Their presence in Rashis on Parshat Noach Volume 13, Number 11
Rashi is Simple - Volume 36 Number 11
Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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Oct 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.
Verse Gn10-08 discussing Nimrod states And Kush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty one. He was a warrior hunter before the Lord; .... And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, .... Rashi notes that the underlined words, warrior hunter .... Babel, references verses Gn11-01:09 discussing the rebellion of the people of the Tower of Babel against God. Hence the Rashi comment The meaning of the statement Gn10-08 that Nimrod, who first reigned in Babel was a warrior hunter before God is clarified in Gn11-01:09 which describes the rebellion against God by the people of the Tower of Babel Gn11-06,Gn11-09, Gn11-01:09.
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.
Rashi's point here is that a terminal nun connotes intensity. For example Resh-Yud-Beth means to dispute while Resh-Yud-Beth-Nun means to fist-fight, (cf. Ex21-18.) So Cheth-resh-hey from the Biblical root Cheth-Resh to burn would connote being burned up, while Cheth-Resh-Nun would connote being intensely burned up for example the English blown up. (Sometimes it is hard to find an exact translation).
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 Gn11-32b embeds the Rashi translation Cheth-Resh-Nun means blowing up. And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Cheth-Resh-Nun ([God] Blew up).
Advanced Rashi: Rashi's literal statement is God blowing up [for example during the flood] was the norm in the world until Abraham (Terach's son) came to the world. After Abraham we find less anger in the world (so to speak, the blowing up by God became an ordinary being burned up. That is before Abraham God blew up at the flood and the Tower of Babel while after Abraham we don't find God blowing up at the world with flood-like destructive events.
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 review the rules of connective words in Hebrew. Connective words are words like, from, with, if, because, rather,but,... There are only a few dozen such words. It is important to know what each of these words means and how they function in sentences. Furthermore, many of these words have multiple meanings. Novices frequently are only familiar with the primary meaning of a connective word; as one advances in one's knowledge of Hebrew one must learn the secondary meanings of connective words.
The Hebrew word Aleph-Tauv, Eth is very peculiar in its usage. Technically it doesn't mean anything. Rather one places the word eth before a word to indicate that that word is the object of the sentence. For example Eth the man bit the dog would have the same meaning as the dog bit the man. Here the word eth grammatically functions to indicate the grammatical object of the sentence (Actually I am oversimplifying; typically a sentence with reversed subject-object order might have other indicators (besides eth) for example the change of the verb form from the active to the passive.)
Advanced Rashi: Rashi points out that in some of the above verses Eth could mean with. Even more fascinating is Rabbi Hirsh's comment that eth indicates not only the object but also indicates fullness, and totality. For example the verse Honor eth your father and eth you mother... would connote honoring one's older siblings who are extensions of one's parents.
What should emerge from the above is that we have barely skimmed the surface of this rich and beautiful topic of connective words. There are all types of nuances to these words and throughout the ages different scholars have taught new nuances.
In Hebrew, instead of placing a question mark at the end of the sentence, one places a letter hey with a chataf-patach punctuation at the beginning of the sentence.
The first question asked in the Bible occurs at Gn03-19, Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? In English this sentence is indicated by a terminal question mark while in Hebrew it is indicated by a prefixed hey with a chataf-patach punctuation. Rashi explains This prefix hey with a chataf-patach indicates the interrogative.
The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Gn09-03a, Gn01-29 Both verses/verselets discuss God's allowance of certain foods to Adam/Noah. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: God only allowed Adam a strictly vegetarian diet. However God allowed Noah a meat-vegetarian diet.
The table below presents two contradictory verses/verselets. Both verses/verselets talk about the parents of the Plishtim. The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says the Plishtim came from the Pasursim while the other verse says the Plishtim came from the Casluchim Which is it? Were the Plishtim from the Pasrusim or the Casluchim? Rashi simply resolves this using the 2 aspects method: The Pasrusim and Casluchim engaged in wife-swapping. Hence the Plishtim descended from both.
Advanced Rashi: Adulterous relations are frequently indicated discretely using the contradiction method. It is interesting that from the word Plishtim comes the word phallic, describing the emphasis and nature of these people.
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 and covered the nakedness of their father; as illustrative of the general clause, faces were backward and states: Their goal was not to humiliate their father. Even at the moment of covering their face was backward and they did not see him naked. We believe this comment evident and consistent with the Rabbi Ishmael style guidelines.
Advanced Rashi: This verse actually has a General-Detail-General-General form since the verse states went backwards - covered his nakedness - faced backwards - did not see his nakedness. In other words the verse explicitly identifies the theme of the general clause - they avoided seeing his nakedness.
Notice that Rashi is not being pedantic but rather Rashi should be perceived as emphasizing one special implication of they did not see their father's nakedness. Rashi emphasizes even at the critical moment of covering him, when viewing the situation would be helpful, they did not peek. However what we have added to Rashi's explanation is that the driving force behind the Rashi is not some technical detail - what happened at the moment of covering - but rather a general statement that they always faced backwards out of respect for their father.
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 indicates bold, italics, underline by using repetition. In other words if a modern author wanted to emphasize a word they would either underline, bold or italicize it. However when the Biblical author wishes to emphasize a word He repeats it. The effect - whether thru repetition or using underline - is the same. It is only the means of conveying this emphasis that is different.
Verse Gn11-03 discussing the production of bricks in the Tower of Babel states And they said one to another: 'Come, let us bricken brick, and burn a burning' And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. female, as God had commanded Noah. The repeated underlined word phrase bricken bricks, burn a burning indicates an unspecified emphasis. First recall that the Hebrew word for brick is white because they are burned white hot in a cauldron furnace. Hence Rashi translates this unspecified emphasis as they produced a cauldron in which to burn white hot the bricks for production purposes. That is Rashi translates the verse as follows: And they said one to another: 'Come, let us burn white hot bricks, and burn a burning cauldron' And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. In other words The people of the tower of Babel had to do all production themselves. They required a burning unit that could burn other items - a cauldron; they would then produce bricks by making them white-hot. In summary Rashi views the special emphasis - whiten-white bricks and burn a burning - as emphasizing comprehensive production in a cauldron.
Advanced Rashi: We have indicated in rule 9 below that the Bible went into so much detail to show the premeditated nature of their sin. They didn't just, so to speak, off the cuff, built a tower. They did it with premeditation. They started a whole production process. Their whole goal in life was to unify the world in such a way as to stifle individuality.
We ask the following database query: When God attacks sinners how does he call them? 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: God calls sinners by their city name. Or else, God calls them "crowd, worthless, people." However the Residents of the Tower of Babel are called "Sons of Adam" to indicate that a) they rebelled against God like Adam and b) they lost their unified world the same way Adam lost Paradise. The list below presents the results of the database query.
Verse Gn11-03 discussing the building of the Tower of Babel, states, And they said one to another: 'Come, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.' And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. Rashi comments: They used bricks to build the tower, because stones the traditional building material were not found in the Babelonia valley. Here Rashi uses real world phenomena to explain a Biblical verse, similar, for example, to using archaelogical data to explain Biblical verses. The use of real-world non-verse material to explain a verse justifies classifying this Rashi as a non-verse method.
Advanced Rashi: But why does the Bible tell us this? Presumably it magnifies their sin. They didn't just use stones lying around to build a tower, they had to go through a laborious process of brick production to build the tower. In other words their activities were truly premeditated. A person who has to work alot to sin is obviously worse than a person who just sins off the cuff.
Today we ask the database query: What does the number 40 symbolize? The query uncovers 5 examples. An examination of these examples justifies the Rashi assertion that 40 symbolizes an EMBRYONIC period during which development to new horizons can take place. The table below presents results of the query along with illustrations of Rashi's comment.
Advanced Rashi: Rashi literally says: 40 days of flood corresponding to the 40 days in which the foetus is formed. They sinned by burdening God to create foetii to adulterous unions and were punished with 40 days of flood. My opinion is that the major driving force behind the Rashi is the database query which shows that in general 40 corresponds to an embryonic development to a new horizon. I therefore regard Rashi as adding another nuance to the 40 days applicable to this particular case, the flood. Rashi points out that the embryo takes 40 days to develop. Rashi further shows the Divine Justice in the irony that the 40 days during which embryos from adulterous unions were being produced corresponded to the 40 days of punishment. We however regard this Rashi comment as secondary and the above database analysis as primary. Very frequently Rashi will rely on the teacher to present primary meaning and will suffice with indicating an unexpected seconday nuance. I beleive this is the proper way to take this Rashi.
This week's parshah contains examples of all the Rashi methods. Visit the RashiYomi website at http://www.Rashiyomi.com for further details and examples.