Comments for Enriching Judaism through a Historical and Contextual Approach to Torah. Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:40:00 +0000 hourly 1 Comment on The Prohibition of Meat and Milk: Its Origins in the Text by H.L.Berenholz Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:40:00 +0000 This is a very interesting novel explanation.

But Gunther Plaut and other students of archeology have concluded that the cooking of a kid in its mothers milk is steeped in a pagan ritual designed to evoke from the deity promise of a successful crop.

I think that support for this interpretation can be found in the verse itself which begins with “Bring your first fruits to the Temple of God your Lord”. Here it seems that God is assuring us that the nation will be blessed with prosperity (reminding us of our obligation to “share” it with him, the source). Therefore, there will be no need to engage in a pagan ritual designed to achieve this very end.

The prohibition “You Shall Not Boil a Kid in its Mother’s Milk” appears again twice in the Torah. Later, in Shemos 34:26 the entire verse is repeated verbatim! In Devarim 14:21 the prohibition appears at the end of a verse that prohibits eating nevayla (carcass) because we are considered a holy nation to God. The immediately preceding topics discussed in that parsha deal with…

• Incitement to worship idol
• City of idol worshipers
• The holiness of the Jewish people
• Listing of forbidden foods

Perhaps here we have another example of “free association”. The Torah first discusses the prohibition of idolatry, pointing out that we are a separate, “holy” nation. Then it points out that as part of this holiness we are prohibited from eating certain foods. The subject of forbidden foods leads to the introduction to a pagan ritual that is so insidious and dangerous (cooking a kid in its mother’s milk)
that the prohibition extends not only to eating, but also to cooking and to benefitting.

Comment on My Name is Yoel, I am a Satmar Hasid and a Bible Critic by Perla Sat, 18 Feb 2017 23:36:00 +0000 Dear Yoel, I am not sure if you will read this post since it seems like this article has been posted a while ago. It was a real pleasure reading it. I completely agree with you. I am happy that people from all backgrounds can come to the same conclusion.
When I studied jiov I realized very clearly that there was one or several autors thousands of years ago writing a story that could be today. This alone is miraculous. So I never understood why fellow chareidi or secular people would not see that. We don’t need miracles and magic to see what treasure of human history this is. Secularists who belittle the texts are as ignorant. Hazlocho raba with your studies and do not worry if you can’t be open about it, even if you could like in secular society most people would not understand it or be interested at all :-). All the best to you and your family.

Comment on The Subversive Kaddish by David Shyovitz Mon, 09 May 2016 15:41:00 +0000 Marty Nugiel: The phenomenon of Jews killing themselves and their family members as an expression of martyrdom during the Crusades has been extensively studied by historians, but still remains little-known among non-specialists. If you can get your hands on it, the best place to start is the Solomon bar Samson chronicle, which you can read in Hebrew here: or in the English translation of S. Eidelburg, _The Jews and the Crusaders_ (1977).

Steve: Many thanks your insightful comments. Solovietchik does indeed address the issue of guilt over Jewish suicide/homicide (to say nothing of its halakhically problematic status). I think the notion that the MK could be seen as an attempt to atone for the “martyrs'” problematic actions is a suggestive one. (Indeed, it would be interesting to consider whether the Jesus imagery I noted responds in some way to the fact that many of the Jews who did *not* die in the Crusader attacks survived by converting to Christianity.) But beyond the intuitive sense that these phenomena might be linked, I don’t see any specific textual evidence pointing in this direction, while the alternative argument I made about intercession/purgation seems to me more rooted in the sources. But I am certainly open to alternative reads!

One added quibble: While some have argued that the Blood Libel charge drew in part upon Christian knowledge of Jewish actions in 1096, I don’t know of anyone who has claimed that the origins of the heroic status of the Jewish “martyrs” developed as a response to BL accusations. I think the timing would make such a claim suspect (i.e. the first known BL accusation dates to the years following 1144, by which point stories about Jewish heroic martyrdom were already in circulation).

Comment on The Subversive Kaddish by Marty Nugiel Sat, 07 May 2016 16:46:00 +0000 Please cite sources for Jews’ murdering family members during 12th Century Crusades

Comment on The Subversive Kaddish by Patrick Davidovici Thu, 05 May 2016 14:40:00 +0000 Thank you so much for this wonderful “study” that I appreciate a lot ! Just for info the Massekheth Soferim [8e century] mentioned the custom of the Hazan to daven the
Kaddish for the Avélim that came to daven at the Beth Knesseth
[chap. 19]. And in his Siddour, rabbi Amrom Gaon [9e century]
mentioned the minhag to say kaddish at the cemetery. ( sorry for my English !! ) and again thank you.

Comment on The Subversive Kaddish by Steve Wed, 04 May 2016 19:07:00 +0000 This is a very interesting essay, and a novel approach. Yet, why is the reader not alerted to a certain prejudice: that (all?) Jews killed in the Crusade massacres were considered ‘marytrs’ and ‘rightous heroes’? In a fuller treatment of the subject published in AJS Review 39, Dr. Shyovitz cites Haym Soloveitchik’s article on suicide & the Crusades. That, and the TABS essay, both fail to address the fact that there was enormous guilt felt by survivors and the subsequent generation precisely because many Jews had murdered their own family members. If, as it has been surmised, the Gentiles developed the idea of the blood libel in the 12th century as a reaction to the horrors of Jews slaughtering their own – this would certainly have hastened a widespread ascription of martyrdom to those who perished in the Crusades. Yet, many new innovations in Jewish life grew up in the wake of the Crusades (e.g. restrictive Omer practices, etc.), and the mourner’s qaddish could very well have provided the vicarious atonement ‘needed’ by the relatives of those who were excited by old and new theories imagining the afterlife and post-mortem sufferings.

Comment on How did Abraham Discover God? The Experiential Approach by Seth (Avi) Kadish Tue, 09 Feb 2016 19:25:00 +0000 Some updates and clarifications:

The sequel to this article is “Jewish Dogma after Maimonides: Semantics or Substance?”, which will appear very soon in HUCA 2016 (pp. 197-266); it has already gone to press. In a nutshell: Is the debate about ikkarim a rather trivial mahloket rishonim since the various proposed systems more or less agree with each other? Or is that debate the most important mahloket rishonim in medieval Jewish thought, because the various systems reflect deep disagreements about the very nature of the Torah?

I also want to go far back in time, to when I first began teaching this midrash, and recall where I got some of the ideas for it. I have been teaching it straight from a plain sourcesheet for 10-12 years (with just the text of the midrash and quotes from Rambam and Crescas), and had not thought about this for a very long time. But it should be pointed out that the original basis for the literary analysis of the midrash at the very beginning of this article came from Simi Peter’s wonderful book called Learning to Read Midrash, and I am grateful for her initial inspiration and ideas. I first encountered the philosophical discussion of this midrash (there is a lot of it) in remarks by Zev Harvey in his Physics and Metaphysics in Ḥasdai Crescas.

Comment on Bible Criticism: What People Think It Is! by Richard Elliott Friedman Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:26:00 +0000 I am not disingenuous when I write about Torah, and it is not true that in my work, “whenever something doesn’t “work out” it is ascribed to one of many redactors.” I did not do that. I couldn’t have. (And I hate it when some scholars do that sort of thing.) That is the point. There are two many (thousands!) points of evidence that had to line up. We would have had to ascribe at least hundreds to redactors. As for finding a continuous text of one of the sources, this does not require finding a scroll (which is impossible; it would have to be older than the oldest Dead Sea scroll). It requires quotations of the undivided texts in, for example, the prophets. See William Propp’s article doing just that: “The Priestly Source Recovered Intact?,” VT 46 (1996). Umberto Cassuto’s arguments were weak and not persuasive to his colleagues in his day; much less now when there is vastly more evidence. His is not a serious challenge. Whybray’s chapter about the hypothesis raises an interesting (but misinformed) point about redaction and contradiction but still does not address most of the evidence for the hypothesis.
I hope that this helps clarify some misunderstandings about how the evidence is assembled and about the history of scholarship.

Comment on The Prohibition of Meat and Milk: Its Origins in the Text by Lauren Rothschild Grunsfeld Fri, 01 May 2015 21:51:00 +0000 Thank you Rabbi for articulating my feelings on these matters. However one burning question remains about that evolution. If things go awry in said evolution at what point do we reassess them? Say with homosexuality, or questionable practices in modern Judaism that verge on idol worship? Do we simply accept the trajectory wherever it takes us?

Comment on Ending the Battle Against Academic Biblical Studies: A Dati Israeli Blogger’s Perspective by DavidR Sat, 04 Apr 2015 17:16:00 +0000 I am secular and became so as a result of adult Jewish education. To me the Torah is our Jewish mythology which does not detract from its value but adds to it. The evidence here and with biblical archaeology is too compelling. While I do not practice the religion I do appreciate it because without it we wouldn’t be here. Combining the knowledge acquired from academic biblical scholarship and biblical archaeology into the Jewish Tradition is like mixing oil with water. I’m thankful for this site because at least the conversation is beginning.