A few months ago, I stalled on Genesis 24: it was too complex a chapter to comment on and instead of commenting, I found other things to write about until real life caught up with me. I’m determined to continue, so let’s start at the beginning.
Genesis 24 begins with a very odd oath. Abraham is too old to go off to find his son a wife on his own, so he sends his faithful servant to do it. But before he leaves, he asks his servant to “put […] thy hand under my thigh. And I will make the swear by the Lord” (Genesis 24:2). Why does this swearing on a thigh come from and what does the bible have to say about it? Sounds like a great topic to dig into a little more! (Hint: It may involve testicles.)
Continue reading Abraham’s Oath Upon his Thigh
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!
Continue reading Marriage in the Bible – Part 5: The Virgin Test
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.
Continue reading Rashi on Noach
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