Their presence in Rashis on Parshat VaYayTzaY Volume 13, Number 16
Rashi is Simple - Volume 36 Number 16
Used in the weekly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
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Nov 25-th 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 Gn30-37a discussing the techniques Jacob used to proliferate sheep states And Jacob took him rods of moist poplar, and of the almond and of the plane-tree; and peeled white streaks in them, making the white appear which was in the rods. Rashi notes that the underlined words, poplar references verses Ho04-13 discussing the excessive worship of idols by the Jews. Hence the Rashi comment The statement rods of moist poplar in Gn30-37a is clarified by the reference Ho04-13 which speaks about the worship of idols under oaks, poplars and terebinths. Since the first and last enumerated in this list are trees we infer that poplars are a tree. (Today we can identify them as the poplar tree).
When Rashi uses, what we may losely call, the hononym method, Rashi does not explain new meaning but rather shows an underlying unity in disparate meanings. Rashi will frequently do this by showing an underlying unity in the varied meanings of a Biblical root.
In my article Peshat and Derash found on the world wide web at http://www.Rashiyomi.com/rashi.pdf. I advocate enriching the Rashi explanation using a technique of parallel nifty translations in modern English. Today's examples show this.
Applying the above translation to Gn31-54a discussing the party Jacob made for Laban we obtain And [after the treaty] Jacob slaughtered [animals] for a party in the mountain and he called to his family to eat a meal. They ate a meal and stayed overnight in the mountain.
Advanced Rashi: This particular distinction in meaning can also be approached through the database method. If we examine verses with the root Zayin-Beth-Cheth we find verses with the indirect object God or god indicating a slaughter for God/god, that is sacrifice and we similarly find verses without any reference to a Deity/deity in which case the root indicates slaughter for purposes of a meal. Another such verse referring solely to meals but not to sacrifices is 1S28-24 which discusses the meal the soothsayer made for Saul and his guests.
Rashi has only explained the text. But it is natural to contrast e.g. Moses behavior with his father-in-law with Jacob's behavior with his father-in-law. Moses' father-in-law was excited to hear about the victories of God and Moses prepared a sacrifice meal at which all attended. By contrast Jacob made no attempt to talk to Laban about God. It would appear that Jacob had enough of Laban. God was just another object to maniuplate to obtain wealth. There was no point in talking to Laban about God. Hence the meal vs. a sacrificial meal prepared by Jacob was deliberate. In a way it was a satirical way of parting - it is as if Jacob said - Here have some food and a party....that is all you really care about in life anyway.
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.
Verse Gn29-08b discussing when the shepards in Beer Sheva watered their flocks states And they said: 'We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and they roll the stone from the well's mouth; then we water the sheep and then return the stone to its place on the mouth of the well.' The underlined words until....be gathered ....roll indicate a conditional present. The words until ...be gathered indicates a future action and is conjugated in the text with a future conjugation. The word roll indicates action that habitually happens daily. Like any habitual action it refers to the past, present and future. Because the conditional trigger of this action is the future gathering of all the flocks the conjugation of this habitual present is indicated via a past conjugation and a prefix vav, which always indicates the future in Biblical Hebrew.
Advanced Rashi: Two further points should be made: First the meaning of the verse is clear We habitually gather every day, roll the stone, water the flock and return the stone. There are a variety of ways that Hebrew could conjugate the verbs to indicate this meaning. The actual method chosen is irrelevant. The important thing is some set of conjugations is selected to indicate the habitual present. Rashi's point then is The verese's meaning is a habitual present. Don't pay too much attention to the conjugations used (that is don't read things into them) since the habitual present intrinsically refers to past, present and future. It is simply the custom of Biblical Hebrew to indicate the habitual present using these conjugations. In actuality as can be seen from other verses, Biblical Hebrew allows several conjugations to indicate the habitual present.
Secondly: We should cite Rashi's literal text: ...This (roll) is translated by the aramaic translation as ... since it is future. However as I showed above the sentence until flocks are gathered, and then roll the stone, water the flock and return the stone is a habitual present. Thus I interpret Rashi's comment to mean This (roll) is translated by the aramaic as a future conjugation (the Hebrew uses a past conjugation with a prefix vav) since the actual text is spoken in the habitual present which equally refers to the past present and future.
In summary: Each language has its own conjugational methods of dealing with a conditional or habitual present. In todays verse we have seen the past conjugation with a prefix vav. However, there are other Biblical verses where other conjugations are used. The actual conjugations used are not that important; what is important is to understand the verses as a habitual present.
Advanced Rashi: This Rashi could have also been classified under the Format-Bullet/Paragraph method. The analysis would have been the same. The Rashi text emphasizes that the verse I have not brought torn animals to you refers to wolf/lion attacks. Rashi infers this either from the alignment or from paragraph structures which suggests a distinctness to each paragraph phrase. Hence Rashi does not see torn as miscarriage or personal consumption but sees it as something new, animal damage. We have assisted in understanding the Rashi by formatting the two verses has having 4 stanzas.
The table below presents two contradictory verses. Both verses speak about Jacob's wedding night The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse says And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter. ...And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in to her. while the other verse states And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah; and he said to Laban, What is this that you have done to me? did not I serve with you for Rachel? why then have you deceived me? We see the contradiction---Was Jacob double crossed by day or night? Rashi simply resolves this using the 2 Aspects method: Jacob wanted Rachel. Rachel knew how Jacob liked to be flirted with. She shared his flirting preferences with Leah. When Jacob married Leah he thought he was marrying someone who understood his physical needs. But in the morning Leah resumed to her old self and it was only then that Jacob understood he was double-crossed.
Advanced Rashi: This is a beautiful example of refutation of a flippant reading of Rashi. Rashi literally says: Rachel did not want her sister Leah to be embarassed. Jacob had personal signs with Rachel since he expected to be double-crossed. But Rachel gave these signs to Leah. Notice that Rashi already leaves out the more explicit statements, found in some midrashim, that Rachel hid under the marital bed so that Jacob should think he was relating to Rachel.
From a conceptual point of view I am interpreting the Rashi comment Rachel gave Leah the personal signs she and Jacob had agreed on to mean that Rachel shared highly personal preferences of Jacob in flirting. I would similarly interpret the phrase found in other midrashim Rachel hid under the bed to mean Rachel shared personal flirting signs with Leah.
From a content point of view I don't see any religious value in interpreting this Midrash literally. Does it enhance our admiration of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs that they swapped identities in marital bedrooms? Surely not. For this reason I think the straightforward social interpretation I have given is superior.
Men and women view physical relations differently. Men are more biological while women are more personal. Men are more likely to select a spouse based on physical items like flirting. At early stages of their life this is important to them(or more important then it should be). Women sometimes belittle this need of men and play games with men. It doesn't have to be as extreme as the Rachel-Leah case. If people think that two people belong together they may give instruction to each other on how to flirt with specific men to facilitate marriage. As is clear from the Jacob-Rachel-Leah story such attempts, however noble their intention, do not always work. Rather the social area requires special emphasis on equality of sensitivity in all areas.
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.
Hence the Rashis on the above paragraph: The opening and closing theme are God standing by Jacob and not deserting him. This theme is developed by the five details which in turn are perceived as illustrative not exhaustive. As a consequence of the paragraph structure we connect the theme with its details: I God am standing by you and will not desert you until you return and have Israel, and you fill the land and all nations are blessed in you.
Advanced Rashi: Rashi literally says I God am standing over you to watch you. But I would argue that watching you is only one of the five items promised Jacob. Therefore I enlarged Rashi's comment to include all other four items. God was telling Jacob that he would watch him until all 5 promises were met.
We formerly classified 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 above the formatting rule governs use of sequence to indicate climax and paragraph sequencing.
Advanced Rashi: As is our custom with database Rashis we have enriched the Rashi comment with further detail. The above database shows that God and righteous people never use the phrase God of X during X's lifetime. However as the last 3 examples show non-Jews do not adhere to this rule (Probably because they are not worried about sin). This is a novelty not found in Rashi.
Verse Gn31-15 discussing Jacob's plan to desert his father-in-law states Are we not counted by him as strangers? for he has sold us, and has quite devoured also our money Rashi explains the underlined phrase for he has sold us, by filling in with real-world background: In most marriages the father of the bride provides a monetary dowry to help get the couple started. But in Jacob's marriage the exact opposite happened: Jacob had to pay his father-in-law, by working for him for 7 years. Hence the Biblical phrase he sold us.
This week's parshah contains no examples of the symbolism Rashi method. Visit the RashiYomi website at http://www.Rashiyomi.com for further details and examples.