Their presence in Rashis on Parshat Mattos Massay Volume 12, Number 25
Rashi is Simple - Volume 35 Number 25
Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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July 16th, 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 Nu32-03 discussing the lands requested by the Reuvenites and Gaddites states Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Sebam, and Nebo, and Beon, Rashi notes that the underlined words, Cheshbon references verses Nu21-06 discussing Moab. Hence the Rashi comment As can be seen (from the underlined words) the lands requested by the Reuvenites and Gaddites in Nu32-03 were originally Moabite lands (Nu21-06)
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.
In our article Peshat and Derash: A New Intuitive and Logical Approach, which can be found on the world-wide-web at http://www.Rashiyomi.com/rashi.pdf we have advocated punchy translations of Biblical verses as a means of presenting Rashi comments. The following translation of verse Nu35-22 embeds the Rashi translation Petha means unexpectedly. But if he thrust him unexpectedly without enmity, or hurled upon him any thing without lying in wait,
Advanced Rashi: We have translated the words Pithom and Petha as meaning suddenly and unexpectedly based on context. This may also be partially supported by the resemblance of the Pay-Tauv-Ayin and Pay-Tauv-Cheth roots. Pay-Tauv-Cheth means Door. So unexpectedly in Hebrew means from behind the door; a concept indicating nearby and present but unseen so it is unexpected. There is a certain amount of conjecture in our translations since there are very few verses with either of the words and the etymologies although possibly supportive don't prove anything.
The above interactions between the translations and details in Jewish law afford us a rare glimpse at the interaction of language and law.
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 study a Rashi based on the grammatical rule governing pronouns. In English, generally, there is only one form of each pronoun. However, the great Biblical grammarian, Malbim, correctly points out that many pronouns have two forms: 1) a suffix or prefix letter and 2) an entire word. The entire word pronoun form should be translated as emphasizing only that referent. Using this principle Malbim elegantly explains many exegetical derivations.
Applying Malbim's principle as reformulated by us as involving use of the adverb, only we would translate Nu35-25 as follows: And the congregation shall deliver the slayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge, where he had fled; and he shall dwell there until the death of the high priest, that [the annointer] anointed only him with the holy oil. Rashi comments: The underlined word only emphasizes that the death of only one high priest frees the negligent murderer. The Bible doesn't specify which High Priest's death frees him but it is reasonable that the law refers to the High Priest at the time of conviction. So if for example High Priest A died during the trial and High Priest B took High Priest A's place and the murderer was convicted during the tenure of High Priest B then the negligent murderer must remain in the refuge city till the death of High Priest B. The negligent murderer cannot argue that since High Priest A died he may now go free.
Advanced Rashi: Several comments should be made on this Rashi to fully understand it. First: There are two points made by Rashi. To appreciate Rashi's first point we note that most English translations glibly translate the verse using the passive voice, ...the High priest who was annointed with sacred oil. But the verse doesn't use the passive. It uses the active, ...the High priest that annointed him..... Rashi points out that the use of the active vs the passive voice assumes an elliptical subject: The High Priest that the annointer annointed only him with sacred oil.
Now Rashi technically says The elliptical subject is the simple way to read the text. But the advanced Midrashic way is to exclude High Priests who died during the trial (As we have explained above). It appears that Rashi is introducing a simple and Midrashic level of interpretation. Not so!!! Rather Rashi is commenting on two features of the verse. First Rashi is commenting on the use of the active vs. the passive voice which as we have pointed above is overlooked by many, even good, translations. Second Rashi is commenting on the use of the word-pronoun form vs. the suffix letter pronoun form. So Rashi is indicating two grammatical comments for two features of the verse.
Rashi doesn't exactly explain the verse the way I have. Rather Rashi puns the verse's text: The text says the negligent murderer dwells in the city until the death of the High Priest that he-annointed ... Did the negligent murderer annoint the High Priest? Rather the text indicates it refers to the High Priest annointed during the conviction of his trial (so it looks as if the High Priest was annointed by the murderer.).
This reading is a pun to help remember the Rashi commment. Clearly the above derivation is ungrammatical for the full sentence sequence he---High priest---annointed only him in the translation ...negligent murderer ...until the death of the High Priest that he-annointed only him is clearly ungrammatical. Therefore I have regarded Rashi's cited explanation as a pun. I then suggested that the true resaon for the Rashi comment was the translation of the pronoun as meaning only him. The word only implies that only one Priest's death frees the murderer. We then use logic to identify this one priest with the priest at the time of conviction vs. the priest at the time of trial. Such a reading is not punchy and obvious since an element of logic and derivation appears. Yet it seems the best way to take this Rashi. And as we have pointed out such a reading is consistent with many midrashim on single word pronouns as meaning only him.
The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Nu34-18, Nu34-29. Both verses/verselets discuss the tribal representatives who participated in the apportionment of Israel to the Jews. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: The conjugation of the two verbs in Nu34-18,Nu34-29 are different. Nu34-18 uses a conjugation indicating an active voice while Nu34-29 uses a conjugation indicating an intensive voice. The alignment suggests that the two voices have different meanings. We translate the active voice as indicating inheritance and we translate the intensive voice (Piel) as indicating causation, transfer of inheritance. In other words, the representatives besides causing transference of inheritance of Israel to their respective tribes also particpated in the inheritance and inherited land with their tribes [I think the emphasis is that the representatives were not outside the apportionment process but rather part of it. Good reps should particpate and not be non-involved.]
Advanced Rashi: This Rashi can equivalantly be derived by the grammar principle since Nu34-18 uses the active voice while Nu34-29 uses the intensive voice. As is well known the intensive voice can sometimes refer to causative action (The Piel and Hifil voices can both indicate causality.) I have classified this Rashi as primarily using the alignment method since the intensive voice by itself does not imply causality. Rather it is the combination of different voices plus the alignment that drives the Rashi inference.
The table below presents two contradictory verses. Both verses talk about the status of land ownership in the Jubilee year. The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says Sold land does revert to its owner in the Jubilee year, while the other verse says Inherited land does not revert to its owner in the Jubilee year. Which is it? Does land revert to the owner in the Jubilee year or not? Rashi simply resolves this using the 2-aspects method: Sold land reverts back to the original owner in the Jubilee year. But inherited land - e.g., the land inherited by the son of a marriage of a Reuvenite daughter, who inherited her father, and then married a Shimonite man, followed by the death of the 2 parents - does not change status in the Jubilee year and consequently this land, which was initially Reubenite, would become Shimonite, since the son's tribal status is patrilineal.
Certain Biblical paragraphs are stated in an example form. In other words an example of a law is stated rather than the full general rule. The reader's task is to generalize the example. The idea that all Biblical laws should be perceived as examples (unless otherwise indicated) is explicitly stated by Rashi (Pesachim 6.). This is a rule of style since the rule requires that a text be perceived as an example rather than interpreted literally. The Rabbi Ishmael style rules govern the interpretation of style.
Verses Nu35-23:25 discussing negligent murder which leads to banishment to the refuge cities states Or with any stone, whereby a man may die, without seeing him, and he felt it upon him, that he died, and he was not his enemy, nor sought his harm; Then the congregation shall judge ... And the congregation shall deliver the slayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge, ... Rashi commenting on the underlined phrases states: A status of willful or negligent murder requires an initial downward (falling) thrust. However a death that took place from something falling after an initial upward thrust - e.g. 1) a person climbing up a ladder who fell, 2) a person climbing up a ladder, one of whose rungs dislodged and fell and 3) a pail carried by a person climbing up a ladder, which subsequently fell and killed - is neither classified as willful nor negligent. [Note: If you throw a knife straight up and it then falls and kills there is no death penalty; but if you threw it sideways and up and it fell and killed there is a death penalty (because in the first case the force killing was gravity while in the latter case there were two forces killing, your initial thrust and gravity.]
Advanced Rashi: Note that there have been several legal citations in todays Weekly Rashi. Several years ago we had a Golden Rambam Rashi series exploring the beautiful relationship between Biblical exegesis and technical Jewish law. The series faded out (primarily because of lack of interest on the readers). However from time to time we still bring citations of Jewish law and explore the exegetical legal interaction.
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.
Bullets whether indicated through modern notation or through the Biblical method of repeating keywords always indicate contrastive emphasis - that is, each bullet is presumed to be a distinct item contrasted to the other items on the list. Very often the bullets are also used to indicate that the entire list is exhaustive of some spectrum.
Advanced Rashi: This is a rare opportunity. Rashi does not explain the verse this way. In fact Rashi explicitly says I am forced to interpret the infinitive - for purposes of fleeing - as referring to someone who fleed. There are several precedents. The reason I am forced to interepret the infinitive this way is that the verse would not read correctly if we translated Don't take bribes in order to flee to a refuge city in order to return to his homeland. Rashi finds this translation odd since he interprets the two occurrences of in order as sequential acts of the same person - don't take bribes from person X in order to flee to a refuge city so that person X can return. That doesn't make sense.
However we can solve Rashi's problem by using the bullet method. We can interpret the two occurrences of in order in the verse as referring to two different situations. Don't take bribes (1) from a willful murderer who should not go to a refuge city, in order to enable him to go or (2) from a negligent murderer who should remain in the city, in order to allow him to escape. Such use of bullets is common in the Bible!! Our approach also allows preservation of translation of the infinitive without seeking exotic alternative translations.
This is exciting - we have solved a problem preventing Rashi from interpreting the verse in a simple grammatical manner and given a simple natural interpretation consistent with grammar and Jewish law.
Today we ask the database query: How was the Torah Moses learned from God transmitted to the Jews. The reader is encouraged to perform the query using a standard Biblical Konnkordance or search engine. These database query yields the list below. The list justifies the following Rashi inference: Moses learned the Torah from God. 1) He taught it to Aaron 2) who taught it to the other priests 3) who then taught it to the Tribal leaders 4) who then taught it to the nation. The list below presents the results of the database query and shows examples
Advanced Rashi: This is an exciting example of a Rashi derivation. Many people regard the Moses-> Aaron -> Priests -> Tribal leaders -> Israelites midrash as fanciful and either based on oral tradition or else read into the Biblical text to emphasize a so-called development of an emphasis on learning as a primary means of serving God. It is therefore fascinating to see that explicit Biblical texts fully justify this 4-fold method of transmission. The fact that this Rashi comment is the simple meaning of the explicit Biblical texts justifies the statement made by Rav Hirsch that the Jews had a sort of Kollel existence in the Wilderness - they were stipened by God Himself so that they could sit and learn all day (There was nothing else to do). Rav Hirsch is quick to point out that this Kollel type existence only existed in the miraculous wilderness stay and was replaced by normal living - Torah learning with a job - when they entered Israel, left the miracle-based existence, and started leading ordinary non-miraculous lives. We see here the importance of fully investigating and justifying Rashi comments since their intrinsicness to the Biblical text justifies certain attitudes of Jewish philosophy and outlook.
This is a true peach of a Rashi clearly illustrating the database method. We have spoken frequently about the distinct flavor of each Rashi method. The database method is characteristically not punchy and sometimes sketchy. For example, in the Rashi we are studying today there is no explicit statement that Moses spoke to Aaron who taught his sons who taught the elders who taught the Jews. Rather we have partial statements. One verse itemizes most of the 4 sets of people. Another verse indicates a partial sequence. Finally we have verses identifying, but in specific situations, the communication to individual groups. It is therefore tempting to say that Rashi knew of the 4 fold sequence through an oral tradition. This is acceptable but it is not the total explanation. The technical thing to observe is that Rashi has supportive Biblical texts which even if they don't fully justify his assertion strongly point in that direction. Part of the act of learning Torah is finding clear proofs, part is learning oral traditions, and part is identifying supportive proofs. All of these are important and should not be belittled. It is therefore important to gather all the verses together (as we have done with some extra verses of our own) to show how the supportive texts fit together.
In conclusion this is an extremely instructive example of the database method. Those serious students of Rashi who wish to have a proper feel for what they can and what they cannot do with Biblical texts should carefully study this Rashi analysis as a prototypical model.
Todays Rashi presents a map, a geographical description, of Israeli geography and the surrounding (Biblical countries. The map is presented below and appropriate footnotes outline Rashi's comment. Because Rashi clarifies diagrammatic material we classify this Rashi as non-Verse.
=========================================================== MAP OF SOUTHERN BORDER OF ISRAEL AND SURROUNDING COUNTRIES =========================================================== ' | | ' | NORTH |----- ' | ISRAEL | | ' | | | Sichon, Og ' |W E | -------------- ' Pelishtim |E A | | | ' |S S | J | | ' |T T | O | | ' | | R | | ' | | D | MOAB | ' | ISRAEL | A | | ' | SOUTH | N | | ' | | | | ----------------------|-----------------| | ' | | | ' Egypt | Edom |------------- ' | | ' | | ' | | ' | | ' | |
Verse Nu35-25a states And the congregation shall deliver the negligent murderer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge, where he had fled; and he shall live there until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the holy oil.
Rashi comments on the connection between the underlined phrase connecting the death of the high priest to the release of the negligent murderer from the prison city of refuge:A primary task of the Priest is to atone for inadvertency. For example a person who negligently descecrates the Sabbath receives atonement by bringing a sin offering and attending to the procedures performed by the priest. If the priests had done their job perfectly there would be no negligent murders. Consequently when the High Priest dies ( as a punishment for lack of prevention of negligence) the negligent murderer goes free.
We should explain why the death of the priest releases the prisoner. Prior to the death of the priest the blood-avenger blaimed the murder on the murderer's negligence. The blood-avenger may wish to avenge the murder by killing the murderer. However when the High Priest dies a message is sent to the blood avenger: Perhaps the murder is not the murderer's fault. Perhaps it is the priest's fault. If the priests had been more diligent in their prevention of negligence then the murder would not have happened.Since you are not certain whether the negligent murder was the fault of the priest or the murderer you shouldn't want to kill the murderer.