Category Archives: Rashi

Marriage in the Bible – Part 5: The Virgin Test

In biblical times, as in many cultures, virginity was important. A man liked to know that his new wife (which he may have paid a pretty penny for) was wholesome and pure. Of course, if he paid for her– either in shekels or blood– a lack of virginity was tantamount to false advertising. But then as now, there were people of looser moral character, who might claim that a virgin was not, to “get his money back”. Fortunately the bride and her father need only turn to the bible for a solution to their problem: the virgin test.

This is day five of my “marriage in the Torah” series. If you are just joining me, the days so far are about the creation story, marrying your brother’s widow, polygamy, and the bride price. I had planned on posting about divorce on Friday, but it was depressing. Virginity is more fun, anyway, and I’ll loop back around to divorce shortly.

So, how does biblical law ensure the fairness of virgin brides? Read on!

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Rashi on Lech-Lecha

For those new to my blog, I am closing each portion with some observations I make as I read Rashi’s commentary on the portion. While I cannot properly summarize, or probably even understand, some of the subtle theological and traditional points he makes, there are many observations and stories that I can relate. Many of them are serious. Some of them I find quite funny!

Unlike modern textual criticism, Rashi was coming at the text with the belief that it was perfect. Every word and punctuation mark was critical, and the text had to be considered in the light that adding or removing any word would have to change the meaning. As so Rashi sometimes concocts fanciful explanations why a specific word means a specific thing. These don’t appear to be the minimal explanations – he was no fan of Occam’s Razor – and he is pulling some of these stories and legends from other traditional sources.

Here’s an example:  one of the kings that Abram tussles with is King Shember, the king of the Zeboiim. Rashi tells that Shember was a biblical Icarus; he built a set of artificial wings which he wore that allowed him to fly.

Lots more after the break…

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Rashi on Noach

Oh boy, am I behind. Can I at least use the excuse that I just got married? Of course not! But I will anyway. Right now, I am several weeks behind. In the Weekly Torah Portions, we are now up to the death of Abraham, while my postings are only now at the beginning of the Abraham story. But, before I can write about that, I will do my summary of some of Rashi’s thoughts that I felt were interesting on the Noach portion.

Like in the previous portion, I’m not going to comment on the lion’s share of Rashi’s comments where they are illuminating a particular passage, but rather pull out some of the particularly interesting items of commentary that either aren’t at all how my reading went, or alternatively are things I simply found interesting or profound. More the former than the latter as I suspect that I am not yet capable of understanding some of the profound commentaries.

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Rashi on Bereishit

Part of the my project for the year isn’t just to make my own commentary as I reread the Torah, but also to find some commentary from others and try and read and understand that. And in the Jewish theological world, one of the key voices was “Rashi”, otherwise known as Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki. Rabbi Yitzhaki lived in the 11th and early 12th century and wrote comprehensive commentary on the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud. I’ve picked up a copy (in English, with explanations) of Rashi’s commentary on the Torah and will be following along with him as I read. Sometimes, I’ll try and post something about it.

If you are following the calendar, you’ll notice that I’m already behind. It’s week two and I should be writing something about Noach, but I’m not quite in the swing of things yet so please forgive me.

I’m not going to claim to follow Rashi’s deeper explanations of the text and there is so much that he talks about that I don’t really have the context to describe properly. Although I fear it reduces his work to the least common denominator, I’ve pulled out some things that either he discusses or comments on from the text. Some of it is very weird. As I understand it, Rashi postulated that the Torah was perfect and, as such, it states in the fewest number of words necessary to make the desired point. In places where it appears to use more words than necessary, that is because there is deeper meaning to the repetition that must be pulled out. The corollary is that if the Bible says something, it is important, no matter how trivial it may seem. Much of his commentary (to me) appears to be fully utilizing the words that are available to draw conclusions of meaning that we may not ourselves make.

Continue reading Rashi on Bereishit