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Tag Archives: Midrash

It’s All Coming Together Now (Tu B’Av)

Preview: Tu B’Av is a little-known holiday that Chazal associate with a bevy of Biblical events—from overcoming liability for the sin of the spies, to the case of Tzlofchad’s daughters, to reuniting with the tribe of Binyamin following civil war. These events are strewn across Tanach, seem to share little in common, and are never dated in Tanach itself to the fifteenth of Av. But careful study shows that they are, indeed, deeply connected—both to each other, and to the particular day to which Chazal date them. In fact, the key to figuring this all out may be to recognize that yet one other event falls out around the fifteenth of Av—one that Chazal never explicitly connect with this date: the war with Sichon, all the way back in sefer Bamidbar

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The Wheel Deal (Pesach)

Preview: A famous midrash claims that “a maidservant at the Sea of Reeds saw/perceived what even Yechezkel son of Buzi did not.” What’s motivating this midrash? Perhaps it’s the pointed parallels between the splitting of the sea and Yechezkel’s “vision of the chariot.”

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Now You’re Catching On (Mishpatim)

Preview: Rachel named her son “the child of my און;” and Yosef’s father-in-law was the “priest of און;” and Yaakov dubbed Reuven “the first of my און;” and the story of a boy named “אונן” is curiously situated in the middle of all these other events. Also: Rachel died through “אסון;” and Yaakov feared that he would lose Binyamin to an “אסון;” and Yosef married a woman named “אסנת.” What are we to make of all of this? Piecing together the puzzle, from Tanach to the midrash to ancient Egyptian literature.

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Why Envy? (Korach)

Preview: Rashi claims that Datan and Aviram where the men who collected excess mann earlier in the Torah. What is motivating this claim? A series of pointed textual parallels, it seems – and deep insight into the nature of envy.

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Bread and Curses (Shelach)

Preview: On the relationship between three stories (mann-collecter, wood-gatherer, blasphemer) and three laws (Shabbat, challah, lechem ha-panim) – and how the theme of “redistributive justice” may be the key to understanding their literary connection.

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Bitter Waters (Nasso)

Preview: It seems the “bitter waters” central to the sotah ritual ought to be understood in light of the “bitter waters” which b’nei Yisrael drank shortly after Moshe and Miriam led them in “shirat ha-yam.” Also relevant in this vein: the deep-running contrast between Miriam and the sotah.

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Success Secrets (Acharei Mot)

Preview: Analyzing the curious Talmudic story of Kimchit, mother to eight high priests. Includes comments on the story’s Biblical roots.

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Seeing Stars (Ki Tissa)

Preview: Rashi, citing the midrash, claims that Pharaoh foresaw the incident of the Golden Calf during the plague of locusts. Underlying that claim are a series of remarkable textual parallels between the two incidents: locusts and Golden Calf. What are they, and what do they mean?

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The Coin Flip (Purim)

Preview: Is the “half shekel,” which we donate on the fast-day of Esther, related to the “half kingdom” which Achashverosh offered to give Esther following her fast? It seems so!

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Dream Bigger (Vayeshev)

Preview: A theory: Yosef’s dreams weren’t about his brothers – they were about the eleven chieftains of Esav, listed immediately prior to his dreams. In fact, near every detail of his dream fits into this line of interpretation.

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