Their presence in Rashis on Parshat YithRo Volume 12, Number 6
Rashi is Simple - Volume 35 Number 6
Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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Feb 13th, 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.
It would help if the reader first studied rule #5, contradiction and then read this Rashi. (However this Rashi (rule #1) is self contained and can be read independently).
Verse Ex19-04b discussing how God carried us on the wings of eagles states Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself. Rashi notes that the underlined words, I bore you on eagles' wings, references verses Ex09-26, Ex12-37 discussing that even though the Jews lived in Goshen they exited from Raamsayth. Hence the Rashi comment The Jews were scattered throughout the land of Goshen (Ex09-26). Yet when they left they quickly gathered in one city, Raamsayth, and left from there (Ex12-37). The statement that God bore us on eagles' wings refers to this quick gathering from from all of Goshen to Raamsayth.
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.
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 Ex19-21 discussing the prohibition of people entering the mountain area during the decalogue states And the Lord said to Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. Verse Ex19-24 repeats this prohibition And the Lord said to him, Go, get you down, and you shall come up, you, and Aaron with you; but let not the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break forth upon them. As can be seen both verses use the Biblical root Pay-Resh-Tzade, which means to break through.
However, a possible problem arises in that in one verse the Hebrew word is punctuated with an oh sound - Yifrotz - while in the other verse it is punctuated with an ah sound - Yifahtz. The different pronunciations suggests the possibility of different translations. But as seen above both verses use the same translation!
Rashi explains: A verb conjugated with an oh sound will instead be conjugated with an ah sound when the verb is in a construct state. Hence we have Yifrotz vs. Yifrahtz-Bam. The change from oh to ah facilitates the liasoning of the two words.
Advanced Rashi: Notice how this Rashi comment is made on these verses precisely because the conjugated verb occurs in two different forms clearly suggesting the queestion of which one is right. Very often Rashi will provide grammatical comments on verses where such contradictory pairs - pairs of words with one small difference - are present. Such a provision of comments on such verses makes the Rashi comments more natural.
The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Ex20-19a, Ex20-19d Both verses/verselets discuss the prohibition of idolatry. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: The verse prohibits making images of heavenly assistances to God. That is it is prohibited to make images of angels, Kerubim etc. The verse is literally read by combining the two aligned parts: Don't make for yourselves [images of] beings with me [that is, heavenly beings.]
This Rashi is continued in rule #6, Style below, which the reader is encouraged to read now.
The table below presents two contradictory verses / verselets. Both verses speak about where the Jews resided. The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says the Jews lived in Goshen while the other verse states the Jews left Egypt from Raamsayth. We see the contradiction---which is it? Were the Jews all over Goshen or were they in Raamsayth? Rashi simply resolves this contradiction using the 2 stages method: The people lived scattered all over Goshen. But on the night of the Exodus they quickly gathered in the city of Raamsayth and left from there.
Advanced Rashi: We can ask a strong question on Rashi: If the Jews did not have time to bake bread because they were thrown out how did they have the luxury of gathering in Raamsayth? Wouldn't it stand to reason that the Egyptians who threw them out without giving them time to bake also did not give them time to gather together?
I would therefore suggest that eagle's wings refers to prophecy. On the night of the 14th or before they were prophetically told to journey to Raamsayth where they would hear of the final deliverance. Some made the trip and possibly some were on their way. They stayed over at houses of relatives. Thus when the redemption came they were thrown out of Raamsayth.
This interpretation of eagle wings as referring to prophecy is consistent with the convenant of cuts where Jews escape the terror beasts of the world by behaving like eagles, that is through prophecy. It is also consistent with the verse in Zachariah not through military might nor through skill but rather through prophecy.
The reader is now encouraged to re-read rule #1, references.
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.
Rashi generalizes the detail clause gold, silver as illustrative of the general clause, make [that which is] with me and states: Don't make for yourselves - e.g. in synagogues - images of heavenly assistants such as images of the Ezeklian fire visions, since fire is golden in color, or images of prophetic dream communications, (dream images being mirror like (silver) in color). We believe this comment evident and consistent with the Rabbi Ishmael style guidelines.
Some may find this interpretation of Rashi strange. Why not interpret gold, silver to refer to the sun (gold) and moon (Silver). But the decalogue already prohibited worship of the sun and moon. Therefore it is proper to interpret the prohibition in our verse as referring to idolatrous worship of angelic entities. Rashi himself gives as an example Don't think because golden Kerubim were in the Temple that you can make similar images in your synagogues. Consequently, I believe the approach we have taken the most natural and consistent with Rashi.
We have explained in our article Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at http://www.Rashiyomi.com/biblicalformatting.pdf, 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.
Advanced Rashi: We have slightly rephrased the Rashi and utilized the Rabbi Ishmael rule of context. In other words we have argued The prohibition of animals working is clearly not a command to animals but rather a command to you to prevent work from being done by animals. We similarly treat the prohibition of work by non-Jews, servants and children as a prohibition of letting work be done by these people. The actual Rashi argument is a bit differnt - Rashi focuses on the contrast of you vs children: The prohibition of grown children doing work is already included in the prohibition of you doing work (Since you is plural and refers to all). Consequently the distinctness of bulleted items necessitates interpreting the prohibition on children as a prohibition on letting children do work. We have simply supplemented the Rashi explanation with an argument based on context. It should be noted that Rashi also adds a requirement of educating children not to work.
In the translation above we have translated the Hebrew letter Vav as nor. Most people are use to translating Vav as and. The reader can substitute and for nor and the above analysis of Rashi would be identical. That is Rashi focused on the repeating keyword, Vav, whether it means and or nor and therefore, because of the bullets, applied a distinct meaning to each bullet. In passing, it is known that Vav in Biblical Hebrew can refer to any type of logical connective. Vav can means or, and, nor,if etc. These translations of Vav are not always used but are legitimate and correct.
We ask the following database query: Does the Torah and Jewish leaders reinforce moral values through symbolic reminders. 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 Torah and Jewish leaders reinforce moral values through symbolic reminders-hence the Bible prohibited using steps to go up the altar since steps require a bigger gait than a ramp and a priest dressed in a robe would thereby expose his nudity to the altar ramp and embarass the ramp. If the Torah cared about not embarassing a ramp then how much more so that we should be careful not to embarass our fellow human friends. The list below presents the results of the database query.
Advanced Rashi: We emphasize that the force of the Rashi comment emanates from the use of the symbolic technique of personification. The Bible in effect says If a priest dressed in a robe goes up to the altar using a staircase vs a ramp then the steps will be exposed to his nudity (since stairs require wider steps than ramps) and he will embarass the steps [use of personification]! This personification-symbolism implies If you should be modest to steps and be careful not to embarass them how much more so you should be modest to your fellow human being!
We all know that Shavuoth happens on the 6th of Sivan and that the Torah was either received on Shavuoth itself or on the 7th of Sivan. (Rav Hirsch explains that if the Torah was received on Shavuoth then Shavuoth celebrates the receipt of the Torah. However if the Torah was received on the 7th of Sivan then Shavuoth celebrates our preparation and being ready for receipt of the Torah - that is, the preparation to receive the Torah would be considered the primary thing to celebrate).
The Table below presents the verses that support the calculation that the Torah was received on the 6th or 7th of Sivan.
Advanced Rashi: Rashi points out that Ex24, the sacrifices prior to the receipt of the Torah happened on the 5th of Sivan while the Decalogue itself is stated in a prior chapter Ex20. Rashi concludes that Textual Biblical sequence does not necessarily indicate temporal sequence. It is important to supplement this Rashi comment with the grammatical observation that in Biblical Hebrew, the past, as indicated by a future conjugation preceded by a vav, indicates the simple past, while the past, as indicated by the past conjugation, indicates the past perfect (Which in English is indicated with the participle had.) Hence Ex24-01, stated in a chapter that occurs after the chapter with the description of the revealed law, states, And God had told Moses to come up for revelation... The use of the past perfect, had told gives grammatical support to the temporal precedence of Ex24 to the revelation mentioned in Ex20, Ex21, Ex22, Ex23. This simple but convincing grammatical proof for the dictum Textual Biblical sequence does not indicate temporal sequence seems to be an innovation of mine not mentioned by other Biblical commentators.
Verses Ex20-21:22 discussing the requirement to build an altar in the Temple states An altar of earth you shall make to me, and shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings, and your peace offerings, your sheep, and your oxen; in all places where I cause my name to be pronounced I will come to you, and I will bless you. But when you will make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of a cut stone; less you lift up your sword upon it, and thereby profane it.
The verse implies that using a steel sword to construct an altar would somehow profane it. Rashi clarifies: The altar symbolizes peaceful concepts such as atonement, thanksgiving, and holiday celebration. By contrast steel utensils symbolize destructive concepts such as swords and other weapons of destruction. If the altar was constructed with steel then its symbolic image would be profaned. By prohibiting the construction of the altar with steel we intensify the image of peace which the altar symbolizes.