Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


It Is Rashi Speaking

posted by David Klinghoffer

Today is the Yahrtzeit (death anniversary) of Rashi, whose massive commentary on most of the Hebrew Bible and Talmud defines much of the meaning of those documents not only for Jews but for Christians too. I’ve been reading Elie Wiesel’s sweet new little biography of him for the Jewish Encounters series (published by Nextbook and Schocken). Rashi died in 1105, leaving incomplete several Talmudic tractates. Something I found oddly haunting was the way his disciples took over the work from him, with one writing, immediately following Rashi’s last comment in tractate Makot

Our Teacher who lived and worked, pure in body and soul, ended his task here. From now on, it is Rabbi Yehuda bar Nathan who is speaking.

“Who is speaking.” It’s a little eerie to be reminded that when we read rabbinic works, the rabbis of old are themselves speaking to us. The significance of this is twofold. First, it recalls the fact — at least, the assumption made by Jewish tradition — that there is a lineage of ideas here, a chain of teachers, each speaking to his students, going all the way back to Moses.
Second, a sage’s work is really his voice. It crystallizes his “take” on Biblical tradition. Wiesel points out something you may forget in studying Rashi. In explaining the Torah in particular, the great sage was choosing from countless rabbinic traditions that form a river of explanation. The river stays within its banks — it is coherent — but it’s also diverse. The rabbis in the Talmud and Midrash said many different things, many of them contradictory of each other.
Rashi came along and selected those individual traditions, those inherited teachings, that he then enshrined in his commentary. His selection wasn’t random or arbitrary. It reflected a picture of the world that he wished to convey. As an example, Wiesel mentions Rashi’s treatment of Esau as the embodiment of Christianity. There are other valid “takes” on the subject matter, like that of Rav Hirsch.


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Turmarion

posted July 21, 2009 at 10:25 pm


If there are various valid “takes” on issues in interpretation of the Tanakh, why do you insist that theistic evolution is not one such valid “take”? Plenty of rabbis seem to think it is.



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Daniel Mann

posted July 25, 2009 at 9:29 pm


Turmarion,
Here’s the problem with theistic evolution. It doesn’t simply contradict a handful of texts, but rather the entire texture of biblical revelation which holds that God made everything “good” and we screwed it all up. According to the theology of evolution, God had made things very bloody, messy, and littered with death from the beginning, and we just followed the pattern of the survival-of-the-fittest, His very template.
Consequently, who can blame Cain for killing his brother. Evidently, Abel with a naive jerk whose his death promoted a fitter human race.



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Gabriel Hanna

posted July 25, 2009 at 10:42 pm


According to the theology of evolution, God had made things very bloody, messy, and littered with death from the beginning, and we just followed the pattern of the survival-of-the-fittest, His very template.
Consequently, who can blame Cain for killing his brother. Evidently, Abel with a naive jerk whose his death promoted a fitter human race.

You meant to say “according to a theory of evolution I just made up, and moral judgments that I illegitimately claimed are derived from a descriptive theory.”
If God wants to make a stone roll downhill, does He need a miracle? Is God UNABLE to work through the laws of nature? That’s a curious theology.
If you actually knew anything about evolutionary biology, you would know that Cain’s murder of Abel decreases Cain’s fitness because his brother shares half his genes. You would also know that the theory says nothing about whether or not that it is a MORAL thing to do, because scientific theories are not concerned with the world as it ought to be, but the world as it is.
Relativity and quantum mechanics allow us to build nuclear bombs.
Newtonian mechanics allows us to build warplanes and artillery.
If evolution is evil, science is evil.



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