Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Class: Rashbam's approach to Chumash

On Shabbat, after kiddush, we'll look at Rashbam's approach to commenting on Chumash. After some basic biography, we'll focus on his objective as a commentator, and some of his key themes. Specifically, we'll look at his involvement in Jewish-Christian polemics, his sensitivity to poetic structure in the Torah, and his bold adherence to a grammatic/etymological read.

Here is some material from Rashbam's commentary, which we will use as sources:

Rashbam's Objective
Bamidbar 15:39, ציצית
This ‘Tzitzit’ will be a vision for you, that you will see; like “meitzitz from the cracks.”

Devarim 26:17, האמיר
[Rashi: There is no other word in Tanach to indicate what this means. It appears to me that this is an expression of separation and distinction.]
You caused HaShem to say this, to be appeased to be your Gd, for the fulfillment of this matter is dependent upon Gd, for Him to be made your Gd and to save you, as a result of your acceptance of His mitzvot.
And He he’emircha, He caused you to say it and to be appeased to be His nation, for He performed miracles and deeds of might until you were appeased to be His nation.

Bereishit 37:1
And even Rabbeinu Shlomo, father of my mother, who illuminated the eyes of the exile who explained the Torah, Neviim and Ketuvim, put his heart to explain the simple meaning of the verse. And I, Shmuel ben R’ Meir his son-in-law of blessed memory, argued with him and before him, and he acknowledged to me that if he had the time, he would have to prepare additional commentaries according to the peshat.

Jewish-Christian polemics
Bereishit 1:1
Moshe began with this entire portion of the tasks of six days in order to explain what Gd said when presenting the Torah, ‘Remember the day of Shabbat… for in six days HaShem created…’

Devarim 7:9
Lest you say, “Since He promised our ancestors to give us the land, why should we need to keep the mitzvot any further? He will do what He promised, in any case,” to this I reply that if you do not guard His mitzvot you will not inherit the land. He will not violate his oath, but rather…

Devarim 11:10
You must guard the mitzvot of HaShem your Gd, for this land is better than Egypt to those who guard the mitzvot, and worse than any other land for those who do not guard the mitzvot.

Devarim 18:22
Such as if he says that there is no such thing as repentance or good deeds to cause Gd to change His actions for their sake. Chizkiyah’s prayer helped him, and Ninveh was helped when they returned from their bad path.

The Evening and Morning controversy with Ibn Ezra
Bereishit 1:5
It is not written, “And it was night and it was day,” but rather, “And it was evening,” that the first day reached evening and the light ended, and it was morning - the morning of the night, the dawn rose, and that was the completion of the first of the six days which Gd mentioned in the Ten Commandments. Then the second day began.

Pshat in the face of midrash
Shmot 13:9 לאות
[Rashi - The departure from Egypt.]
According to the depth of its simple explanation, this will be a continuous memorial for you, as though it were written on your hand.

Halachah and Aggada, the Divine Voice and Moshe's voice
Shmot 13:15
Moshe did not address this pasuk to the Jews himself. Why would Moshe need to tell it to the Jews, “This will be a sign on your arm because Gd removed us with great strength…?” Rather, the father tells this to his son.

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