(C) July 2006, RashiYomi Incorporated
Lesson 6 of 6
OTHER VERSES - further details - REVIEW
In this last lesson we quickly review on example from each
of the major Rashi methods. We also lightly introduce the Symbolism
method which we have not yet covered. Finally we make a correction to a
previously learned Rashi which was incorrectly classified.
Example 2.6a: We first review the Other Verse method.
Verse Ex19-15b states
And he said to the people, Be ready by the third day;
do not come near a woman.
Rashi clarifies the meaning and purpose of the underlined words
do not come near a woman
by citing a nearby verse Ex19-22c which states
And let the priests also, who come near the Lord,
make themselves holy, lest the Lord break forth upon them.
Rashi infers that do not come near a woman is for
the purpose of making oneself holy and ritually pure.
In other words the Torah was supposed to be received in a state
of ritual impurity and hence the both the people and priests
were suppose to abstain from items (such as marital relations)
which conferred ritual impurity.
Here Rashi provided commentary for one verse by citing
an other verse.
Example 2.6b: We again illustrate the Other Verse method.
Verse Ex19-24b states
And the Lord said to him, Go,
get you [Moses] down, and you shall come up,
you, and Aaron with you; but let not the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break forth upon them.
This verse appears to group Moses and Aaron together. This
is clarified by an Other verse, Ex24-01:02
And he said to Moses, Come up to the Lord, you, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship from far away.
And Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but they shall not come near; nor shall the people go up with him.
From the juxtaposition of these two verses we infer the
...Moses came closest, Aaron came but was more distant,
....but the people did not come up at all
WORD MEANINGS - metonymy(FFF) - REVIEW
We next review the Word meaning methods.
Verse Ex18-18c states
You will certainly wear away, both you, and this people who are with you; for this thing is
too heavy for you; you are not able to perform it yourself alone.
Rashi explains the underlined word too heavy as
equivalent to the English burdensome. Here
Rashi uses the Form-Function-Feel principle.
A burdensome activity feels like a heavy
object. It is difficult to proceed.
Another way of explaining this Rashi is by using
the synecdoche principle---naming the whole
by the part. Here we name the whole
class of burdensome items by an exemplary
member of that class, the heavy item.
GRAMMAR - root conjugations - REVIEW
Example 12.6a: Next we review the GRAMMAR - conjugation principle.
Today we review the rules for conjugating conditional sentences.
Verse Ex18-16a literally translated states
When they will have a matter, they came to me; and I judge between one and another, and I make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.
Rashi in his commentary suggests the following translation of this verse:
When they have a matter, they come to me; and I judge between one and another, and I make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.
Here Rashi interprets the future conjugation,
when they will have a matter, and past
conjugation they came to me, as indicating
a conditional sentence, that is, a sentence of
the form, when such and such happens then such and such.
In other words, Biblical Hebrew indicates a conditional sentence
using a future and past conjugation. Modern English would
indicate a conditional sentence using two present conjugations.
When they have a matter, they come to me; and I judge between one and another, and I make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.
We should not perceive this Rashi as interpreting
individual words. Rather Rashi is interpreting and identifying
the sentence type, as a conditional sentence of the form
when...then.... To best understand this Rashi
we provided an English translation of the entire sentence.
Notice in this example how Rashi can equally be understood in English
or Hebrew since the grammatical point he is making---the conjugations of
the conditional sentence---are common to both languages.
Acknowledgement is given to the older of my two younger sisters
for many useful dialogues on applications of English grammar to
Example 12.6b: Another Rashi using the Grammar method occurs at
Ex18-22a which states
And let them judge the people at all seasons; and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they shall judge; so it shall be easier for yourself, and they shall bear the burden with you.
Here the English translation, let them judge already reflects
Rashi's comment. The technical conjugation used in the Biblical text
---the prefix letter Vav followed by the past conjugation---
is normally translated as meaning the future, And they will
judge. However Rashi explains that on this occasion,
the prefix letter Vav followed by the past conjugation, is
translated as a command, let them judge or and they should
Example 12.6c: We complete this review of the Grammar method with a Rashi
that has philosophical implications. Although many of our other examples
could be fully understood in English, this Rashi requires technical knowledge
of Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew grammar knows two methods for
- indicating the
Rashi held that there was a
- the past conjugation and
- the prefix letter vav followed by a future conjugation.
- difference in meaning between these two methods.
- The prefix vav followed by the future conjugation means the simple past--for example I walked
- The past conjugation itself means the past perfect, I had walked.
Consequently Rashi translates Ex24-01a as follows
And God had already said to Moses, Come up to the Lord, you, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship from far away.
Because of this translation--had already said Rashi comments
This chapter--the request for Moses to go up to Mount Sinai---was said prior to the receipt of the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai.
Traditional commentators normally see this Rashi comment as philosophical
in nature. The philosophical issue is whether Biblical narrative is
chronological or subject to a different ordering. As can be seen from
the above analysis Rashi does not believe Biblical narrative is chronological since the request for Moses to ascend to Mount Sinai in
Ex24-01 was stated after the receipt of the Decalogue on Mount
Sinai in Biblical chapter Ex20. However Rashi's belief is not
philosophical. Rather Rashi's belief is based on a very technical rule
of Biblical grammar.
In connection with the above I would quote the Rabbi from whom I learned the most about Biblical commentary, the Rav, Rabbi Joseph Baer Solveitchick,
who advised us in his lectures It is preferable to infer commentary from the placid waters of grammar rather then from the stormy waters of philosophy.
Finally I point out that if we had more time in this class I would go through a variety of Biblical texts where Rashi consistently interprets the past conjugation as meaning the past perfect. Such a set of examples would reinforce our belief that Rashi is using this grammatical principle in his commentary.
ALIGNMENT - nuances - REVIEW
We next review the alignment rule. Verse Ex19-03c,d
when aligned reads
And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, Thus shall you
- say to the house of Jacob,
- and tell the sons of Israel;
Normally the phrase sons of Israel refers to both
men and women. However because of the alignment Rashi comments
- The nuances of the alignment suggest two groups were addressed
- House of Jacob refers to the women (the house)
- sons of Israel refers to the men
- The aligned verbs suggest two manners of teaching were used:
- The women were spoken to while
- The men were told
- Rashi explains the nuance differences between
spoke and tell
- speak is conversational and softer
- Tell is apodictic and harder
As we have noted several times, each Rashi method, while intrinsic
to the text, and while reflecting the simple meaning of the text,
nevertheless, has its own flavor. The alignment principle
has a nuance flavor. The comment is there but only hinted at.
CONTRADICTION - 2 aspects
Next we review the contradiction method.
the contradiction in the following two verses.
- Ex20-19c states
And the Lord said to Moses, Thus you shall say to the people of Israel, You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
- Ex19-20 states
And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mount; and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.
We see the contradiction. Which is it? Did God speak from
or from earth (Mount Sinai)?
Rashi resolves this contradiction
using the two aspects method.
- God's prophetic voice came from heaven
- God's fire came from earth.
The classical support for this Rashi distinction is an explicit
statement in verse Dt04-36 which states
- From heaven he made you hear his voice, that he might instruct you;
- and upon earth he showed you his great fire; and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire.
However, in class, one of my students pointed out that the
nearby verse, Ex20-15
And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the sound of the shofar, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they were shaken, and stood far away,
also resolves this contradiction, since it clearly identifies the descent on Mount Sinai to be identified with the thunder and lightning.
As indicated in the Introductory section some Rashi commentators
research Rashi's choice of wording and examples. In this monograph we see our goals as more modest---the clarification of which reproducible skill competencies would consistently produce Rashi comments. This goal is consistent with finding alternate sources for Rashi comments and encourages creativity and research in students. (Frequently however, Rashi did have a reason for choosing one example over another and the research done by other Rashi commentators is worthwhile to review).
STYLE - general-detail-general
Next we review the style method.
We previously introduced the General-Detail style, a typical
example being, she desecrates her marriage by
committing adultery. Today we introduce the General-Detail-General style. The standard interpretation of this style, explicitly
mentioned in the Rabbi Ishmael guidelines which are part of our daily
prayers, is that in a general-detail-general unit we interpret
the details broadly by generalizing them.
We supplement the Rabbi Ishmael guideline rule with a model
explaining why this rule applies. We model
and think of the general-detail-general
unit as a paragraph. The General element corresponds to the
paragraph theme; the detail element corresponds to the
paragraph detail. If you saw a paragraph with a theme
and details you would immediately regard the details, not
as the only details, but rather as examples of the general
theme. You would see the paragraph as a whole communicating to you
the idea of the theme sentence which is exemplified by the
detail sentences which develop the theme sentence.
Consequently you would interpret these details broadly. You
would generalize them to similar examples that illustrate the paragraph
By providing the model of a paragraph with a theme-topic sentence developed by detail sentences I have enabled you to understand
the naturality in generalizing the detail sentences so as to reflect similar examples illustrating the theme sentence. This paragraph model is presented in my paper Biblical Formatting which will appear in the Journal, The Jewish Bible Quarterly at the end of 2006 or the beginning of 2007.
We now proceed to examples. The paragraph unit
- Listen now to my voice, I will give you counsel, and
God shall be with you;
- Represent the people before God, that
- you may bring the causes to God;
- And you shall teach them ordinances and laws,
- and shall show them the way where they must walk, and the work that they must do.
- And you shall choose out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and
- place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens;
- And let them judge the people at all seasons; and it shall be,
- that every great matter they shall bring to you,
- but every small matter they shall judge;
- so it shall be easier for yourself, and they shall bear the burden with you.
- If you shall do this thing, and God command you so, then you shall be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.
We have formatted the verses to reflect the paragraph nature
with an underlined general-theme of seeking God's approval and
specific details on asking God to allow Moses to delegate his
authority to a hierarchy of Judges.Rashi's comment is remarkably simple
Jethro did not just give his advice of delegation of judicial authority but rather part of his advice was the request that Moses seek approval of his delegation idea from God.
Rashi inferred this from the theme-detail-theme nature of the paragraph.
We can make two comments on the above Rashi: First, Rashi did not use the full force of the Rabbi Ishmael rules: Rashi did not generalize the details (though he (or we) could have). Rashi is content with observing that the entire unit of advice forms a paragraph whose theme sentence is that Moses should seek approval of the advice from God.
Second we can explain why Jethro insisted that God approve of his idea. Jethro was well aware that Moses was not just a leader but a prophetic leader. To accuse Moses of improper organization was to accuse God of improper organization. Furthermore there was risk: Could Moses, who was a prophet, find trustworthy people that he could delegate judicial authority to? Because of these reasons Jethro gave his advice contingent upon God's approval. Jethro's was aware that mistakes would be made if judicial decision making was delegated to a hierarchy. But the alternative would be Moses withering away and Jethro's goal was to avoid this.
FORMAT - climax - REVIEW
We next review the FORMAT-climax principle. Verse
- Ex19-12c states
And you shall set bounds to the people around, saying, Take heed to yourselves,
- that you go not up into the mount,
- or touch its border; whoever touches the mount shall be surely put to death.
- Rashi's comment is remarkably simple
- The people should not up into the mount,
- or even touch its border;
Rashi adds the bold underlined word even to
emphasize the climactic nature of the command: Don't go
to the mountain or even go near its borders. Rashi's
sole goal in this verse is to point out the climactic nature
of the verse components.
DATABASES - patterns - REVIEW
We next review the database principle. Today we ask
the following database query: Find all verses that mention
how God saved us from Egypt. Identify any underlying patterns.
We present the output of the database inquiry below.
The output is not necessarily complete but is sufficient to identify
patterns and explain Rashi comments.
|Verse ||Go out
|Ex13-03 ||Go out || ||Egypt ||SlaveHouse ||
|Ex13-14 ||Go out || ||Egypt || SlaveHouse||
|Ex20-02b ||Go out|| || EgyptLand ||SlaveHouse||
|Dt05-06 ||Go out || EgyptLand ||SlaveHouse||
|Dt06-12a ||Go out ||EgyptLand ||SlaveHouse||
|Dt07-08 ||Go out ||Redeem|| || SlaveHouse|| From Pharoh King of Egypt||
|Dt08-14 || Go out|| EgyptLand ||SlaveHouse||
|Dt13-06b ||Go out ||Redeem ||EgyptLand ||SlaveHouse||
|Dt13-11 ||Go out || || EgyptLand ||SlaveHouse||
The above table immediately exposes
numerous differences which invite comment.
- Notice the extra phrase From Pharoh King of Egypt in verse
Dt07-08. Hence the Rashi comment We weren't just ordinary
slaves. We were slaves that reported directly to the king. The implication
of this Rashi is that even while we were slaves we were treated well
(as far as slaves go). Interestingly Rashi does not make this
comment on Dt07-08.Rather Rashi makes this comment on
Ex20-02b where he cross references Dt07-08.
- Rashi, at Dt06-12a comments on the repeated phrase
house of slaves: The house/place where you were slaves.
In other words Rashi is in effect saying Although you were slaves
your quarters were in the house (rather than in the barn or fields).
Again the implication is that even though we were slaves we had
- Notice the two verses that use the extra word
redeem. Hence the Rashi comment:
If God had only redeemed you--that is paid
the Egyptians money for your release--you would still
owe him a great deal.(How much more so now that God
has performed all these miracles for you and given you
the Torah). Note that this Rashi is the theme
of the Dayaynu song which we sing on Passover.
We could make further comments on the above table.
Frequently Rashi will not explain all aspects of a
database table. Review of other midrashim and
commentaries frequently uncovers additional comments.
Finally we note that a traditional approach
to Rashi is to compare pairs of verses or to
focus on extra words. We believe the above
table approach is superior. The Table
approach in one snapshot summarizes many extra words
and also exposes their frequency. Such a snapshot greatly
enriches and enhances the appreciation of Rashi.
SPREADSHEETS - spreadsheets - REVIEW
We next review the Spreadsheet method. Because the
Spreadsheet method is so complex and involved we only
lightly outline the issues. Biblical chapters
Dt09,Dt10 describe the 120 days Moses spent on Mount
Sinai. A curtailed outline is as follows:
Remember, and forget not, how you provoked the Lord your God to anger in the wilderness;....
1st ascent of 40 days: Receipt of 10 Commandments:
When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I stayed in the mount forty days and forty nights, ...
And the Lord delivered to me two tablets of stone ....
And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone, ...
And the Lord said to me, Arise, get down quickly from here; for your people, which you have brought out of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made themselves a molten image....Furthermore....
2nd Ascent of 40 days: Prayer for Jews:
And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I did not eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which you sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.
2nd Ascent of 40 days: Prayer for Jews:
Thus I fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the Lord had said he would destroy you.
I prayed therefore to the Lord, and said, O Lord God, destroy not your people and your inheritance, ...
3rd Ascent of 40 days: Second Receipt of 10 Commandments:
At that time the Lord said to me, Cut two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to me into the mount,...
3rd Ascent of 40 days: Second Receipt of 10 Commandments:
And I stayed in the mount, as the first time, forty days and forty nights; and the Lord listened to me at that time also, and the Lord would not destroy you.
The basic points Rashi makes can be inferred from
the above outline
- There was a first ascent of 40 days when Moses received the 10
commandment but the people made the Golden Calf
- There was a second ascent of 40 days during which Moses prayed
that God should not destroy the people.
- There was a 3rd ascent of 40 days during which Moses received
the tablets a second time.
Rashi makes these comments in 4 places:
Dt09-18a,Dt09-25a, Dt10-01a, Dt10-10a.
Rashi further makes a computation from Shavuoth
when the 10 commandments were received to Yom Kippur
when the sins of the Jews are forgiven. Interestingly there
are 120 days, 3 sets of 40 days, between these two holidays.
As indicated we could spend longer on these Rashis. Our
contribution to understanding Rashi is the observation that
a Spreadsheet is a convenient clarifying way of organizing the
verses and sequence connected with the Rashi comments.
SYMBOLISM - items
We close today with the introduction of a new Rashi rule,
the Symbolism rule. Most people think of symbolism
as something homiletic imposed on the text by a sermonist. People
do not think of symbols as intrinsic to the text.
Rabbi Hirsch wrote a beautiful 100 page essay, Ground lines
for Jewish symbolism in which he asks the fundamental questions:
- Are we ever obligated to interpret Biblical laws and verses
- If so what criteria compel us to so interpret?
- If we are obligated to interpret symbolically is there a procedure
that must be followed that will give a uniform symbolic meaning to
anyone applying it?
A summary of Rav Hirsch's essay can be found in my paper
Genesis 1 speaks about the creation of Prophecy not the
creation of the world, published in the journal,
B'Or Hatorah, and located on the world wide web at
A brief answer to Rav Hirsch's questions are as follows:
If the Bible identifies a law as symbolic then we are obligated
to interpret it symbolically (for example Shabbath is identified
as symbolic at Ex31-12:17). Similarly if the Bible identifies a law's purpose as reminding
us of ideas then in effect the Bible has declared that law
as symbolic (as in the Tzitzith law at Nu15-37:41). Symbols
are identified by their form, function and linguistic description.
Further rules and guidelines may be found in the above paper.
We could of course spend a whole course on Symbolism. Instead
we present three quick examples.
Example 18.6a: Verse Ex20-22d states
And if you will make me an
altar of stone, you shall not build it of a cut stone; for if you lift up your cutting tool upon it, you have desecrated it.
Rashi makes a perhaps obvious comment based on the function
of the altar and cutting tools.
The function of cutting tools is to destroy while
the function of the altar is to bring atonement and peace
between man and man or between man and God.
Since the functions of the cutting tools and altar contradict
each other the Bible prohibited the use of cutting tools
by the altar as a Symbolic affirmation of the meaning
of the altar.
Rashi makes further moral and philosophical comments. Our modest goal
however was to expose the student to the idea of using function
to identify symbolic meaning. Notice in this Rashi how
the symbolic meaning of the cutting tool is explicitly
presented in the Biblical text itself.
Example 18.6b: Verse Ex20-23a,b states
Neither shall you go up by steps to my altar, that your
nakedness be not exposed there.
The altar ramp should be an incline rather
than steps.The verse explains that if you go
up on steps then you
expose your nakedness to the stone steps and thereby embarrass
them. Here the Bible uses Anthropomorphism the symbolic
identification of human attributes and values on the inanimate.
The idea is that you should be careful not to embarrass stones
by exposing to them your nakedness. This affirms the moral
value that you should not embarrass your fellow human being by
exposing your nakedness.
Again in this verse we have an explicit statement of moral
values justifying Rashi's use of symbolic methods.
I add a more speculative remark not in Rashi. We indicated
above that linguistic descriptions are grounds for
natural symbolic interpretation. In this case the
Hebrew word for steps and for fantasies both come
from the Hebrew root Ayin-Lamed-Hey which means to go
up. Indeed, you go up a staircase by steps and
thoughts that come up in your mind.
A scriptural occurrence of fantasies
occurs at Ez20-32 which states
Your fantasies to be like the non-Jews will not happen.
Perhaps then there is an added symbolism in this verse
When you go up to do altar work do not have fantasies.
Although this observation is speculative (and not in Rashi) it
illustrates the type of insights that can be obtained from uniformly
applying fixed symbolic laws to Biblical verses.
WORD MEANINGS - root
For purposes of completeness we make explicit two rules
covered above but not identified. In Example 5.1 we analyzed
verse Gn48-11d which we have translated
Binding his foal to the vine, and his assís colt to the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his (wife's) lingerie in the blood of grapes;
The explicit rule used is that word meanings can be derived
from the Biblical root of the word studied. In this case the
root seduce applied to garments suggests nightgowns
FORMAT - underline/bold
We originally studied Rashi Ex04-09b in Lesson 2.However
I incorrectly classified the Rashi as using the bullet rule
rather than as using Underline/bold method. The underline/bold
method is fully explained in my article Biblical Formatting
which will appear in the journal, the Jewish Bible Quarterly
in December of 2006 of early 2007.
Here is a brief explanation of the rule. It is well known
that a modern author might underline or bold or italicize a word
to indicate unspecified emphasis. This emphasis is considered intrinsic
to the simple meaning of the text. The emphasis indicated by a bold is
considered the author's intention. The Bible did not use bold or underline.
However instead it repeated words. The simple rule is that a repeated
Biblical word would be rendered in modern notation as a bold
or underline. It would therefore imply emphasis. We give a simple
Verse Ex04-09b: states
And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, nor listen to your voice, that
- you shall take of the water of the river;
- and pour it upon the dry land;
- and the water which you take from the river shall become blood upon the dry land.
Rashi paraphrased states as follows
Notice the repeated word water. This implies
- Moses took water from the river,
- poured the water from his hand
- When it pilled on the dry land it become blood
The repeated word water shows that the water
did not turn to blood in Moses' hand but rather when it hit the ground.
Here Rashi uses the repeated keyword, water to indicate
an emphasis that it was still water, and it only turned to
blood after it reached the dry land. This magnifies the miracle--the
water did not turn to blood in the Nile from some algae; furthermore,
Moses who performed the miracle did not have to get his hands stained
APPENDIX FOR TEACHING RASHI TO YOUNG CHILDREN
I have successfully taught children ages 5-12 advanced Rashi
using the methods of this monograph. I spent over 2 years teaching
young children and I assure all parents and teachers that teaching
advanced Rashi methods to young children can be done.
This appendix assumes an adult, say a parent or teacher, has
read this monograph. The purpose of this appendix is to give tips
that would enable exposure of these ideas to young children.
A basic idea advocated in this monograph is using visual
formatting to understand Rashi. Consequently in teaching Rashi
to children who can read Hebrew (or English) the teacher can guide
the student to Rashi discovery by requesting visual formatting from
the student. A second useful tip is to provide examples to help
the young children in making generalizations.
Here are some simple ideas.
- In using the other verse method a teacher can present
both verses to the student and ask them to make an inference. Thus
in example 2.1a the student can be presented with Dt26-05
and Gn46-27 and asked to numerically identify the meaning of
- In presenting any alignment or bullet the children can be encouraged
(with appropriate prompts) to visually align the verses.
Examples of verses where children can visually format are provided
in Example 9.2 The students can be taught to write clauses
beginning with keywords like to,that,from under on separate
lines. The Rashi can then be explained easily.
- Similarly all contradictions can be taught by presenting
the two contradictory verses to the children (perhaps underlining
key words) and requesting that the children identify the
- The WORD MEANING - synonym and WORD MEANING - noun-verb
methods can be taught to children with good vocabularies. For example
most even young children can identify the difference between
a pot and frying pan (Example 6.2a). Most children
love to coin terms and can successfully coin terms like to ash the
barbeque or to insectify allot of children (Example 3.2,
- Although the Database method is too complicated for
children, nevertheless they can be asked to format in table form
a collection of verses such as is done in Example 14.6b. They
can also be asked to identify anomalies like the one time occurrence
of Pharoh or the two time occurrence of Redeem. In this
way the child actively participates in the Rashi explanation.
- Similarly although most children do not yet have a full command
of Grammar they nevertheless can recognize grammatical forms.
Thus a child can successfully recognize when to use the simple past
(e.g. I ate) vs. the past perfect (e.g. I had eaten).
- The above ideas should give a brief introduction of how to adapt
the material of this monograph for young children. As always I am
available for free consultation and have many years of experience
using guided discovery methods on children (Contact