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Shadal

Joseph Accuses His Brothers of Selling Him – But Did They?

When Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, he says, “I am your brother, whom you sold into Egypt” (Gen 45:4). Tradition takes for granted that Joseph’s brothers were indeed the ones who sold him. However, as Rashbam and Shadal note, a straightforward peshat reading of events once Joseph is thrown into the pit reveals a different conclusion.

Prof. Rabbi

Marty Lockshin

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Kedushah: Did the Angels Actually Say It?

The Kedushah prayer is based on two quotes from angels: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts...” (Isa 6:3) and “Blessed be the Glory of the Lord from its place” (Ezek 3:12). However, Shadal, the 19th century polymath, explains that the second verse is not a quote by angels, but the result of a scribal error.

Prof.

Carl S. Ehrlich

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Does the Torah Differentiate between an Unpaid and a Paid Bailee?

For the first nine hundred years after the writing of the Mishnah in the early third century, Jews thought that laws about bailees or custodians (שומרים) in the Mishnah and in the Talmud corresponded closely to the plain meaning (peshat) of the Torah. But in the Middle Ages, Rashbam challenged that assumption, proposing an understanding of the Torah that contradicted Jewish law.

Prof. Rabbi

Marty Lockshin

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Why the Torah Prohibits Incest

Although incest taboos are found in the majority of cultures, medieval Jewish thinkers found this to be an insufficient explanation for the Torah’s prohibitions. 

Prof. Rabbi

Marty Lockshin

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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 Death of Pharaoh's Firstborn: A One Plague Exodus

After commissioning Moses at the burning bush, God commissions Moses again in Midian, and then again on his way to Egypt. In this third commission, God instructs Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Let My son go, that he may worship Me, yet you refuse to let him go. Now I will slay your firstborn son” (Exod 4:22-23). How does this narrative fit into the exodus story?

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Eglah Arufah: A Ritual Response to an Unsolved Murder

The law of the heifer whose neck is broken, eglah arufah, has puzzled both traditional and modern commentators. What is it meant to accomplish? How does it work?

Prof. Rabbi

Marty Lockshin

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Peshat vs. Halakha Dilemma: Shadal and Tradition

Prof. Rabbi

Marty Lockshin

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The Prohibition of Shaving in the Torah and Halacha

The Torah prohibits a mourning ritual called tonsuring, i.e., the pulling out or cutting of hair to express sorrow. Rabbinic interpretation understood these verses as a prohibition for men to shave their beards or temples with a razor. Ibn Ezra, however, uncharacteristically rejects the rabbinic interpretation of these verses, and Shadal, who accepts ibn Ezra's reading, goes as far as to say that he himself shaves with a razor.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Whom May a Kohen Gadol Marry?

Rashbam’s New Peshat

Prof. Rabbi

Marty Lockshin

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