The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat VaAyRaH
Volume 12, Number 3
Rashi is Simple - Volume 35 Number 3

Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President,
Jan 22nd, 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 Ex08-28a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: By force Pharoh will not only let the Jews go but will actually expel them without them having time to prepare bread (Ex12-33)

Verse Ex08-28a discussing Pharoh's refusal to let the Jews leave during the 4th plague states And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, and would not let the people go Rashi notes that the underlined words, at this time also references verses Ex08-04,Ex08-11 discussing Pharoh's refusal to let the Jews leave during the 2nd plague. Hence the Rashi comment Pharoh already promised during the 2nd plague, (but not during the 1st and 3rd plague) to let the people go and then renegged on his promise when the plague was lifted. Hence the statement during the 4th plague this time also refers to the fact that his actions during the 4th plague - a) a promise to let the people go, b) the hardening of his heart and c) the consequent refusal to keep his promise to let the people go - were a repetition of similar activity during the 2nd plague. [Note also: That in the 2nd and 4th plague the phrase hardening of feeling is used while in the 1st and 3rd plague the phrase strengthening of resolve is used thus intensifying the parallel between the 2nd and 4th plague.

Text of Target Verse Ex08-28a Text of Reference Verse Ex08-04,Ex08-11
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Entreat the Lord, that he may take away the frogs.... and I will let the people go, ... ... But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart
Rashi comments: Pharoh already promised during the 2nd plague, (but not during the 1st and 3rd plague) to let the people go and then renegged on his promise when the plague was lifted. Hence the statement during the 4th plague this time also refers to the fact that his actions during the 4th plague - a) to let the people go, b) the hardening of his heart and c) the consequent refusal to keep his promise to let the people go - were a repetition of similar activity during the 2nd plague. [Note also: That in the 2nd and 4th plague the phrase hardening of feeling is used while in the 1st and 3rd plague the phrase strengthening of resolve is used thus intensifying the parallel between the 2nd and 4th plague.

    Advanced Rashi: We make some comments on translation.
  • The English translations of the Biblical terms used are literally translated as strengthened his heart and weighted his heart. We believe that strengthened his heart is better translated into English as strengthened his resolve similar to the English idiom. Similarly weighted his heart would probably be best translated as hardened his emotions. All translations are at best approximations but these appear best.
  • Following up on the last bullet we see that the phrases strengthened his resolve and hardened his emotions are both used. They seem to be used interchangably. Their might be some subtle nuance of a difference between them but I am not presently aware of what this difference is.

      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 Ex06-02a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: (a) The Biblical root DALETH-BETH-RESH means to CITE. (b) The Biblical root ALEPH-MEM-RESH means to SAY.

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 communication.
  • Daleth-Beth-Resh, DBR, to cite;
  • Samech-Pay-Resh, SPR to relate a story;
  • Nun-Gimel-Daleth, NGD, to tell,
  • Aleph-Mem-Resh, AMR, (general) speaking.

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 Ex06-02a embeds the Rashi translation And God cited Moses and said to him I am God.

Advanced Rashi: Normally we think of a citation as something a traffic officer does when giving you a ticket. The word cite literally refers to a quotation. We will see in rule #3 below that God did actually cite Moses and in effect gave him a ticket.

The Talmud (and Rashi quotes this) explains that Daber is harsh talk while Amar is soft talk. This Talmudic statement is consistent with my explanation that Daber means cite while Amar means (general) speaking. Indeed, to go back to the traffic officer example, when an officer cites a regulation to an offender the officer is being apodictic, and not allowing further discussion. The offender violated a written regualtion and hence must be cited. On the other hand if the officer did not cite but instead spoke - for example, if the officer said Did you know you were doing 70 in a 55 mile hour zone the officer is not being as harsh. The officer is leaving room for discussion and response, for example, Well the road is empty, the weather is clear, and I am in a rush to an important meeting which will affect many people. In other words there is a difference between talking, speaking about a violation, leaving room for response and feedback, vs. citing which is rather final and not subject to discussion.

So in summary, Daber meaning cite and citation is a harsh form of communication. When the Talmud said Daber is harsh it was not indicating a translation of Daber but rather indicating that the meaning of daber connotes a harsher form of communication.

This approach - Daber means cite - to the Talmudic passage Daber is harsh emanates from the method proposed by me in the above mentioned article - the method of punchy English translations.

This Rashi is continued in rule #4, alignment. There we discuss what Moses was cited for.

      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 Ex08-22b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Behold [if] we sacrifice to God, which is an abomination to Egypt, will they not stone us?

Today, students of the Bible learn grammar from Biblical Hebrew grammar textbooks. These textbooks organize material by topics. Grammatical topics include a) verb mood and conjugation, b) plurality agreement, c) pronoun reference, d) subject-verb-object sequencing, e) sentence structure and type and many other topics.

However in Rashi's time gramamr was just beginning. There were no official grammatical textbooks and tables. One of Rashi's functions was to teach grammar. Rashi did not write a grammar textbook but instead left grammatical explanations appended to each verse.

In today's example Rashi explains rules governing the types of sentences. A recent book on Biblical Hebrew pointed out that a nifty way to teach Biblical grammar is to first study comparable gramamtical structures in English. Following this theme, in English there are three main sentence types: a) declarative sentences, b)commands and c) interrogative sentences. An interrogative sentence is indicated by a punctuation of a question mark at the end of the sentence. In Biblical Hebrew there are two main methods to indicate an interrogative sentence: 1st) One can append an interrogative hey to the beginning of the sentence. 2nd) One can, based on context, chose to interpret the sentence as interrogative. It emerges that Biblical Hebrew resembles English in one of its methods of indicating the interrogative - by using a punctuation sign (question mark or prefix hey in English and Hebrew respectively) and Biblical Hebrew innovates an additional method - interrogation based on context and interpretation - not resembling anything in English.

Applying this method to the translation of Ex08-22b we have the following translation And Moses said, It is not proper to do so; because our sacrificing to God is an abomination to the Egyptians; Indeed, if we sacrifice to God, which is abominable to the Egyptians, will they not stone us? Here Rashi avoids the declarative translation - they will not stone us and uses an interrogative translation - will they not stone us. The preference for the interrogative translation over the declarative translation is not dictated by punctuational means - a question mark or prefix hey - but rather is an interpretation choice which makes the meaning of the verse clearest.

    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 Ex06-02a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: God (a) CITED Moses (for complaining to him) and (b) SPOKE to him about reassuring the Jews

This Rashi is continued from rule #2, meaning.

The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Ex06-02a Both verses/verselets discuss God's prophetic vision to Moses. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: God's prophetic message to Moses had two components: 1st) God reprimanded Moses (gave him a citation) for questioning God's providence (Ex06-03:05). 2nd) God asked Moses to transfer consoling words (speeches) to the Jewish people on the redemption (Ex06-06:08)

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
  • And God cited Moses,
  • and [also] said to him, I am the Lord;
God's prophetic message to Moses had two components: 1st) God reprimanded Moses (gave him a citation) for questioning God's providence (Ex06-03:05). 2nd) God asked Moses to transfer consoling words (speeches) to the Jewish people on the redemption (Ex06-06:08)
  • And God cited Moses,
  • and [also] said to him, I am the Lord;

Advanced Rashi: Notice that the alignment is supported by cross references from other verses. For the chapter following the statement that God spoke to Moses has two distinct paragraphs:

  • Paragraph 1: Ex06-03:05 presents a citation to Moses that Patriarchs, when in similar situations did not complain but Moses did complain. In other words Moses' complaint is uncalled for.
  • Paragraph 2: Ex06-06:08 is a paragraph that is specifically and explicitly addresses to the Jewish people. The second paragraph in fact beings with Consequently, say to the Jewish people....

    The translations of the Hebrew verbs, Daleth-Beth-Resh, Aleph-Mem-Resh as cite and speak respectively is explained above in rule #2.

        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 example applies to Rashis Ex07-03a
        URL Reference: (c)
        Brief Summary: PHAROH himself strengthened his resolve in the first few plagues not to let the people go; GOD hardened Pharoh's emotions in the latter plagues.

    The table below presents two contradictory verses. Both verses speak about Pharoh's refusal to let the Jewish people go. The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says God hardened Pharoh's emotions [so he wouldn't let the people go] while the other verse states Pharoh strengthened his resolve [so he wouldn't let the people go] We see the contradiction---which is it? Did God or Pharoh stop the Jews from leaving. Rashi simply resolves this contradiction using the 2 stages method: During the 1st few plagues Pharoh strengthened his resolve not to let the people go. In the later plagues God hardened Pharoh's emotions so that he wouldn't let the people go.

    Summary Verse / Source Text of verse / Source
    God hardened Pharoh's emotions Ex07-03a And I [God] will harden Pharohs heart and I will multiply my miracles in Egypt
    Pharoh hardend his emotions Ex08-28 .... and Pharoh hardened his own heart and did not let the Jews go blessed them
    Resolution: 2 Stages During the 1st few plagues Pharoh strengthened his resolve not to let the people go. In the later plagues God hardened Pharoh's emotions so that he wouldn't let the people go.

    Advanced Rashi: This Rashi is well known. We make an additional point: This Rashi is commonly interpreted as meaning During the first five plagues Pharoh hardened his own heart while in the last five plagues God hardened his heart. But this is not true! Thus in the 6th plague it says Ex09-12 God hardened Pharoh's heart while in the 7th plague it says Ex09-34 Pharoh hardened his heart. In the 8th and 9th plague however it says that God hardened Pharoh's heart (Ex10-20, Ex10-27.). So this popular approach to this Rashi is basically correct but needs some modification. I have not seen any commentaries that discuss the anomaly of Pharoh hardening his own heart during the 7th plague.

      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 Ex06-26a Ex06-27a Ex06-27b Ex06-14a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: GENERAL: God asked Moses/Aaron to free Jews DETAIL: Even though Moses/Aaron came from cursed tribes GENERAL: God asked them; they were righteous/blessed

    Certain Biblical paragraphs are stated in a Theme-Development-Theme form. In other words a broad general idea is stated first followed by the development of this broad general theme in specific details. The paragraph-like unit is then closed with a repetition of the broad theme. The Theme-Detail-Theme form creates a unified paragraph. The detailed section of this paragraph is therefore seen as an extension of the general theme sentences. Today's example illustrates this as shown immediately below.

      Verse Ex06-10:28 discussing the selection of Moses and Aaron to free the Jewish people from Egypt states
    • General: God spoke to Moses and Aaron...commanded them to take the Jews out of Egypt
    • Detail: These are the (sub)tribes: Reuven is the eldest... ..Levi had ...Kehath....Kehath has ...Amram...Amram married... who gave birth to Moses and Aaron.....
    • General:They are the same Moses and Aaron that God commanded to take take the Jews out of Egypt...they were the people speaking to Pharoh...they were them, Moses and Aaron

    Rashi sees the detail clause the genealogies of Moses and Aaron as describing attributes of the general clause, Moses and Aaron were picked to free the Jews. Rashi states: The 3 tribes listed in the genealogies - Reuben, Shimon, and Levi - were the three tribes cursed by Jacob. In fact Shimon and Levi took the law into their own hands (e.g. the destruction of a city where their sister was raped) and were the instigators in selling Joseph to Egypt. They sold Joseph because they did not believe his dreams had prophetic content. Therefore the Bible emphasizes The Moses and Aaron that God asked to save the Jews were descendants of Levy who denied prophecy and caused the whole Egyptian exile!

      Advanced Rashi: Three additional points can be made
    • The above passage is one of the clearest examples of the Rabbi Ishmael Theme-Development-Theme method. Note the underlines in the above cited passage: They are the same Moses and Aaron .... In other words the Bible goes out of its way to emphasize the point of the Theme-development-Theme.
    • I would strengthen Rashi's point by emphasizing that Moses and Aaron were taking the Jews out of Egypt. But the essence of Egypt was an emphasis on class structure. Many of the Biblical prohibitions of slavery refer back to Egypt. The Bible in effect says You were slaves in the Class society of you know what it feels like... don't treat others like class people --- judge people by their merits. It is therefore important when God redeemed the Jews for him to use someone with poor lineage --- Moses/Aaron were chosen despite their descent from someone, Levi, who denied prophecy and helped cause the whole Egyptian exile. By selecting Moses and emhasizing These are the same Moses and Aaron the Bible emphasizes that God wants people judged by merit not by who they descended from. At the critical moment of redemption God did not redeem the Jewish people by the descendants of Joseph who believed in prophecy or by the Judaeans to whom Monarchy was assigned, rather God selected the best person independent of their ancestors. By so doing God was already negating the class philosophy of Egypt.
    • In explaining Rashi I have combined the comments of four Rashis: Ex06-26a Ex06-27a Ex06-27b Ex06-14a. Some of these Rashi just note the emphasis in the text these are the same Moses and Aaron while other Rashi note that the three tribes listed were cursed. By combining the Rashis together the comment becomes holistic. This technique of combining Rashis can be very useful

      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 Ex07-28b Ex07-29a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Frogs will enter your a)house b) bedroom, c) bed d) ovens and e) you yourself (Your body)

    The climax principle asserts that a sequence of similar phrases should be interpreted climactically even if the words and grammatical constructs used do not directly suggest this. That is the fact of the sequence justifies reading into the Biblical text a climactic interpretation even if no other textual source justifies it. For this reason we consider the climax method a distinct and separate method.

      Verse Ex07-28:29 discussing the plague of Frogs is written in a climactic manner as shown. For convenience we have inserted the Rashi comments clarifying the nature of the climax in brackets
    • ...the frogs will come to your house [ ]
    • your bedroom [ ]
    • your bed [ ]
    • your slave and national houses [ We would expect the frogs to start in the slave houses and then filter up to the palace but the Bible states that the frogs will start with the palace since Pharoh, not the people, instigated the enslavement of the Jews (Ex01-08) ]
    • your ovens and troughs [ ]
    • you [ you yourself, your body ]
    • your nation [ their bodies ]
    • your slaves [ their bodies ]

      Advanced Rashi: A careful reading of Rashi shows two climaxes here:
    • There is the climax that the frogs entered a) house, b) bedroom, c) bed, d) ovens/bread troughs e) you, meaning you yourself, entering the body.
    • There is a second climax: a) you b) your nation/slaves. Rashi explains that although we might expect frogs to start in poorly kept slave houses they instead started in the palace because Pharoh, not the people or staff, instigated the enslavement of JewsEx01-08.

    We should emphasize that driving force behind Rashi is the climax. That is Rashi is not being exegetical on the extra word you your nation and slaves. For it is not the extraness of the word in you but rather the position and sequence of the word in you. The position of the word in you coming after house, bedroom, bed, stoves implies in you yourself, in your body. This is in fact the essence of the climax method which infers interpretation based on position.

    To appreciate Rashi we should be aware of an Egyptian torture practice. A small animal (frog, rat) was placed on the stomach of a slave. A hot metallic cover was then placed on the animal. The animal, to avoid the heat, would then start eating away from the plate into the body of the slave. The animal would start eating the insides of the slave. Thus the plague of frogs with frogs literally entering the bodies of the Egyptians should be considered a punishment for slave torture practices.

        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 Ex10-01a Ex07-15a Ex08-17b
        URL Reference: (c)
        Brief Summary: The 10 plagues were an act of war by God: Plagues 1,4,7 cut off sea/land; plagues 2,5,8 humiliated the enemy; plagues 3,6,9 caused pain.

    We ask the following database query: What are the common and different characteristics of the 10 plagues that God brought on Egypt. 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 10 plagues naturally organize into 3 groups: (a) Plagues 1,4,7 are attacks on Egyptian gods and a cut off of land and sea access.(b) Plagues 2,5,8 humiliated the Egyptians and took away their pride. (c) Plagues 3,6,9 caused the people pain. (d)The 10th plague culminated all and freed the Jews. This follows a military sequence of a) cut off of supplies b) causing confusion and fear and c) inflicting pain to induce surrender. The list below presents the results of the database query.

    # Plague Verse Intro phrase Military tactic
    1 Blood Ex07-15 At morn approach Pharoh on Nile Sea/air/deity cut off
    4 Beasts Ex08-16 At morn approach Pharoh on Nile Sea/Air/deity cut off
    7 Hail Ex09-13 At morn approach Pharoh on Nile Sea/Air/deity cut off
    - ---- ------ ------ -----
    2 Frogs Ex07-26 Come to Pharoh Humiliation
    5 Plagues Ex09-01 Come to Pharoh Humiliation
    8 Locust Ex10-01 Come to Pharoh Humiliation
    - ---- ------ ------ -----
    3 Lice Ex08-12 No intro phrase Unwarned pain
    6 Boils Ex09-08 No intro phrase Unwarned pain
    9 Darkness Ex11-21 No intro phrase Unwarned pain

      Advanced Rashi: Just to recap:
    • When waging war you 1st cut off spiritual, land and water access. The intro phrase In the morn Go to Pharoh on the Nile is basically a statement that the Egyptian water and god (Nile) would be cut off
    • After cutting off supplies you demoralize the enemy and rob them of their pride by humiliating them. The lack of pride facilitates surrender. Hence the introductory phrase Go visit Pharoh to emphasize an invasion of his personal air space.
    • Finally if the above doesn't work you inflict pain on the enemy to induce them to surrender. Consequently there is no introductory phrase to plagues 3,6,9 since the point is that you don't want to warn them and don't want them to prepare.

    The above analysis was started by Rashi and complemented by Rabbi Hirsch. Much more could be said but the above table paves the way for further analysis.

        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 Ex07-28a Ex08-14a
        URL Reference: (c)
        Brief Summary: The frogs came UP, FROM the river TO land.

    Verse Ex08-14a discussing the plague of frogs, states And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly; they shall go up and come into your house, and into your bed chamber, and upon your bed, and into the house of your servants, and upon your people, and into your ovens, and into your kneading troughs;

    Rashi comments on the underlined phrase go up by explaining it geometrically or diagrammatically: The frogs came from the river to the land. Hence the Biblical text describes the frogs as going up.

    Advanced Rashi: Since the driving force of the Rashi explanation is a diagramatic clarification we classify this Rashi as non-verse.


    This week's parshah contains no examples of the symbolism Rashi method. Visit the RashiYomi website at and for further details and examples.