Saturday 26 November 2022

407) Nachmanides vs Rashi on the authority of Tradition

Nachmanides' commentary on the Torah


This article, based extensively on the research by Professor Shalem Yahalom,[1] discusses the differences in interpretative style between Nachmanides (or Ramban, 1194-1270) and Rashi (1040-1105). Rashi was prepared to cite Midrashim and use them verbatim because he considered Tradition as sufficient proof of authenticity. Nachmanides, however, disputed such a claim and instead went out of his way, sometimes quite creatively, to show textual proof or bring arguments as a means of establishing authority. In his Torah commentary, Nachmanides does not merely repeat earlier exegetical (interpretative) traditions, as Rashi does with his reliance on Midrash, but rather:

“asserts the importance of analyzing all information critically” (Yahalom 2020:207).

Nachmanides begins his Torah commentary full of praise and respect for Rashi:

“In his words will I meditate, and in their love will I ravish…”

Sunday 20 November 2022

406) Rashbam as Rashi’s exegetical ‘enfant terrible’?[1]



This article, based extensively on the research by Professors Jason Kalman,[2] and Hanna Liss, deals with the commentaries of R. Shmuel ben Meir known as Rashbam (1085-1158),  Rashi’s grandson. Some of Rashbam’s commentaries on the Torah were, and to this day are still considered contentious. In a recent paper, for example, Professor Hershey Friedman writes:

“Regrettably, publishers today want to censor opinions that do not fit the mainstream way of thinking. [Ben Zion] Katz (2020, para. 1) asserts: 'Orthodox theology today is much narrower than what was acceptable in the Middle Ages.' He mentions that ArtScroll Publishing is editing and removing comments made by Rashbam that the editors believe are too radical from the new  Mikraot Gedolot.”[3]

Sunday 13 November 2022

405) The ‘middle to upper-class’ Mishnaic rabbis.

הֶעָנִי עוֹמֵד בַּחוּץ The poor man stands outside


This article, based extensively on the research by Professor Gregg Gardner,[1] explores issues of status, wealth and poverty in Mishnaic writing and thought. During Mishnaic times (10-210 CE), detailed discussions are developed around biblical principles concerning tithing and how sections of a field are set aside for the poor. So we know that a poor class certainly existed - but what was the socioeconomic standing of the rabbis who formulated those laws?  Were they rich or poor, or somewhere in between, and were their laws concerning the poor, perhaps informed by their own economic reality?

Sunday 6 November 2022

404) The melamed who experienced the stirrings of the shift to Daat Torah


Signature of Moroccan born R. Chaim ben Attar, known as the Or haChaim (1696-1743)


This article, based extensively on the work by Professor David Assaf,[1] discusses a dispute over the honour of the famed Moroccan rabbi, Chaim ben Attar (1696–1743), known as the Or haChaim after his book by that name. The Sefer Or haChaim has always been highly praised by the Baal Shem Tov (1700-1760) and his Chassidim. This, even though culturally, the Moroccan Or haChaim was far away from the nascent Chassidic movement just beginning in central Europe.