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The Basic Principles of Understanding Rashi

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains Rashi's commentary to the Torah based on quite a large number of general principles. Most of these principles are derived from Rashi himself. For the benefit of those using this site, I am listing the primary rules which Rashi follows. If anyone would like to delve into greater detail - which is recommended - there is a wonderful book written in Hebrew which goes into great detail on this subject. The name of the book is "K'lollei Rashi." It was written by Rabbi Tuviah Blau and published by Kehot Publishing Company. 
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1. Rashi's primary purpose is to explain the entire Torah according to Peshat - the simple meaning of each word. 
 
2. The meaning of Peshat for Rashi's explanation of the Chumash is the simplest possible level. It must be understood even to a complete beginner; even for a five year old child who is just beginning to learn Torah. 
 
3. Whenever Rashi cites more than one explanation, there is a difficulty in each one that the other does not have. However, the first explanation he cites is closer to the simple understanding of the words he is explaining. 
 
4. Even when Rashi quotes a Midrash, it also concerns the simple meaning of the verse. That is why Rashi sometimes says "I don't know" even when there are Midrashic interpretations if they do not fit  Peshat. 
 
5. Every word, and even every letter of Rashi's commentary is precise. Each letter adds to the understanding of Peshat. 
 
6. Rashi explains the entire Torah, and answers every question which could be posed according to Peshat. Therefore, if Rashi refrains from explaining something which appears to be a question, it means that the question is no problem according to the simple meaning. This can be because the young student understands it from his own life experiences, because of something the Torah already said or because Rashi already answered it.  
 
7. Rashi is also particular in the words from the verse, Possuk, that he includes in the heading. He is only explaining those words; no more and no less. 
 
8. Rashi will bring other Pesukkim from the Tanach or from the Sages as a proof to his explanation. The order of the verses cited, the precise words which he cites, and the sources (if any) he gives for Rabbinic teachings all concern the simple meaning of the Possuk.  
 
9. When a teaching is mentioned in more than one source, the source Rashi quotes concerns Peshat. Additionally, Rashi will at time make slight changes in the original source in order to make sure that it corresponds to Peshat. 
 
10. Aside from explaining the simple meaning of each word of the Torah, Rashi also alludes to the innermost part of the Torah. Each Rashi has hidden within it mystical teachings and guides to our service of Hashem. 

MEET OUR TEACHERS

  1. Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn
    Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn
    Rabbi Mendelsohn received rabbinic ordination in 1977 from rhe Central Yeshivah Tomchei Temimim. He is currently the Mashpia of Yeshivah Torah Ohr in North Miami Beach, FL.
  2. Rabino Yochanan Salazar Loewe
    Rabino Yochanan Salazar Loewe
    Rabino Salazar Studied Kashrus, Issur v'Heter and Geirut at Badatz Ha Sephardim. He studied Studied Sofrut, Ktiva and Bedika at Badatz Ha Sphardim. He also studied Studied Issur v' Heter and Sahabbos at Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim. He currently is a Sofer in North Miami Beach, FL.