreted as reflecting the underyling paragraph theme
  • each paragraph item be interpreted distinctly.

    Paragraph Gn49-01:02 has a unifying theme of death bed advice of Jacob to his children. The paragraph lists two items. We have underlined some key words which help structure the paragraph: And Jacob called to his sons, and said,
  • Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you
    • that which shall befall you in the last days.
  • Gather yourselves together, and hear, you sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father.
    • Reuben, you are my firstborn ...these are the... tribes of Israel; and this is it what their father ... blessed them

    The Rashi comment directly reflects the above paragraph structure:
    • Jacob wished to tell his children about the end of days, the Messianic era
    • Jacob wished to bless his children.
    Apparently from the text Jacob only blessed them but did not tell them about the end of days. This suggests that he temporarily lost the prophetic ability to know about the end of days.

      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 Gn49-33b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Jacob EXPIRED and WENT TO HIS PEOPLE... RASHI: But it doesn't say he DIED.

We ask the following database query: How is death, as indicated by the Hebrew, Gavah, Gimel-Vav-Ayin 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: Every place the Bible uses the Hebrew GVA, Gimel-Vav-Ayin it also uses the word death except by Jacob where it uses GVA, Gimel-Vav-Ayin but not death. We conclude that Jacob never died. The list below presents the results of the database query.

Verse Describes death of...? Hebrew words used
Gn25-08 Abraham GVA,Gimel-Vav-Ayin; MT - Mem-Tauv
Gn25-17 Ishmael GVA,Gimel-Vav-Ayin; MT - Mem-Tauv
Gn35-29 Isaac GVA,Gimel-Vav-Ayin; MT - Mem-Tauv
Jb14-10 General discussion of man's plight in the world GVA,Gimel-Vav-Ayin; MT - Mem-Tauv [Note: Verb for death occurs, in this verse, before the verb GVA]
Gn07-21:22 Mankind during generation of Flood GVA,Gimel-Vav-Ayin; MT - Mem-Tauv [Note:The verbs GVA and MT are separated by two verses]
Gn49-33 Jacobto Joseph Only the verb GVA, Gimel-Vav-Ayin occurs

Advanced Rashi: The above 6 verses are the only Biblical verses where the root GVA, Gimel-Vav-Ayin occur. This Biblical root roughly means expired. In all but one of the verses the phrase GVA, MT roughly he expired and died occurs except by the patriarch Jacob where it states GVA without MT. So the obvious linguistic conclusion is that Jacob did not die.

However, already the Talmud, Taanith 5b, asks If he didn't die then why did they embalm him and why did they mourn him. We can even ask further If GVA does not mean death what does it mean? Furthermore if Jacob didn't die where is he? Why have we not heard from him. The Talmud doesn't really answer completely these questions. It says They mourned and embalmed him because they thought he was dead. But if he wasn't dead why did they think him dead? We can also point out that although the Bible doesn't say that Jacob died, he himself says I am about to die and uses the Hebrew MEM TAUV (Gn48-21).

I have elaborated on this to show that Rashi does not always answer questions. Rashi's job was to preserve the Masoretic text. If there was a linguistic anomaly he cited an appropriate Midrash to preserve the text. Frequently the linguistic anomaly nicely corresponds to a punchy philosophic point. But sometimes, as in this case, we can only ask the question: It appears from the linguistic anomaly that Jacob did not die. This is a question with many unanswered ramifications. Rashi does not supply an answer to them. Nor do other books supply answers.

So the proper attitude is that Rashi used linguistic tools to uncover intended nuances of the Biblical Authors. Rashi uncovered these nuances even if they didn't fully make sense. His job was complete when he pointed us to a source and showed what it implied. Those sources he didn't explain should be the subject of study of future generations.

      9. RASHI METHOD: NonVerse
      BRIEF EXPLANATION: The common denominator of the 3 submethods of the NonVerse 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 Gn48-17a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Joseph LIFTED UP/SUPPORTED his father's hand from his son's head.

Verse Gn48-17a discussing Joseph's removal of his father's hand from his son's head states And when Joseph saw that his father was laying his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he supported his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head.

    Rashi clarifies geometrically:
  • Jacob's hand was on Ephraim's head
  • Joseph removed it
  • by lifting the hand up and supporting it
Hence the underlined language: and he supported his father's hand to remove it from Ephraim's head...

Since this Rashi carries a geometric or diagramatic clarification we have classified it as non-verse.

      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 Gn49-14a Gn49-14b Gn49-15a Gn49-15b Gn49-15c Gn49-15d
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Yissachar is compared to a mule. Mules are known for a) their hard work b) lack of luxury c) detail based

It is well known that Jacob blessed his children by comparing them to animals. The interpretation of these blessings are symbolic: each animal attribute is considered a personality attribute.

    Yissachar is compared to a donkey. Donkeys, within the animal kingdom are characterized by the following attributes:
  • They are good at bearing burdens
  • They avoid luxury - they concentrate on meeting needs
  • They are Task oriented - they do not enjoy roaming and exploration
  • They enjoy their work e.g. bearing burdens

    Hence Rashi interprets the donkey blessing to indicate personality blessings to Yissachar.
  • Yissacharans are known for their capacity to bear burdens
  • Yissacharans are known for their fulfilling their needs without seeking luxury
  • Yissacharans are known for enjoying tasks vs. exploration
  • Yissacharans are known for enjoying work.

    We can summarize this correspondence between donkey attributes and personality attributes by translating the verses and embedding the Rashi comments: Gn49-14:15 states
  • Issachar is a boned donkey [Rashi: Donkeys are good for bearing burdens; Strong bones make the bearing capacity higher]
  • couching between two burdens ; [Rashi: A donkey will sleep out between city borders when it is tired. The point here is that donkey personalities fulfill their physical needs and don't look for luxury; they are work oriented. ]
  • And he saw that resting was good, and that the land was pleasant; [Rashi: Certain animals enjoy roaming and exploration. The donkey is content with a land based existence focusing on storage and productivity] and
  • bowed his shoulder to bear, ....[Rashi:The donkey personality is oriented to dealing with burdens - including physical labor, emphasis on productivity, and intellectual labors that are characterized by storage and transfer].

    Advanced Rashi: We list some subtle points
  • Verse 1C12-32 explicitly identifies the Yissacharans as being distinguished in carrying knowledge - this is consistent with the burden personality trait
  • Perhaps the Talmudic dictum that A person who wishes to excel in learning should...and sleep on the floor... is derived from the Biblical verse that donkeys Sleep between city borders when on a mission. The point here is a focus on meeting your needs without extra luxurys
  • When Rashi commenting on he does taxing work states Yissachar bears Torah work, stores decisions, and renders them to the nation Rashi was not exhausting the verse meaning in its applicability to Torah.Rather Rashi was showing one good example of the verse's description, in the domain of learning. We have frequently in this newsletter emphasized that Rashis become deeper if they are perceived illustrating good examples vs. exhausting meaning.
  • Finally as in all symbolic interpretations we have only touched on basic ideas. Each symbolic idea can be developed further.


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