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A SAMPLE OF CONTEMPORARY AND ANTHOLOGIZED

RABBINICAL COMMENTARY ON THE TORAH


(Genesis 12:1)
HEBREW WORDS
XII


  1. God’s call to Abram.1

(H) – [And] HASHEM said to Abram.


When and where God said this to Abram is disputed among the commentators:
According to Ibn Ezra and Radak, God had already said this to Abram in Ur Kasdim, and as a result, he and his family set out for Canaan [see 11:31]. According to them, the words (H) should be rendered in the past perfect: Now HASHEM had [previously] said….
Cf. Zohar: Since Terach, an idolater, began the journey because he wanted to accompany Abraham, why did God, who delights in the repentance of sinners, not command them in the plural (H), get yourselves, thus including Terach and the others who were to comply? Rav Shimon replied. If you think that Terach left Ur Kasdim in order to repent of his past life, you are mistaken. The truth is that he was fleeing in order to save himself from his countrymen after the incident of Abraham in the fiery furnace [see comm. of Ramban in 11:32]. But when he reached Charan [and no longer feared them], Terach went no further. Therefore, the command was worded in the singular, only to Abraham, as if to say: go to give life to yourself and to all that follow you from now on. Terach, however, ‘saw not the light’ and repented only late in life [see comm. to 11:32 and 15:15].
According to Rashi and Ramban [but for different reasons], this command came to Abram when they were already in Charan. This is the view shared by most commentators.
(H) – Get yourself [lit. ‘go to you’ or: ‘go for yourself’].
[The addition of the seemingly superfluous word (H), to you, is noted. Since nothing in the Torah is without specific significance, and since if the Torah merely wanted to say ‘leave Charan and go to Canaan’, the imperative (H), go!, should have sufficed. Therefore, the inclusion of (H) requires interpretation].
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Source: Genesis, Vol. II. A New Translation With a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinical Sources. Translation and commentary by Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz. New York: Art Scroll-Mesorah Publications, 1978.


27] Now this is the line of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran begot Lot. 28] Haran died in the lifetime of his father Terah, in his native land, Ur of the Chaldeans. 29] Abram and Nahor took to themselves wives, the name of Abram’s wife being Sarai and that of Nahor’s wife Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30] Now Sarai was barren, she had no child.
31] Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot the son of Haran and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and they set out together from Ur of the Chaldeans for the land of Canaan; but when they had come as far as Haran, they settled there. 32] The days of Terah came to 205 years; and Terah died in Haran.
1] The LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2] I will make of you a great nation2,/and I will bless you;/ I will make your name great,/ And you shall be a blessing./ 3] I will bless those who bless you/ And curse him that curses you;/ And all the families of the earth/ Shall bless themselves3 by you.” 4] Abram went forth as the LORD had commanded him and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. 5] Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot and all the wealth that they had amassed, and the persons that they had acquired in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in the land of
11:28] Ur. In southeastern Mesopotamia, near the mouth of the Euphrates at the Persian Gulf/ Or Ura in northern Syria, which is much closer to Haran [3].
12:1] Your native land. However, according to a different tradition, Ur, not Haran, was Abraham’s native place (Gen. 11:26-28).
Harmonizers therefore render “land of your kindred.”

1 This is one of the ten trials of faith with which God tested Abram, all of which Abram withstood. The commentators differ on the precise identity of the ‘ten trials,’ for more than ten incidents in Abram’s life could be so designated. According to Avos d’Rabbi Nosson 33, he was tested:

Twice when he had to move (once here and again in v. 10 when, after God’s glowing promise of a good life in Canaan, Abram was forced to go to Egypt in the face of a famine);

Twice in connection with his two sons [the difficult decision to heed Sarah’s insistence that he drive away Ishmael (21:10); and second, in the supreme test of binding his beloved son Isaac to the altar in preparation to sacrifice him (22:1-2)];

Twice with his two wives [when Sarah was taken from him to Pharaoh’s palace (v. 15); and when he was required to drive Hagar from his home (21:10). (An alternate interpretation includes the banishment of Hagar with that of Ishmael as a single test. In its place among the list of the trials is the abduction of Sarah to the palace of Abimelech (20:2)];

Once, on the occasion of his war with the kings (14:14);

Once, at the Covenant between the parts [(15:7 ff) when he was told that his descendants would be enslaved and exiled for four hundred years];

Once, in Ur Kasdim [when he was thrown into a fiery furnace by Nimrod (see comm.. to 11:28)]; and

Once at the covenant of Circumcision (17:9) [which was an unprecedented act and, at his advanced age, a dangerous operation].

2 A great nation. (H) (goy, nation); used in the Bible to refer to the descendants of Abraham as well as to other peoples.

3 Shall bless themselves. When they utter a blessing, they will invoke Abraham as a model [4] (cf. Gen. 48:20). Others interpret this: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” i.e., “you will be the cause of their blessings.”


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