Their presence in Rashis on Parshat SheLaCh Volume 12, Number 21
Rashi is Simple - Volume 35 Number 21
Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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June 18th, 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.
Verse Nu14-10 discussing the descent of God to prevent the stoning of Joshua and Calev states But all the congregation bade stone them with stones, when the honor of God appeared in the tent of meeting unto all the children of Israel. Rashi notes that the underlined words, Honor of God appeared in the tent of meeting references verses Nu17-07,Ex40-34, and Ex24-15:16. discussing God's Divine presence appearing. Hence the Rashi comment The statement in Nu14-10 that the Honor of God appeared references several other verses, for example, Nu17-07, Ex40-35, Ex24-15:16 which associate the appearance of God's honor with the descent of the cloud.
Rashi would sometimes derive the meaning of a word from the meaning of its underlying Biblical root. In applying this method Rashi would use all available grammatical methods to study the meanings of related roots. The next paragraph presents one such rule.
There are 1900 Biblical roots. Of these 1900 roots about half involve X-Vav-Y X-Y-Y X-Y-Hey pairs. These roots (with one root letter weak) often, but not always, have related meanings. Consequently, very often, but not always. one can infer the meaning of a X-Y-Y root from the related X-Y-Hey or X-Vav-Y root.
Rashi believed in two grammatical systems. He believed in the traditional tri-literial (3-letter) root methods used to conjugate verbs and taught in all elementary schools.
Besides the conjugational root system Rashi also believed in a semantic root system. This is a separate system that enables derivation of root meaning from other roots.
Rashi's comment follows from the above: Tauv-Caph-Lamed-Tauv:Techeleth means sky-blue, a resemblance of the end of the day. Here the Tauv indicates resemblance while Caph-Lamed means end, completion.
I have brought these controversies to show how an underlying Rashi method, meaning of a root and prefix letter, while shedding light on a word can still allow for controversies and differences of opinion.
Advanced Rashi: We have ignored the double Tauv of Techeleth, which has both a prefix and suffix tauv. Perhaps some advanced study can shed more light on the above.
Today Hebrew grammar is well understood and there are many books on it. Rashi, however, lived before the age of grammar books. A major Rashi method is therefore the teaching of basic grammar.
Many students belittle this aspect of Rashi. They erroneously think that because of modern methods we know more. However Rashi will frequently focus on rare grammatical points not covered in conventional textbooks.
Today we present a Rashi which is best understood using rules of word sequence. Verse Nu13-23 discussing the Israeli fruit brought back by the spies states And they came unto the valley of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bore it upon a double pole; they took also of the pomegranates, and of the figs.--
I would argue that the most forceful way of proving Rashi's interpretation is to use the modern idea of word sequencing. In both English and Hebrew a sentence subject would be sequenced early in the sentence proximate to the verb: For example in the follow two sentences two functions as a grammatical subject: Two carried it on a pole or They carried it by pairs of people on a pole. But in the verse being studied, Nu13-23 the word two is distant from the verb. Consequently Rashi interprets it as an indirect object: They carried it by poles in [pole] pairs.
Advanced Rashi:Before proceeding to further explain Rashi I give another example of a Rashi based on word sequence. A recurring phrase in the gifts of the princes (Nu07) is a young one ox. I think most people can see the improper word sequence; it should read one young ox. Here we use the rules of adjective sequences. It is a rule that numerical adjectives have a specific place in the sentence - a young one ox is simply wrong grammatically, wrong from the viewpoint of word sequencing. Rashi therefore reinterprets one as meaning unique, that is, one of a kind. The resulting phrase now reads a young unique ox or as Rashi explains unique [best] in its herd.
Rashi does not explain either of these comments explicitly using the concept of word sequence. Rather Rashi focuses on word redundancy: If it uses the singular ox don't I know that it is one. Since the word one is redundant we reinterpret this to mean unique. Similarly Rashi on the verse in Nu13-23b states If if uses the plural, they carried don't I know that there were two. Since the word two is redundant we must apply it to the poles (rather than the people).
But as we have explained many times in this list, Rashi frequently expresses his comments using puns and exaggerations. Such expression facilitates memorability. However the form in which Rashi expresses his commments do not necessarily indicate the actual reason for the Rashi comments. In fact there are many occurrences of ones and twos throughout the Bible. If Rashi comments only on those verses with improper word sequencing I think it proper to take word sequencing as the real reason for Rashi's comment.
The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Nu15-41b. Both verses/verselets discuss God as he runs the world. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: (A) I am the God who took you out of Egypt and can redeem you from future problems. (B) I am the God who punishes you and other nations when they misbehave.
Advanced Rashi: We can clearly see the aligned underlined phrases, I am the Lord your God. The first aligned passage explicitly states ...who took you out of Egypt. But what justifies our interpreting the second aligned passage ...who leaves you in Egypt-like tyrannies when you don't observe the commandments. This is not stated in the text!
To properly understand this we must understand the universal literary phenomenon of ellipsis, statements implied but not explicitly stated. Rashi used ellipsis. For example, Ex22-22 states don't abuse any widow or orphan If you dare abuse them.... Rashi explains The phrase If you dare abuse them is an ellipsis. It doesn't say what will happen if you abuse them but it is implicitly understood: If you dare abuse them you will be heavily punished. Gangsters frequently used such elliptical threats since they induce fear.
I think a similar approach of ellipsis applies to the verse we are studying in Nu15-41: It is implicit that the second I am the Lord your God is a threat and threats are better communicated elliptically. The justification for interpreting the ellipsis in this manner is the contrast implied by the two aligned phrases.
I am indebted to Dr. Aviva Zornberg's new book, The Murmuring Deep: Reflections of the Biblical Unconscious, for inspiring the understanding of this Rashi. I was at the launching of this book at Pardes in June a few weeks ago. There professor David Shulman used Indian philosophy to describe Aviva's book as studying silence. The book describes several types of silences and the communications implicit in them. Aviva picked up this theme in her own talk on her book. Using Kabbalistic terminology she distinguished between voice and words Frequently the Biblical text will give voice without words and it is important to understand the implied content. You can google the book title to find reviews or purchase it. I believe the ellipsis I am the Lord your God is an elliptical silence indicating punishment, a wordless voice which effectively communicates.
The table below presents presents two contradictory verses/verselets. Both verses/verselets talk about God's attributes on dealing with sinners. The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse/verselet says God cleans sins while the other verse says God doesn't clean sins. Which is it? Does God clean sins or not? Rashi simply resolves this using the two aspects method: God cleans sins when people repent. But if people don't repent and the children continue their parents behavior God doesn't clean sins but visits the sins on both parents and children.
Advanced Rashi: Note especially how this Rashi can give rise to a flowing translation of the verse. In the above table our suggested flowing translation is indicated by the bracketed words. I believe that the form X not X as in cleans doesn't clean should be interpreted as a Biblical idiomatic style requiring the above-indicated bracketed expressions.
We formerly classified methods of paragraph and chapter development under the grammar rule. However we think it more proper to devote the grammar rule to the relation between meaning and form, for example how verb conjugational forms indicates meaning. As indicated in the opening boxed in table to this section, the formatting rule governs use of sequence to indicate climax and paragraph sequencing.
Rashi's comment on this is obvious: The people were just told that they tested God 10 times and therefore they would not come into the land but their children would. The doubts on this are clear. Perhaps their children would also sin. Perhaps the sight of war would temp their children to rebel. God therefore emphasized in the next paragraph When you come to the land.... Here Rashi uses the contrast method of paragraph development: You will not come but your children will come to Israel and that is a promise.
We ask the following database queries: (1) How does the Bible describe sins as attacking God? (2) Can any commandments be said to be personally delivered by God (instead of Moses)? The reader is encouraged to perform the queries using a standard Biblical Konnkordance or search engine. These database queries yield the list below. The list justifies the following Rashi inference: (1) Of all commandments only idolatry/blasphemy is categorized as despising Gods word. (2) Of all commandments only the prohibition of idolatry/blasphemy can be categorized as given personally by God. The 2 lists below presents the results of the database query and show examples
As can be seen the normal rankout for violation of a serious commandment is descecrating God's name. The rankout despising God's word is only used by Idolatry / Blasphemy.
In the Decalogue table the inferences are based on whether God is referred to in the first vs 3rd person. I and my indicate a direct communication from God while as God commanded or he indicate something spoken by Moses in the name of God. We infer from this that God personally delivered the commmandment prohibiting idolatry while the other commandments were given by Moses in the name of God.
Advanced Rashi: This example is a peach of a Rashi aptly illustrating the database method. Without the database method Rashi appears to be picky on words: The verse says For he despised God's word. And indeed we find that only the commandment prohibiting idolatry was personally spoken by God vs. Moses Such an approach to Rashi based on minutae is neither appealing nor convincing.
However the database method exposes a certain broadness to the Rashi. The phrase despising God's word is rare. The usual term to indicate violation of a serious commandment is descecrating God's name. This database observation allows us to focus on the uniqueness in the phrase despising God's word. Similarly the database study of the Decalogue clearly shows a difference between the 1st two commandments which were said in first person and the other commandments which were said in third person. Thus the database queries expose certain minutae as reflective of broader categories: There is emphasis on God's word since that phrase is never used and there is even more emphasis on God vs. Moses. This broader emphasis provided by the database queries allows us to fullly appreciate the Rashi comments as emanating from clearly intended nuances vs. picky minutae.
Verse Nu13-17 describing Moses instructions to the spies states: And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them: 'Get you up here into the South, and go up to the Mount; Verse Nu13-21 describing the actual journey of the spies states that they went up, and spied out the land from the TZin desert unto Rehob, at the entrance to Hamath.
The diagram below illustrates this diagrmatic Rashi as well as supply scriptural references for the various underlined places mentioned in the above two verses describing their journey.
|NW Mount Mount, Chamath (Nu34-07:08) ^ | | ^ | | | ^ START -------<---------------<-----------<------------- SW Mediterranean (Nu34-05) SE Tzin Desert (Nu34-03)
The Bible identifies the Tzitzith commandment as symbolizing exodus from Egypt. Rashi explains the symbolism of the requirement of a sky blue thread. According to Rashi the sky-blue thread was dark sky blue like the color of the sky just before night. Hence the sky-blue thread symbolizes darkness and night. Night was in fact the time that the first born were smitten and we left Egypt. This has symbolic significance. Throughout the ages when Jews are oppressed with an Egyptian-like tyrany it may be necessary for God as he takes us out of Egypt to kill people quietly at night to save us. In fact throughout the ages Jews have seen such miracles.
There is a controversy between Rashi and Rambam on whether the sky-blue thread in the Tzitzith resembles the color of the sky at night fall or at midday. We have just explained Rashi's approach. But the Rambam believes that the sky-blue resembles the midday sky. Here too we can apply symbolic methods. Daytime is when God drowned the Egyptian army on the Red sea. This has symbolic significaance. Throughout the ages when Jews are oppressed with an Egyptian-like tyrany it may be necessary for God as he takes us out of Egypt to, in broad daylight, kill people who pursue us while we are helpless.In fact throughout the ages Jews have seen such miracles.
This week's parshah contains no examples examples of the style Rashi method. Visit the RashiYomi website at http://www.Rashiyomi.com and http://www.Rashiyomi.com/rule.htm for further details and examples.