18 11, 2019

A fascinating new scholarly look at Moses

By |2019-11-18T08:45:02-07:00November 18th, 2019|Thoughts|

Aviva Gottlieb Zornberg is an exceptionally good scholar. In her book Moses, she offers her readers an interesting generally different but thought-provoking look at the life and deeds of the biblical Moses. She approaches the telling of Moses’ history based on Midrash because, as she states, “the biographical challenge is immeasurably enriched by the existence [...]

3 05, 2015

Unusual explanations in Midrashim on Jonah

By |2015-05-03T06:11:47-07:00May 3rd, 2015|Jewish Books|

                                                 Unusual explanations in Midrashim on Jonah   Midrashim, the singular is Midrash, are many books composed over centuries that contain laws as well as a myriad of legends. The name is derived from the Hebrew root d-r-sh, to sermonize and to expound. In the beginning of his book Chelek, Maimonides warns that [...]

29 09, 2014

Three tales with profound lessons

By |2014-10-03T02:09:27-07:00September 29th, 2014|Thoughts|

                                             Three rabbinical tales with profound rational lessons[1]   Maimonides, in his Commentary on the Mishnah, Introduction to Perek Chelek, describes how one should understand rabbinical stories and declares that most people do not deal with rabbinic Midrashim[2] correctly. According to Maimonides, three clusters of people exist, each taking a radically different approach to [...]

2 02, 2014

Tetzaveh – What is Midrash?

By |2014-02-02T07:07:51-07:00February 2nd, 2014|Thoughts|

                                                                             TETZAVEH                                                                (Chapters 27:20–30:1)                                                               Moses’ Name is Missing   This biblical portion Tetzaveh is the only one from Exodus through Deuteronomy that does not contain Moses’s name. Why? And what can we learn from this?   One midrashic[1] suggestion for this unusual occurrence is that it has to do with Moses’ plea [...]

15 09, 2013

A Startling Reevaluation of Three Rabbinical Tales

By |2013-09-15T23:03:27-07:00September 15th, 2013|Thoughts|

By Israel Drazin                                       This essay is adapted from my book Maimonides: The Exceptional Mind.   Maimonides[1] describes how one should understand rabbinical tales and Midrashim,[2] and declares that most people do not deal with rabbinic Midrashim[3] correctly. According to Maimonides, three clusters of people exist, each taking a radically different approach to [...]

3 07, 2013

Rashi: Sermons, commentaries, or both?

By |2013-07-03T09:56:22-07:00July 3rd, 2013|Thoughts|

                                                                                       By Israel Drazin   I described the style of Rashi’s commentary in the past. It is brilliant, but it does not offer readers the plain meaning of the biblical text. Rashi (1040-1105) follows the worldview of the second century Rabbi Akiva: God composed the Torah, God is perfect, and must have written the [...]

25 06, 2013

How should people understand strange midrashic tales?

By |2013-07-01T07:30:41-07:00June 25th, 2013|Thoughts|

                                                                                         By Israel Drazin   The Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 11a, tells a tale that is not even hinted in the Torah. Before enslaving the Israelites, Pharaoh asked Balaam, Job, and Jethro whether it is advisable to do so. Jethro, according to this story, protested, and God rewarded him by having Moses become his son-in-law. Job [...]

25 01, 2013

Unusual Biblical Interpretations 12

By |2013-01-25T09:45:10-07:00January 25th, 2013|Thoughts|

                                                                                By Israel Drazin     We have been offering some controversial and conventional Jewish Bible interpretations by the iconoclast Arnold B. Ehrlich (1848-1919) from his book Mikra Ki-Pheshuto (The Bible According to its Literal Meaning), the Orthodox Jewish thinker Baruch Epstein (1860-1919) from his commentary Torah Temimah (The Perfect Torah), homiletical views [...]

12 07, 2012

What really happened to Cain?

By |2012-07-12T13:39:05-07:00July 12th, 2012|Thoughts|

By Israel Drazin   People think that biblical narratives are clear and easily understandable, and that the explanations of the stories offered in clerical sermons or written in ancient documents such as the Talmud, Midrashim (imaginative elaborations of the Bible), and medieval commentaries are true. Actually neither idea is true. Good literature contains ambiguities and [...]

26 06, 2012

The Secret of the Book of Esther

By |2012-06-26T06:35:23-07:00June 26th, 2012|Thoughts|

                                                                                                                                                             By Israel Drazin   The Book of Esther is one of the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible. Curiously, God is not mentioned in this volume of Scripture and there is no indication that God was involved in any way in helping Esther and Mordecai save the Jews of Persia from [...]

7 11, 2011

A revolution in Bible study

By |2011-11-07T05:42:48-07:00November 7th, 2011|Book Reviews|

Bringing the Prophets to Life By Neil N. Winkler Gefen Publishing House, 2011, 193 pages   Many Jews consider the Bible to be the sacred text revealed by God to the Israelites trough Moses. Multiple commentaries were composed on the Torah. Some emphasized the Torah’s literal meaning, such as the commentaries of Rashbam, David Kinchi, [...]

24 10, 2011

Rabbis have abandoned the Bible to fundamentalist Christians

By |2011-10-25T04:52:52-07:00October 24th, 2011|Thoughts|

By Israel Drazin   Many rabbis have, in effect, abandoned Bible study to fundamentalist Christians. Very few of their books that ostensibly address the Torah actually do so. Instead, usually without disclosing the fact, the rabbis who composed these volumes and the rabbis who deliver synagogue sermons focus on the midrashic versions of the biblical [...]

21 10, 2011

What are we expected to know about God?

By |2011-10-21T03:57:22-07:00October 21st, 2011|Thoughts|

What are we Expected to Know about God?  By Israel Drazin   I am more inclined to accept the Maimonidean position.   The term “tradition” is used frequently in discussions about Jewish values and practices. Maimonides warns us to be skeptical of traditions, no matter what their source and no matter how many people insist [...]

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