The 10 RashiYomi Rules
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.
Visit the RashiYomi website:
(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President,
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.

    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 Nu14-10b
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: God's HONOR appeared (Nu14-10) REFERENCES Nu17-07,Ex40-34, and Ex24-15:16 which associates God's HONOR with the DESCENT OF THE CLOUD

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.

Text of Target Verse Nu14-10a Text of Reference Verse Nu17-07,Ex40-34, and Ex24-15:16.
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. . And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. And the honor of the Lord abode upon Mount Sinai, .... Then a cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the honor of the Lord filled the tabernacle.... And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the Tent of Meeting; and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the honor of the Lord appeared.
Rashi comments: 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.

      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 Nu15-38b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: TAUV-CAPH-LAMED-TAUV, TECHELETH, means SKY-BLUE, the color that is a SIGN (TAUV) of the END (CAPH-LAMED) of day.

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.

    When dealing with the word Tauv-Caph-Lamed-Tauv, Techelet we see
  • A Biblical root of Caph-Lamed which mean the end, finish, completion,
  • The prefix and suffix Tauv which literally means sign. In general words with a prefix or suffix Tauv usually indicate a sign, example,resemblance of what follows. Some simple examples of this principle might be the word pairs,
    • Shin-Beth:Tauv-Shin-Beth-Hey; Shov:Teshuva which means return:repentance (a return to ones former state), or
    • Resh-Aleph-Shin:Resh-Aleph-Shin-Yud-Tauv; Rosh:Reshith which means head:beginning, or
    • Pay-Lamed-Lamed:Tauv-Pay-Lamed-Hey; Palel:Tefilah which means judgement:prayer (Prayer is considered self-judgement before God), or
    • Yud-Lamed-Daleth:Tauv-Vav-Lamed-Daleth-Vav-Tauv; Yalad:Toldoth which means birth:genealogies.
    As can be seen the principle of Tauv as meaning sign, example, resemblance can have some vagueness and subjectivity associated with it.

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.

    In deriving this etymology we don't mean to take sides on all the controversies that exist on the exact meaning of Techeleth. The basic meaning is that Techelet refers to a sky-blue.
  • Rashi posits that Techelet refers to the dark blue of dusk (the end of day)
  • Rambam posits that Techelet refers to the blue of midday, a resemblance to the colors of the end of the day
  • Rav Hirsch suggests that Techeleth refers to the midday blue of the horizon. Here horizon refers to the end of the field of vision.

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.

      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 Nu13-23b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: And they carried the grape cluster with a DOUBLE-pole

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.

    There are many classical aspects to grammar whether in Hebrew or other languages. They include
  • The rules for conjugating verbs. These rules govern how you differentiate person, plurality, tense, mode, gender, mood, and designation of the objects and indirect objects of the verb. For example how do you conjugate, in any language, I sang, we will sing, we wish to sing, she sang it.
  • Rules of agreement. For example agreement of subject and verb, of noun and adjective; whether agreement in gender or plurality.
  • Rules of Pronoun reference.
  • Rules of word sequence. This is a beautiful topic which is not always covered in classical grammatical 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.--

    The Rashi on this is charming, fascinating and beautiful. The literal translation of the phrase with the underlined word is [they] carried it with a pole in twos. Rashi in effect points out that there are two possible interpretations of this phrase.
    • Interpretation 1: Two carried it with a pole in twos.
    • Interpretation 2: [they] carried it with a double pole.
    Using modern Talmudic methods of Briskian clarification we see that the point of issue between the two interpretations is whether
    • two is the subject of the sentence, that is, who carried the fruit, or
    • two is part of the indirect object of the sentence, that is with what was the fruit carried.
    Rashi explains that Two is part of the indirect object - they carried the fruit with a double pole.

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.

    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 Nu15-41c
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: (a) I AM GOD - that took you out of Egypt and (b) I AM GOD that punishes you when you are wicked.

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.

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
  • I am the Lord your God who took you out of Egypt to be your God
  • I am the Lord your God [who leaves you in Egypt-like tyrannies when you don't observe the commandments.]
(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.
  • I am the Lord your God who took you out of Egypt to be your God
  • I am the Lord your God [who leaves you in Egypt-like tyrannies when you don't observe the commandments.]

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.

      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 Nu14-18b, Nu14-18c
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: God is long suffering and very merciful...although he cleanses [sin] he sometimes does not cleanse sin - when the sins of parents can be visited on children [which repeat their parents sin]

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.

Summary Verse / Source Text of verse / Source
God cleans sin Nu14-10
    God, [you are] long suffering and very merciful, you lift sin and iniquity;
    • [although] you clean [sin]
    • you [sometimes] don't clean [sin]
    [namely when you can] visit the sins of parents on their children [because the children uphold their parents sin]
God doesn't clean sins Nu14-10
    God, [you are] long suffering and very merciful, you lift sin and iniquity;
    • [although] you clean [sin]
    • you [sometimes] don't clean [sin]
    [namely when you can] visit the sins of parents on their children [because the children uphold their parents sin]
Resolution: 2 Aspects 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.

      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 Nu15-02a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: A) These people who have tested me 10 times will not see the land but their children will B) The sinners died in a plague; the nation tried to repent but was defeated C) [But] When you DO come to Israel.

    The Formatting rule includes the methods of writing consecutive paragraph or sentences. Just as a paragraph is a collection of sentences unified by a topic sentence and developed by supporting sentences, so too, a chapter very often has a theme that is developed by a skillfully sequenced set of paragraphs. Rashi new of 3 methods of writing consecutive paragraphs
    • Cause-effect: The second paragraph is the effect of the first paragraph. The first paragraph is the cause of the second paragraph.
    • Contrast: The two paragraphs illustrate contrasting sides of a theme.
    • Unified theme: The two or more paragraphs illustrate a common theme. For example a common theme may be illustrated by a sequence of example-paragraphs; each paragraph exemplifies and illustrates one example of the basic theme.
    The above three principles indicate methods for paragraph development into chapters as well as methods for sentence development into paragraphs.

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 on Nu15-02a explains the sequenceing of three paragraphs:
  • Nu14-11:25. The spies slandered God; the Jewish people tested God 10 times. They must be punished
  • Nu14-26:45. The spies and Jewish people will die out while their children will come to the land.
  • Nu15-01:16. When you come to the land and offer sacrifices.

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.

      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 Nu15-31a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: Blasphemy/Idolatry is the only commandment described as DESPISING GODS WORD. And indeed Idolatry was the only commmandment PERSONALLY given by God (not Moses).

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

Verse Commandment Description of sin abuse
Lv18-21 Offering Children to the Molech idolatry Desecration of God's name
Lv19-12 Swearing false oaths Descecration of God's name
Lv19-29 Raising your daughter as a prostitute Prostituting the land
Lv21-05 Violating Priest obligations Descecrating God's name
Lv22-02 Violating Priest Temple obligations Descecrating God's name
Gn17-13 Violating Circumcision Nullifying my convenant
Nu15-31 Idolatry / Blasphemy Despising the word of God; nullifying His commandment

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.

Verse Commandment From God or Moses? Grammatical Proof
Ex20-01,03 Idolatry, Commandments #1 & #2 God I am the Lord thy God;...You will have no other Gods in my presence
Ex20-07 False oaths, Commandment #3 Moses Don't bear God's name for nought...He will not forgive...
Dt05-12 Sabbath, Commandment #4 Moses Observe the Sabbath... as God commanded you
Dt05-16 Honoring parents, commandment #5 Moses Honor your parents ... as God commanded you

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.

    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 example applies to Rashis Nu13-21a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Spies went from SE (Tzin Dessert) to SW (Mediterranean) to NW (Mount Mount, Chamath)

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.

    Rashi comments:
  • They traveled like the shape of the letter L
  • They started in the SouthEast at the lower right tip of the L
  • They journeyed on the L bottom along the south to the left tip of the L in the southwest
  • They then journeyed vertically upwards on the L to the NorthWest

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)

      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 Nu15-41f
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The DARK SKY-BLUE thread on the Tzitzith symbolizes the color of NIGHT, the TIME when death and defeat happens. Exodus from Egypt-type tyrannies sometimes requires night-death.

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 and for further details and examples.