Most people are aware that Hebrew verbs
come from three-letter roots. Each root is
conjugated in the 8 dimensions of
person, gender,plurality, tense, activity,
modality, direct-object, and prepositional connective. For example
the root Shin Mem Resh means to watch.
The conjugations Shin-Mem-Resh-Tauv-Yud
and Nun-Shin-Mem-Resh-Nun-Vav mean
I watched and we were watched respectively.
The rules for Hebrew grammar are carefully described
in many modern books and are well known. Rashi will sometimes comment when a verse is using a rare conjugation
of an odd grammatical form.
When presenting grammatical Rashis my favorite
reference is the appendix in volume 5 of the Ibn Shoshan
dictionary. This very short appendix lists most
the 7th plague, hail,
So there was hail, and fire pulsating amidst the hail,
very grievous, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.
Rashi translates the Biblical word
as coming from the Biblical root
to take, a motion of moving your hand forward and then backward.
We have conveniently embedded the Rashi translation in the
translation of the verse. The conjugation rule governing this Biblical
word may be found by using tables
in the Ibn Shoshan dictionary for the interactive mode (HiTPael).
In the interactive (Hitpael) mode, this root means pulsating, a to and fro
motion that interacts with other forces making it move.
To understand this recall there was hail coming down. The hail put out the fires. So
The fires moved forward and expanded, but then were hit by the hail which put
out the expanded fires, so that the fires appeared to interact with the
hail and move back to their original position.
Advanced Rashi: The full understanding of this Rashi requires
three Rashi rules: Rule #2, meaning teaches us that take can also mean
the motion form of taking namely, a to and fro motion;Rule #3, grammar
teaches us that the hitpael means interaction in this case referring to the interaction
of the hail and fire; finally Rule #5, contradiction deals with the mechanics of the
fact that hail and fire, elements that normally cancel each other out, co-existed to destroy Egypt.