The 10 RashiYomi Rules
Their presence in Rashis on Parshat TaZRiAh
Volume 14, Number 10
Used in the monthly Rashi-is-Simple and the Daily Rashi.
Visit the RashiYomi website:
(c) RashiYomi Incorporated, Dr. Hendel, President,
Apr 15, 2010

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 Lv13-43a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: LIKE THE APPEARANCE OF SKIN LEPROSY (Lv13-43) refers to the symptoms of skin leprosy mentioned in Lv13-02

Verse Lv13-43a discussing the appearance of certain head leprosies states Then the priest shall look upon it; and, behold, if the swelling of the sore is white reddish in his bald head, or in his bald forehead, as the appearance of skin leprosy Rashi clarifies the underlined word as the appearance of skin leprosy by referencing verse Lv13-02 which states When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a swelling, a scab, or bright spot, and it is on the skin of his flesh like the disease of leprosy; then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of his sons the priests; Hence the Rashi comment: The reference to appearance like skin leprosy in Lv13-43a refers to the skin leprosy symptoms mentioned in the chapter on skin leprosy beginning with Lv13-02.

Text of Target verse Lv13-43a Text of Reference Verse Lv13-02
Then the priest shall look upon it; and, behold, if the swelling of the sore is white reddish in his bald head, or in his bald forehead, as the appearance of skin leprosy When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a swelling, a scab, or bright spot, and it is on the skin of his flesh like the disease of leprosy; then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of his sons the priests
Rashi comments: The reference to appearance like skin leprosy in Lv13-43a refers to the skin leprosy symptoms mentioned in the chapter on skin leprosy beginning with Lv13-02.

    Advanced Rashi: Rashi can be better appreciated by examining competing references.
    • Verse Lv13-02 begins the chapter on skin leprosy
    • Verse Lv13-08 begins the chapters on burn leprosy
    • Verse Lv13-29 begins the chapter on non-bald-head leprosy
    Each of these leprosies - skin, burn, head - has different examination periods and different leprosy signs. Hence the more detailed Rashi comment on verse Lv13-43a: Skin leprosy has a) 4 shades of white and b) a waiting period of 2 weeks before declaring a final status as a definite lepor. By contrast burn leprosy has a 1 week waiting period while b) non-bald-head leprosy does not have 4 shades that initiate the investigation. This alternate approach to Rashi uses the database method and was discussed in Rule #8, Databases in previous years.

      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 Lv13-55b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: TURN ITS APPEARANCE = fade

    An idiom is a collection of words which means more than the sum of the meanings of each of the phrases' individual words. Verse Lv13-55b discussing appareil leprosy states And the priest shall look, after that the plague is washed; and, behold, if the plague has not changed its appearance [faded], and the plague be not spread, it is unclean; thou shalt burn it in the fire; it is a fret, whether the bareness be within or without. Rashi explains: The phrase(s) changed its appearance is an idiom meaning faded. As can be seen from the underlined words the Rashi comment is compactly and explicitly combined in the translation of the Biblical text.

      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 Lv13-48a, Lv13-52a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: The Hebrew prefixes LAMED and BETH are prepositions They NORMALLY mean TO and IN respectively. However they can have other meanings like OF.

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 deal with the topic of prepositions, words that link nouns (objects) to other parts of the sentence. English is rich with 72 prepositions. By contract Biblical Hebrew only has a few prepositions. These prepositions are normally indicated by prefix letters. Some typical examples are prefix,
  • Lamed - to
  • Mem - from
  • Beth - in
  • Caph - like

However Radack in his famous masterpiece, Roots, explains that each preposition can frequently have any of the traditional prepositional meanings. Radack actually gives examples where Lamed means from while Mem means to. Readers, interested in pursuing this further, are welcome to visit the Rashiyomi grammar page at By scrolling down to the preposition section and clicking on the appropriate links one can find many examples of prepositions with multiple meanings. For example, the page hosts examples where to (in Biblical Hebrew) can mean with, on, for.

In verses Lv13-48a, Lv13-52a Rashi translates both the prefix Beth and Lamed (occuring in two verses) as meaning of (This is indicated by the underlined words.) (When there is leprosy in a garment...or in the warp, or in the woof, whether they be of linen, or of wool; or in a skin, or in any thing made of skin. ... And he shall burn the garment, or the warp, or the woof, whether it be of wool or of linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is; for it is a malignant leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire.

Advanced Rashi: Since it is now the time of the counting of the Omer we point out that this comment of the Radack has legal implications. Although there is controversy whether we say "Today is 17 days in Beth the Omer count" vs. "Today is 17 days towards Lamed the Omer count, either formulation is adequate since the meanings of the underlying prepositions can vary.

    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 Lv13-54a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: The washing of the leprous garment was not done to the ENTIRE GARMENT nor to the LEPROUS SPOT but rather to the SPOT and VICINITY.

The table below presents an aligned extract of verses or verselets in Lv13-47:59 Both verses/verselets discuss the leprous-garment procedures. The alignment justifies the Rashi comment that: The washing procedure is neither done to the entire garment nor to the leprous spot but rather is done to that where the disease is that is to the leprous spot and its surroundings.

Verse Text of Verse Rashi comment
  • And he shall look on the disease on the seventh day; if the disease has spread over the
    • garment, either in the
    • warp, or in the
    • woof, or in a
    • skin, or in any work that is made of
    • skin;
    the disease is a malignant leprosy; it is unclean.
  • He shall therefore burn that
    • garment, whether
    • warp or
    • woof, in woollen or in linen, or any thing of
    • skin,
    where the disease is; for it is a malignant leprosy; it shall be burned in the fire.
The washing procedure is neither done to the entire garment nor to the leprous spot but rather is done to that where the disease is that is to the leprous spot and its surroundings.
Lv13-54 Then the priest shall command them to wash that where the leprous spot is, and he shall shut it up seven days more;

Advanced Rashi: We can expand on the interpretation of this Rashi. The paragraph cited above uses the phrase garment, warp, woof, or skin about half a dozen times. But when it comes to washing this phrase is not used! Rather it refers to washing that where the leprous spot is. It is this aligned contrast which drives the Rashi comment. We could have also approached the interpretation of this Rashi comment using the Rule #8, Databases, which would require a complete citation of all half dozen occurrences.

      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 Lv13-54b
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: For lepored clothes: Wash the leprous spot and its surroundings.

    The table below presents presents two contradictory sets of verses. Both verse sets talk about washing leprous garments. The underlined words highlight the contradiction. One verse set says wash that which has the afflicted spot while the other verse says after washing the afflicted spot. Which is it? Do you only wash the leprous afflicted spot itself; or do you wash that which has the afflicted spot implying more of the garment? Rashi simply resolves this using the 2 aspects method:
    • You certainly wash the leprous afflicted spot itself.
    • You also wash the immediately surrounding parts of the leprous afflicted spot.
    • But you don't wash the entire garment.

Summary Verse / Source Text of verse / Source
You wash more than the afflicted spot Lv13-54b Then the priest shall command them to wash that which has the afflicted spot, and he shall shut it up seven days more;
Only, or mainly, wash the afflicted spot. Lv13-55 And the priest shall look on the ... afflicted spot, after it was washed ...;
Resolution: 2 Aspects:
  • You certainly wash the leprous afflicted spot itself, because it says after washing the afflicted spot,
  • You also wash the immediately surrounding parts of the leprous afflicted spot, because it says wash...that which has the afflicted spot implying more than the affliction itself
  • But you don't wash the entire garment, because it says wash the afflicted spot.

Advanced Rashi: Here is another way to view this Rashi: Two verses state wash the afflicted spot and wash that which has the afflicted spot. The verse wash the afflicted spot implies only the afflicted spot. The verse wash that which has the afflicted spot implies washing more than the afflicted spot. The two verses together are harmonized by washing the afflicted spot and its immediately surrounding parts but not more.

    Rashi examines how rules of style influences inferences between general and detail statements in paragraphs.
    • Example: Every solo example stated by the Bible must be broadly generalized;
    • Theme-Detail: A general principle followed by an example is interpreted restrictively---the general theme statement only applies in the case of the example;
    • Theme-Detail-Theme: A Theme-Detail-Theme unit is interpreted as a paragraph. Consequently the details of the paragraph are generalized so that they are seen as illustrative of the theme.
    This examples applies to Rashis Lv14-09a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Shave BEARD and EYEBROW hair - that is, hair that is DENSE and VISIBLE.

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.

    Biblical verse Lv14-09 discussing the purification procedure of the lepor is written in a Theme-Detailed-Theme style. This verse states But it shall be on the seventh day,
    • Theme: that he shall shave all his hair off
    • Detail:
      • his head and
      • his beard
      • and his eyebrows,
    • Theme: all his hair he shall shave off; and he shall wash his clothes, also he shall wash his flesh in water, and he shall be clean.

Rashi generalizes the detail clause head, beard, eyebrows as illustrative of the general clause, all his hair and states: hair that is dense and visible. We believe this comment evident and consistent with the Rabbi Ishmael style guidelines.

    A more detailed analysis of the categories associated with this Rashi analysis is as follows: Beard, head, eyebrows have hair that is dense and visible. So only dense, visible here is shaven. This excludes
  • arm-hair, which is visible but not dense,
  • armpit-hair, which is not visible but dense
  • nose-hair, which is not visible and not dense.

Advanced Rashi: If you look carefully at the verse above you will see that the word all is bolded. The word all always requires generalization. Hence the additional Rashi comment: The actual law requires shaving the arm and armpit hair. In other words all hair is shaven except the nose-hair which is neither visible nor dense.

My contribution to this Rashi is to see the derivation as emanating from two Rashi methods: The theme-detail-theme method and the special word- all method.

Alternate derivations of the final law - dense and visible are given by Rambam and Raavad (in the laws of Leprosy) who do not use the exegesis from the word all.

      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 Lv14-48a
      URL Reference: (c)
      Brief Summary: PARAGRAPH 1 (Lv14-38) Close house 7 days PARAGRAPH 2a (Lv14-43,44) 2nd examination (2nd week) return of plague PARAGRAPH 2b (Lv14-48a) 2nd Examination (2nd week) no return of plague

The Formatting principle includes exegetical Rashi comments focusing on paragraph structure. That is, the parts of a paragraph when properly sequenced naturally suggest commentary. This type of commentary, emanating from structure, is different from commentary from word meaning, grammatical function or verse comparison. Todays example nicely illustrates this.

    Verses Lv14-33:48 discussing the laws of house leprosy has a natural paragraph structure which we have presented below in bullet format. Comments about each paragraph are indicated with bold headers.
  • Time 0, Initial Inspection: And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, When you come to the land of Canaan...and I put the disease of leprosy in a house ... And the house owner shall come and tell the priest, saying, It seems to me there is a disease... Then the priest shall command ... And he shall look on the disease, and, behold, if the disease is in the walls Then the priest shall go out of the house to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven days;
  • Time 7, 2nd inspection: And the priest shall come again the seventh day, and shall look; and, behold, if the disease has spread over the walls of the house; Then the priest shall command that .. And he shall cause the house to be scraped And they shall take other stones, and put them in the place of those stones;
  • Time 14?, 3rd inspection
    • Case: Disease spread: And if the disease comes again, and break out in the house, after he has taken away the stones, and after he has scraped the house, and after it is plastered; Then the priest shall come and look, and, behold, if the disease has spread in the house, And he shall break down the house,
    • Case: Disease not spread: And if the priest shall come in, and look upon it, and, behold, the disease has not spread in the house, after the house was plastered; then the priest shall pronounce the house clean, because the disease is healed.

The actual Rashi comment is The case of the disease has not spread simply refers to an alternate outcome at the end of the 2nd week. That is this 3rd inspection either uncovers the disease spreading (in which case the house is destroyed) or else uncovers the disease not spreading (in which case the house is not destroyed). This Rashi comment is obvious from the paragraph structure. We have visually formatted the paragraph to reflect two subcases - disease spread, disease not spread - to the 3rd inspection. However, without the Rashi comment, or without the formatting, the text might appear to be speaking about a 3rd and 4th inspection (that is, each if the priest comes might connote a new inspection.) Rashi however correctly aligns the two contrastive phrases if the priest comes and the plague has spread vs. if the priest comes and the plague has not spread indicating parallel alternatives at the 3rd inspection.

Since the driving force of this Rashi comment comes not from words, grammar, or database comparisons, but rather can best be understood through visual formatting, we have classified this Rashi as belonging to the formatting rule.

    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 Lv14-34a
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: God promised to inflict house leprosy since the requirement of emptying the house of utensils would expose hidden treasures by the Canaanites enriching the owners.

We ask the following database query: What phrases are used to indicate the presence of leprosy? 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-Midrashic inference: The standard introductory phrase describing leprosy presence uses the language template when a person/garment has a leprous plague. However the house plague section is introduced with the unusual When you arrive in the land and I(God) give a house plague. The emphasis in houses on God personally giving the plague is not to emphasize punishment since leprosy on the person or clothes is more serious. Rather, the emphasis in God delivering house plagues is because the required removal of all house contents sets aside time for the revu of house contents, which revu might result in the discovery of hidden treasures, a reasoanble expectation because the prior Canaanite inhabitants probably hid their valuables in the house walls in the hope that they would return and re-acquire them. The list below presents the results of the database query.

Verse Leprosy Type Introductory phrase Standard?
Lv13-01 Personal leprosy When a person has in his skin a... Standard
Lv13-09 Personal Leprosy When a leprous plague is on a person... Standard
Lv13-18 Boil leprosy When flesh has a healing boil and place of the boil has... Standard
Lv13-24 Burn Leprosy When flesh has a burn in the skin and the scab has... Standard
Lv13-29 Head/Beard Leprosy When a person has a plague in his head or beard... Standard
Lv13-47 Garment Leprosy A garment, when it has leprosy.... Standard
Lv14-34 House Leprosy When you come to the land and I give a plague in houses of conquered land.... Non Standard

    9. RASHI METHOD: NonVerse
    BRIEF EXPLANATION: The common denominator of the 3 submethods of the NonVerse 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 examples applies to Rashis Lv14-36b
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: The owner removes utensils from his house prior to the priestly inspection in order to avoid the utensils declared impure. This law shows God cared about petty monetary ownership of even sinners.

Verse Lv15-25 discussing the ritual impurity of houses states And the priest shall command that they empty the house, before the priest goes in to see the plague, that all that is in the house be not made unclean; and afterward the priest shall go in to see the house. Notice how the meaning of the verse and the justifying reason are clear - the house utensils are cleared from the house prior to the priestly inspection since otherwise they would be declared ritually impure and unusable. The question remains why? What non-verse values and goals does the underlying law reflect. Rashi explains: The effect of this law is that household utensils are spared from being declared ritually impure which would render them unusable to the owner. We infer that the Torah values not only life but even the property of Jews; even petty monetary ownership of even sinful Jews.

Because this Rashi introduces values - God's regard for petty monetary ownership - to explain a verse, we have classified it as using a non-verse method.

Advanced Rashi: Rashi continues. ...But if certain utensils were declared impure then an immersion ceremony could purify them making them usable. It follows that the purpose of the law is to protect clay earthenware utensils that have no purification process. I could go further and add:The law also protects the owner against the inconvenience of having to wait a day or two to use his utensils (after a proper ritual immersion). Such Rashis sometimes turn people off as being too technical. The approach of this email list is that Rashi is not exhausting the meaning of the midrash but rather clarifying/illustrating it!!! Rashi never denied that the simple meaning of the text is that the Bible showed care for Jewish property rights. However Rashi clarifies that the application of this idea applies primarily to clay utensils whose purification would require destruction. By viewing the Rashi as illustrative and clarifying vs. as identifying and exhaustive of total meaning we obtain a richer Rashi experience.

    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 Lv14-04c Lv14-04d
    URL Reference: (c)
    Brief Summary: Leprosy = punishment for BIRD like chatter: Atonement: See spectrum of of human personality from the CEDAR=mighty to HYSSOP=lower classes.

Biblical chapter Lv13 discusses the ritual impurity of leprosy. The atonement procedure for this ritual impurity is discussed in Biblical Chapter Lv14.

A full discussion of the rich and beautiful symbolism of leprosy would require applying the objective symbolic methods presented in my article on symbolism. In this weekly digest we simply sketch a few important ideas.

The atonement procedure for the lepor is presented in Lv14 which begins Then shall the priest command to take for him who is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop

    Rashi explains the symbolism of each of the underlined items.
    • birds symbolize bird-like chatterers
    • cedars symbolize lofty mighty people
    • hyssops symbolize the lower classes
    We could justify each of these symbolic associations by citing verses where these symbolisms are present. Instead we lightly sketch how Rashi applies these symbolisms.

Rashi states: Leprosy is a punishment for chattering like a bird which leads to slander, the core of personality sins. The atonement and remedy for slander is an awareness of the rich spectrum of human personality from the lower hyssop-like classes to the mighty cedar like upper classes. Awareness of the full spectrum of human personality prevents a person from slandering people since he understands each individual's behavior based on where they are.

Advanced Rashi:Rashi does not literally state the symbolic interpretation presented above. Rather Rashi states If a person feels high and mighty like a cedar then let him lower himself till he feels like a hyssop.

However I believe that our interpretation of Rashi is consistent with the above literal interpretation: We argued that Rashi is interpreting the symbolism generally: There is a full spectrum of human personality. Rashi literally gives a specific example of this very general idea: If you think you belong on the upper class, the cedar part of the human spectrum, then see those aspects of you that belong to the lower class, the hyssop part of the human spectrum. However Rashi would be fully comfortable to apply the cedar-hyssop spectrum in other ways also. In other words we see the Rashi text as an example of a more general symbolic interpretation.

    In summary the full solution to slander and sinful idle chatter is awareness of the rich spectrum of human personality. There are many ways to apply this awareness to avoid slander. For example if you see a person who behaves like a rif-raf (like a hyssop) then do not slander him - rather find his strong positive attributes, praise him for them until he reclassifies himself among the cedars. The following story of the Jewish expert on slander, the Chafetz Chaim, illustrates this point:
      The Chafetz Chayim saw a certain person cursing and abusing people. In other words he saw the hyssop in the person. Everyone slandered the person and described him as no-good. They committed the sin of bird chatter. The Chafetz Chaim inquired: This person had been in the Russian Army for 25 years since he was a child. The Chafetz Chaim immediately saw the cedar like loftiness of the person. The Chafetz Chaim approached the person and said: They tell me you were in the Russian Army for 25 years and the only effect it had on you is that you drink and curse a little more than most people. You must be some type of saint that it affected you this little. Here the Chafetz Chaim performed the atonement procedure for slander by taking/seeing together in one person the cedar/hyssop the lofty and low. The story has a happy ending - the person of repented. This repentance is in fact symbolized by the ritual purity conferred by the leprosy purification procedure.

Praise be Him who chose them and their learning.


This week's parshah contains examples of all Rashi method. Visit the RashiYomi website at and for further details and examples.