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Textual Criticism

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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How Was the Hebrew of the Bible Originally Pronounced?

Three traditions of pronouncing the Hebrew Bible existed in the first millennium C.E.: Babylonian, Palestinian, and Tiberian, each with its own written vocalization system. From the later Middle Ages on, however, biblical manuscripts have been written almost exclusively with the vowels and cantillation marks of the Tiberian system while paradoxically, the Tiberian pronunciation itself fell into oblivion.

Prof.

Geoffrey Khan

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Text and Context: Torah and Historical Truth

Historical-critical and text-critical approaches to the Torah have a strong precedent in classical rabbinic literature. Yet Orthodox Jewish communities today pointedly resist these methods. It is time that critical thinking about the Torah be embraced within our educational systems.

Prof.

B. Barry Levy

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The "Egyptian" Midwives

The tale of the heroic midwives in Exodus 1:15 records how they risked their lives to save male Hebrew babies despite the charge given them by Pharaoh. Who are these midwives? If they are Israelites, why would Pharaoh trust them with such a task and not suspect their loyalty to their own people? If they are Egyptian, why would they betray their ruler and risk their lives? A text discovered at the Cairo Genizah sheds new light on this exegetical conundrum.

Dr.

Moshe Lavee

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Dr.

Shana Strauch-Schick

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Were Rahab's Sisters Saved?

Making sense of small differences between biblical lists: a look at the merit of different reading strategies.

Dr.

Shira Golani

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Acquiring Ruth with the Land: A Text-Critical Solution for Ruth 4:5

How the mistaken exchange of the letter gimel for a vav corrupted the meaning of a key verse in Ruth

Dr.

Raanan Eichler

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A Personified Reed Sea

A seemingly midrashic interpretation of the the verb נערמו neʿermu in the Song of the Sea finds support in a variant text of Deuteronomy 11:4, preserved both in the Kennicott Bible and the medieval commentator Ḥizquni, that  imagines the Reed Sea in purposive pursuit of the Egyptians.[1]

Dr.

David Rothstein

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God Abandons the Garden of Eden and Dwells with the Cherubim

Four Aramaic targumim (ancient translations) have God, and not just cherubim, taking up residence east of the garden. This is based on a slightly different vocalization of the Hebrew text, which is likely a more original reading than our current biblical text (MT).[1]

Dr.

Raanan Eichler

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Haazinu: The Song's Enigmatic Climax

The final phrase of Haazinu (Deut 32:1-43) in the MT, וכפר אדמתו עמו, is grammatically problematic, but the textual variants may help clarify its meaning.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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The Missing Speeches in the Plague Narrative and the Samaritan Pentateuch

Before several plagues, God commands Moses to warn Pharaoh. Moses delivers this warning, but his actual words are not recorded. In the plague of locusts, the opposite occurs, and God’s wording is not recorded while Moses’ warning is. The SP fills in these lacunae by recording each instance.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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“All of Jacob’s Descendants Numbered Seventy-Five”: The Opening of Exodus in the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Book of Exodus begins with an accounting of the members of Jacob's family who went with him to Egypt. Our Torah, the Masoretic Text, lists 70 people. Dead Sea Scroll manuscript 4QExb, however, records 75 people. How do we account for this and other differences between the texts?

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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Reciting Psalm 30 on Chanukah: A Biblical Custom?

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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Jacob's Descendants who Go to Egypt: The MT Versus the LXX

A close look at the different references to Jacob’s descendants, and their number in both the MT and the LXX shows how the tradition of Jacob’s descendants developed over time.

Dr.

Itamar Kislev

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Did God Bless Shabbat?

“And the Lord Blessed the Seventh Day and Consecrated It” (Genesis 2:3). Can time be blessed?

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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