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Peshat

Creation from Primordial Matter: Did Rashi Read Plato’s Timaeus?

Rashi interprets the opening verses of the creation story as describing God’s use of primordial substances to form the world. This idea appears in various forms in rabbinic literature but some of Rashi’s particular notions are only found in Plato’s Timaeus. Could this be one of Rashi’s sources?

Prof.

Warren Zev Harvey

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Allegorizers of Torah and the Story of Their Prosecution in Languedoc (1305)

The attempt of the great Catalonian Sage, Rashba, to limit philosophic study and interpretation of Torah in Languedoc (southern France)[1] and to excommunicate one of its well-known practitioners, Levi ben Avraham ben Hayyim of Villefranche-de-Conflent.

Dr.

Gregg Stern

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A Wife for Isaac: From Abraham's Hometown or Family?

Abraham’s servant says that his master told him to take a wife for Isaac from his family, but Abraham said no such thing. Why does the servant say this and why did medieval pashtanim ignore this blatant discrepancy?[1]

Prof. Rabbi

Marty Lockshin

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A Feminist Literalist Allegorical Reading of Shir Hashirim

Finding Gender equality without compromising God and meaning in a sanctified collection of love poems.

Prof.

Wendy Zierler

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The Existence of Two Versions of the Decalogue

The Approaches of Chazal and the Pashtanim

Prof. Rabbi

Marty Lockshin

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Who Was Balaam's God: YHWH El? Or Bull El?

Dr. Rabbi

Robert Harris

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How God Was Sanctified through Nadav and Avihu's Death

After the shocking death of Nadav and Avihu, Moses says to Aaron that this is what God meant when he said, “through those near to me I will sanctify Myself.”  Rashi, Rashbam, and Nahmanides struggle to understand the meaning of Moses’ message.

Prof.

James A. Diamond

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Can The Torah Contradict Halacha (Jewish Law)?

At stake is Ibn Ezra’s curse: “May your tongue stick to your palate… may your arm dry up and your right eye go blind.” 

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Enallage in the Bible

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine” (Song 1:2). The Song of Songs opens with this sudden shift in person, an ungrammatical syntactic substitution called enallage. How common is this literary device, and why is it used?[1]

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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A Moral Value in the Song of Songs

Reading Shir HaShirim in Its Original Sense

Prof. Rabbi

Michael V. Fox

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Torat Emet: Moderating the Stark Truth of the Written Torah

Rabbi

David Bigman

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God's Appearance to Abraham: Vision or Visit?

Prof.

Ben-Zion Katz M.D.

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A Shofar-less "Rosh Hashanah": A Karaite's Experience of Yom Teru'ah

Shawn Joe Lichaa

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The Origins of Tefillin

How a biblical metaphor was reinterpreted in light of a practice of wearing amulets for bodily protection.

Dr.

Yehudah Cohn

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Did an Aramean Try to Destroy our Father?

A medieval non-traditional interpretation of arami oved avi and the push-back against it. 

Prof. Rabbi

Marty Lockshin

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Song of Songs: The Emergence of Peshat Interpretation

The Song of Songs is a collection of love poetry. The Rabbis read it as an allegory of the relationship between God and the Jewish people. Only in the Middle Ages, in Spain and Northern France, did scholars begin to pay attention to the plain (Peshat) meaning of the text. Some went as far as dropping the allegory altogether and treating it as love poetry, as it was originally intended.

Dr.

Barry Dov Walfish

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Moses Mendelssohn's Be'ur: Translating the Torah in the Age of Enlightenment

Moses Mendelssohn’s Be’ur (1780-83) was the first Jewish translation of the Torah into standard German. Motivated by religious and cultural needs, Mendelssohn took advantage of the translation revolution already underway in eighteenth-century Germany—and also included many striking innovations.

Dr.

Abigail Gillman

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Obliterating Cherem

The Torah describes a practice of declaring people cherem, which means that the person, and—in some cases—his family, would be annihilated, and his possessions donated to the Temple. The rabbis were unhappy with this law and used their homiletical approach to “obliterate” it.

Dr. Hacham

Isaac S. D. Sassoon

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