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Methods of Torah Study

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Title: Torah Study in Judaism Author: Laurence Boxer Last modified by: Joe Created Date: 1/3/2003 12:34:04 AM Document presentation format: On-screen Show (4:3) – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Methods of Torah Study


1
Methods of Torah Study
  • Dr. Laurence Boxer

2
Torah literally, teaching /instruction
  • Most common reference 5 Books of Moses
  • Entire Jewish Bible TaNaCH
  • Torah (5 Books of Moses)
  • Nviim (Prophets)
  • Ktuvim (Scriptures Wisdom Literature)
  • Law tradition
  • Written Torah TaNaCH
  • Oral Torah - Talmud

Pirkei Avot 5 24 Ben Bag-Bag taught Turn it
over, turn it over, for in it is contained
everything .
3
Principles of Torah study
  • Every word indeed every letter (e.g., change of
    spelling of name) is significant
  • Study text by various techniques, including
  • Pshat plain meaning
  • Drash / midrash inquire / investigate
    nonliteral interpretation, often made up of
    imaginative explanatory stories
  • Gzera shava making connections between texts,
    hypertext-like typically by similarity,
    parallelism, or contrasts of language/theme
  • Multiple interpretations of ambiguities
  • Defective spellings generally signifies
    diminished respect for individual named
  • Logical deduction
  • Combinations of above
  • Plays on words
  • Proximity relate verses to nearby verses
  • Similes, metaphors
  • Many of these depend heavily on Hebrew language
  • Repetitions in text

4
Example Gen. 29 Jacob Rachel Leah Pshat
  • 18 Jacob loved Rachel so he answered I will
    serve you seven years for your younger daughter
    Rachel.
  • 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and
    they seemed to him but a few days because of his
    love for her.
  • 23 When evening came, he took his daughter Leah
    and brought her to him and he cohabited with
    her.
  • 25 When morning came, there was Leah! So he said
    to Laban, What is this you have done to me? I
    was in your service for Rachel! Why did you
    deceive me?

Lesson from Pshat As Jacob had deceived his
father, Isaac, to take the blessing intended for
Esau (Gen. 27), he is now deceived measure for
measure, G-d judges the world.
5
Example Gen. 29 Jacob Rachel Leah Drash
  • Lamentations Rabbah Proem XXIV interprets as
    commentary on Lamentations and on Jeremiah 31
  • At destruction of Temple by Nebuchadnezzar,
    divine mercy was sought in heavenly court by
    Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses to no avail.
  • At that moment, the matriarch Rachel broke forth
    into speech before the Holy One, Blessed be He,
    and said Sovereign of the Universe, Thy
    servant Jacob loved me exceedingly and toiled for
    my father on my behalf seven years. When the
    time arrived for my marriage , my father planned
    to substitute another for me to wed my husband
    for the sake of my sister. the plot was known to
    me and I disclosed it to my husband, and I gave
    him a sign whereby he could distinguish me from
    my sister.

6
Gen. 29 Jacob Rachel Leah Drash continued
After that I relented had pity upon my sister
that she should not be exposed to shame. they
substituted my sister for me and I delivered
over to my sister all the signs which I had
arranged with my husband so that he should think
she was Rachel. I went beneath the bed and when
he spoke to her she remained silent and I made
all the replies in order that he should not
recognize my sisters voice. I did her a
kindness, was not jealous and did not expose her
to shame.
And if I, a creature of flesh and blood, formed
of dust and ashes, was not envious of my rival
and did not expose her to shame and contempt, why
shouldest Thou, a King Who liveth eternally and
art merciful, be jealous of idolatry in which
there is no reality, and exile my children and
let them be slain by the sword, and their enemies
have done with them as they wished!
7
Gen. 29 Jacob Rachel Leah Drash continued
Forthwith the mercy of the Holy One, Blessed be
He, was stirred, and He said, For thy sake,
Rachel, I will restore Israel to their place.
And so it is written (Jeremiah 31, 15-17) Thus
saith the Lord A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping
for her children she refuseth to be comforted
for her children. Refrain thy voice from
weeping, and thine eyes from tears for thy work
shall be rewarded there is hope for thy future,
saith the Lord and thy children shall return to
their own border.
8
Gzera shava making connections between texts
  • Origin of haftara, reading from Prophets that
    follows Torah reading in synagogue
  • Romans forbade reading of Torah, attempting to
    suppress Judaism as source of rebellion
  • Rabbis selected readings from Prophets that would
    remind of corresponding weekly Torah readings
  • Ex Torah reading Bshalach (Ex. 1317 1716)
    includes
  • crossing Red Sea despite Israelite fear,
    reluctance
  • Song of the Sea
  • Miriam leads women dancing
  • Haftara Judges 44 531
  • Prophetess Deborah inspires victory over foreign
    oppressor despite Israelite fear, reluctance
  • Deborahs song of triumph
  • Yael, heroine

Common theme Womens leadership
9
Multiple Interpretations of Ambiguities
  • Example Judges 44 Now Deborah the prophetess
    was eshet Lapidot .
  • Usual interpretation of eshet wife of thus,
    Deborah is identified as wife of man named Lapidot
  • Alternate interpretation of eshet woman of
    and Lapidot means torches. Thus, Deborah is
    identified as fiery woman, inspirational leader,
    illuminating teacher

10
Multiple Interpretations of Ambiguities
  • Example Deuteronomy 29 9-11 You are standing
    this day all before the Lord your G-d your
    heads, tribes, officers, even all the men of
    Israel, your little ones, your wives, and thy
    stranger in the midst of thy camp, from the hewer
    of your wood unto the drawer of your water, that
    you should enter into the covenant of the Lord
    thy G-d .
  • Pshat the assembled include all, from the great
    leaders to the humblest members of society

Alternately
  • Hewer of wood Abraham, who hewed wood for
    sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 223)
  • Drawer of water Elijah, who supervised drawing
    water at confrontation with priest of Baal (I
    Kings 1834)

Abraham patriarch Elijah forerunner of
Messiah. Thus, the covenant between G-d and
Israel extends to all generations
11
Multiple Interpretations of Ambiguities
  • Example Deut. 3011-14 Surely, this
    commandment which I enjoin upon you this day is
    not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach.
    It is not in the heavens, that you should say,
    'Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it
    for us and impart it to us, that we may observe
    it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you
    should say, 'Who among us can cross the sea and
    get it for us and impart it to us, that we may
    observe it?' No, the thing is very close to you,
    in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it
  • Most commentators take this commandment to mean
    the entire book of Deuteronomy, or the entire
    Torah.
  • Nachmanides (1194-1270) argues this commandment
    refers to the obligation of repentance, teshuvah
    (literally, return), prominent in preceding
    verses Deut. 301-10. (This section is always
    read on the Sabbath preceding Rosh HaShanah.)

12
Defective Spellings Example of Abraham Ephron
(Gen. 23)
10 Ephron ????? answered Abraham in the
hearing of the Hittites . 11 No my lord, hear
me I give you the field and I give you the cave
in it I give it to you in the presence of all my
people. Bury your dead.
14 And Ephron replied to Abraham, saying to
him, 15 My lord, do hear me! A piece of land
worth 400 shekels of silver what is that
between you and me? Go and bury your dead.
16 Abraham listened to Ephron ?????. Abraham
paid out to Ephron ???? the money that he had
named in the hearing of the Hittites 400
shekels of silver at the going merchants rate.
Continued on next slide
13
Defective Spellings Abraham Ephron (cont.)
16 Abraham listened to Ephron ?????. Abraham
paid out to Ephron ???? the money .
  • Diminished defective spelling indicates
    diminished respect for Ephron.
  • Note spelling is changed in same verse
    indicates listening shows respect, but paying,
    after Ephrons promise of the cave as a gift,
    shows less respect. Its one thing to start
    negotiations at 500 shekels, then settle at 400
    its dishonest to claim one will make a gift,
    then demand a large price.

14
Logical Deduction
  • Va-era (Ex. 62 934) begins with G-ds
    assurances to Moses of redemption from Egyptian
    slavery.

Ex. 69 But when Moses told this to the
Israelites, they would not listen to Moses, their
spirits crushed by cruel bondage.
Ex. 610-11 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Go
and tell Pharoah, king of Egypt, to let the
Israelites depart from his land.
Ex. 612 But Moses appealed to the Lord, saying,
The Israelites would not listen to me how,
then, should Pharoah heed me, a man of
uncircumcised lips!
Pshat Moses had a speech impediment
Lesson from logical deduction Recall
circumcision is the sign of male admission into
the covenant of the Jewish people. He says they
havent accepted him as spokesman, so why would
Pharoah? Credible leadership before ones
adversaries requires acceptance of leadership by
ones followers.
15
Plays on words Lessons of Amalek
Amalek, Biblical symbol of cruelty and terror,
attacked the sick weakened at the back of the
Israelite procession (Ex. 178-15), shortly after
the crossing of the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds) (Ex.
14) and the Song of the Sea (Ex. 151-18). Attack
is recalled at Deut. 2517-19
17 Remember what Amalek did to you on your
journey, after you left Egypt -
18 How he surprised you kar-cha ??? on the
march, when you were famished and weary, and cut
down all the stragglers in your rear, and he had
no fear of G-d.
Continued on next slide
16
Amalek Lesson 1 from wordplay
Deut. 2518 How he surprised you kar-cha ??? on
the march .
More literally How he cooled you off kar-cha
??? on the march .
Song of the Sea (Ex. 15) 14 The peoples hear,
they tremble agony grips the dwellers in
Philistia. 15 Now are the clans of Edom
dismayed the tribes of Moab trembling grips
them all the dwellers in Canaan are aghast. 16
Terror and dread descend upon them.
The pagan world was ready, in its fear, to accept
the monotheism of Israel, whose G-d had
vanquished the gods of Egypt, until Amalek cooled
off their ardor for the G-d of Israel by showing
it was still possible to shed the blood of G-ds
Chosen People.
17
Amalek Lesson 2 from wordplay
Deut. 2518 How he surprised you kar-cha ??? on
the march .
Noticing the similarity of kar-cha ??? and kri
??? (violent opposition flow of semen),
some commentators say this verse indicates Amalek
introduced rape as a tactic of terror How he
raped you on the march.
18
Wordplay Children/students are builders
Isaiah 5413 And all thy banayich ????
children shall be taught of the Lord and great
shall be the peace of thy banayich ???? children.
Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 64a At the 2nd
instance, read not banayich ???? your
children but rather bonayich ????? your builders
Thus, children (of all ages) who study Torah
(taught of the Lord) are builders of a
communitys peace.
19
Proximity An eye for an eye
Ex. 21 23 25 But if any harm follow, then
thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth
for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning
for burning, stripe for stripe. Lev. 24 19-20
And if a man maim his neighbor as he hath done,
so shall it be done to him breach for breach,
eye for eye, tooth for tooth as he hath maimed a
man, so shall it be rendered unto him.
So if I put your eye out, do you have the right
to put my eye out? No. Revenge is prohibited
Lev. 1918 Thou shalt take no vengeance, nor
bear any grudge but thou shalt be loving toward
thy neighbor as toward thyself I am the Lord.
If I put your eye out, does a court put my eye
out? No
The principle of proximity teaches us that these
verses call for fair and proportional punishment
in the form of compensation by the offender to
the victim (continued on next slide).
20
Proximity An eye for an eye
Ex. 21 23 25 But if any harm follow, then
thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth
for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning
for burning, stripe for stripe.
Note the next two verses Ex. 21 26-27 And if a
man smite the eye of his bondman, or the eye of
his bondwoman, and destroy it, he shall let him
go free for the eyes sake. And if he smite out
his bondmans tooth, or his bondwomans tooth, he
shall let him go free for his tooths sake.
The master is not maimed to match his maiming of
his bondman rather, he compensates the bondman
with freedom (and the generous gifts due to a
freed bondman Deut. 1512-14).
More generally, an eye for an eye calls for
monetary compensation, proportionate to the
injury. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
typically, more compensation for the former,
since one eye 50 visual capacity, one tooth
3-4 chewing capacity, and loss of an eye is more
likely to impair earning a living.
21
Proximity Dont think with your loins
Deut. 21 10-14 (Soldier falls in love with
beautiful captive woman marriage is discouraged,
but permitted)
Deut. 21 15-17 (If first-born is son of less
favored wife, he still has rights of first-born
inherits double portion)
Deut. 21 18-21 (Son, rebellious, gluttonous,
drunkard, refusing parental discipline, may be
tried and sentenced)
Proximity These lessons are related. If a man
marries a woman whose only attraction for him is
sexual, hell eventually realize they have little
in common. If he later takes a 2nd wife, a
better match for him, the first wife and her
children are likely to be disfavored the rights
of the 1st wifes children trampled the family
becomes dysfunctional the neglected or abused
children become rebellious, criminal.
Its OK to marry a beautiful woman, but a mans
attraction should be based on more than her
sexual appeal. A better guide for a man seeking
a mate Proverbs 3110-31
22
Similes and Metaphors for Torah
Deuteronomy 3119 And now, write down this song
and teach it to the children of Israel .
  • Pshat song is Deuteronomy 321-43
  • Metaphoric interpretation song is entire Torah.
    Why compare Torah to song?
  • Unlike many other areas of knowledge (science,
    philosophy, economics, etc.), music, and Torah,
    can be learned and enjoyed at all levels of
    intellectual endeavor.
  • Torah is chanted, not merely read aloud. Use of
    music internalizes text, makes it easier to learn.

Proverbs 318 She is a tree of life
  • She - wisdom (Proverbs 313), itself a
    metaphor for Torah

23
Similes and Metaphors for Torah
Isaiah 551 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come
ye for water, and he with no money, come ye, buy,
and eat yea, buy wine and milk.
  • As one cannot go 3 days without drinking,
    Israel does not go 3 days without public reading
    of Torah (every Monday, Thursday, Saturday),
    which is bought not by money, but by study.

Song of Songs 213 The fig tree putteth forth
her green figs, .
  • Fig tree beautiful, shady fruit doesnt ripen
    at once, but continuously over long period,
    representing continuous, eternal teachings of
    Torah

Song of Songs 43 thy temples are like a
pomegranate split open behind thy veil.
  • As a pomegranate is full of seeds, Torah is full
    of beautiful teachings.

Song of Songs 411 Thy lips, o my bride, drop
honey honey and milk are under thy tongue .
Metaphorical interpretation words of Torah are
in your mouth (children are introduced to Torah
study with drop of honey on page or finger)
24
Repetitions in text
Deuteronomy 1620 Justice, justice shall you
pursue .
Why is justice repeated?
  • Pshat emphasis
  • Repetition of justice moderates the zeal
    connoted by Hebrew tirdof ???? (pursue).
    Justice must outweigh zeal justice must be
    pursued justly end does not justify means

Numbers 712-83 describes, tribe by tribe,
identical gifts by princes of the 12 tribes on
consecutive days to construction of the
Tabernacle. Except for number of day, name of
tribe, name of prince, theres no variation. What
do we learn from what seems mind-numbing
repetition?
Key 2nd day Netanel son of Tzuar, prince of
Issachar, could have topped the offering of 1st
prince instead, he matched it, for sake of peace
within community. Successive princes followed
his example.
25
Combination example of Gzera Shava
(connection) and wordplay
Gen. 2520 Isaac took to wife Rebekah,
daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-Aram,
sister of Laban the Aramean.
Song of Songs 22 As a lily among thorns, so is
my love among the daughters.
Aram ramai (swindler)
Song of Songs Rabbah R. Isaac . It is to tell
us that her father was a swindler, her brother
was a swindler, and all the men of her place were
swindlers, and this virtuous one came forth from
them. What does she resemble? A LILY AMONG
THORNS.
26
References
  • Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary, Jewish
    Publication Society, Philadelphia, 2001
  • The Midrash (Midrash Rabbah) multi-volume
    commentary on the 5 Books of Moses and the 5
    Megilot (scrolls) Song of Songs, Ruth,
    Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Soncino
    Press, London, 1961
  • The Talmud, Soncino Press, London, 1961
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