Torah Portion

Va’etchanan

ואתחנן

Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
Isaiah 40:1-26

Two Versions of the Decalogue: Ibn Ezra’s Non-Explanation

Two Versions of the Decalogue: Ibn Ezra’s Non-Explanation

Ibn Ezra gives a surprising non-explanation for why Deuteronomy’s version of the Decalogue differs from that of Exodus: Is it really such a problem if Moses changed the words a little as long as he got the point right?

Prof. Rabbi
Marty Lockshin
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The Many Recensions of the Ten Commandments

The Many Recensions of the Ten Commandments

Beyond the two version of the Decalogue in Exodus and Deuteronomy, and the usual differences between MT, SP, and LXX, in Second Temple times, liturgical texts in Qumran (4QDeutn) and Egypt (Nash Papyrus), Greek references in the New Testament and Philo, and even tefillin parchments, reflect slightly different recensions of the text.

Prof.
Sidnie White Crawford
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What Are Clay Female Figurines Doing in Judah during the Biblical Period?

What Are Clay Female Figurines Doing in Judah during the Biblical Period?

A look at the archaeological and biblical context for the hundreds of Judean Pillar Figurines found ubiquitously throughout Judahite homes in the Iron Age II.

Dr.
Aaron Greener
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Does Rashi's Torah Commentary Respond to Christianity?

Does Rashi's Torah Commentary Respond to Christianity?

Moses promises that if Israel forsakes the covenant, God will destroy them permanently (Deut 4:25-26). Drawing on a midrash, Rashi explains that God exiled Israel early to avoid having to wipe them out; thus, God never actualized this threat. Considering Rashi’s responses to Christian ideas in other biblical texts, Rashi's comment on Deut 4:25 may well be an apologetic effort to prove that God’s covenant with the Jews remains intact.

Dr.
Yedida Eisenstat
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Does the Decalogue Prohibit Stealing?

Does the Decalogue Prohibit Stealing?

Generally translated as “do not steal,” the Rabbis make a compelling case for understanding lo tignov in the Decalogue to be a prohibition against the more serious offense of kidnapping, or, in modern terms, human trafficking.

Prof. Rabbi
Jonathan Magonet
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Shema Yisrael: In What Way Is "YHWH One"?

Shema Yisrael: In What Way Is "YHWH One"?

The Shema has many interpretations, philosophical, eschatological, national, etc. A historical-critical way to understand the Shema is to read it (and Deuteronomy more broadly) against the backdrop of Assyrian domination, when Assyria touted their god Ashur as the supreme master of the world.

Rabbi
Daniel M. Zucker
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The Mitzvah to Love God: Shadal's Polemic against the Philosophical Interpretation

The Mitzvah to Love God: Shadal's Polemic against the Philosophical Interpretation

Philosophically inclined rabbis, such as Maimonides, attempted to understand the mitzvah to love God in Aristotelian terms, imagining God as a non-anthropomorphic abstract being. Shadal argues that this elitist approach twists both Torah and philosophy, and in its place, he offers a moralistic approach that can be achieved by all Jews.

Prof. Rabbi
Marty Lockshin
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The Covenant in Moab: Deuteronomy Without Horeb

The Covenant in Moab: Deuteronomy Without Horeb

Deuteronomy has Moses receiving a revelation at Horeb, but only teaching the Israelites its contents decades later in the Land of Moab. This two-step revelatory process, which is presented as two covenants (Deut 28:69), masks an earlier form of Deuteronomy that had no record of a Horeb revelation. 

Dr. Rabbi
David Frankel
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Judaism Without Sinai?

Judaism Without Sinai?

The Sinai theophany is virtually absent from the Bible outside of the Torah and the very late book of Nehemiah. This absence reflects an alternative tradition that sees Israel’s laws as deriving from multiple small revelations from prophets throughout history. 

Dr. Rabbi
David Frankel
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Do Not Covet: Is It a Feeling or an Action?

Do Not Covet: Is It a Feeling or an Action?

In English, to covet means to desire (someone or something) obsessively, wrongfully, and/or without due regard for the rights/feelings of others. It is a strong emotion, to be avoided. But does “covet” capture the meaning of the Hebrew verb חמד? 

Prof.
Leonard Greenspoon
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Deutero-Isaiah Reworks Past Prophecies to Comfort Israel

Deutero-Isaiah Reworks Past Prophecies to Comfort Israel

The Jewish practice of studying older texts and composing new ones based on them goes all the way back to the Bible itself. The haftarot from the second part of the Book of Isaiah that we read for the next seven shabbatot are an outstanding example of this practice.

Prof.
Benjamin D. Sommer
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Understanding Idolatry

Understanding Idolatry

How the theologians of the ancient Near East made sense of idolatry through the ritual dedication of the statues that made them into gods.

Dr.
Uri Gabbay
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Moses Dies at the Age of 120 — Was It Premature?

Moses Dies at the Age of 120 — Was It Premature?

The end of Deuteronomy recounts that at an age of one hundred and twenty Moses says he is no longer able/allowed to lead the people’s journey and will therefore not be carrying them on to cross the Jordan (Deut 31:2). According to other places in the Torah, however, Moses dies because of a sin – his or of the people.

Dr.
Gili Kugler
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The Oldest Known Copy of the Decalogue?

The Oldest Known Copy of the Decalogue?

A careful examination of the three oldest copies of the Decalogue—4QDeutn, 4QPaleoExodusm, and the Nash Papyrus—surprisingly shows that none of them reflects the Masoretic Text.

Dr.
Esther Eshel
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Va’etchanan

ואתחנן

Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11

אֶעְבְּרָה נָּא וְאֶרְאֶה אֶת הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה אֲשֶׁר בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן...

דברים ג:כה

Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan...

Deut 3:25

Deuteronomy

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