The Brisker Approach to the Bible

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Surprisingly, proponents of the Brisker conceptual model of Talmudic study do not fully carry it over to Bible commentary. Rather, they either engage in traditional homiletics (derush) or halakhic interpretation. The latter is essentially an overlay of Talmudic study onto the Bible. Applying the Brisker method to the Bible entails something entirely different.

R. Yitzchak Etshalom, in his recently published volume of Between the Lines of the Bible on Exodus and his earlier volume on Genesis, shows us how it is done (note that I was heavily involved in the publication of the first volume and minorly in the second). With his captivating prose, penetrating depth and dazzling breadth, R. Etshalom analyzes topics in the Biblical in classical Brisk fashion.

He starts with a text and asks one or more difficult questions on it. He then proceeds to another, unrelated text and similarly poses difficulties. Each step of the way, tensions between texts and ideas grow as the questions multiply. Conflicts within and between texts multiply as R. Etshalom builds his foundation. Then comes the big idea. With one global concept, a textual or theological insight, the bubble of tension is burst. All of the questions are neatly resolved. Indeed, with the new understanding of the “big idea,” they no longer seem like questions.

Some of this is just a matter of presentation. Schooled in contemporary study of the Talmud, R. Etshalom knows how to “give a shi’ur” and arranges his Bible lessons with the same excitement and structure of a high-level Talmud class. However, he does not merely take Talmudic categories and apply them to the Bible.

One of the biggest puzzles in Exodus is the oversized presence of the Tabernacle. Not only are the instructions for its composition given in exquisite detail, they are presented twice! In three sweeping essays, R. Etshalom demonstrates the importance of the Tabernacle as a continuation of the Sinai revelation, explains the differences between the two Tabernacle accounts based on the differing perspectives if the actors (Moshe and Betzalel), and shows the significance of the adjacent Shabbos passages (both are sanctifications of the Jewish people). His conceptual-theological approach is, it seems to me, entirely appropriate because the Bible is first and foremost a theological text. Building, as he does, on the words and literary character of the text, R. Etshalom’s concepts are organic to the Bible rather than externally imposed.

R. Etshalom is singularly focused on the Biblical text. He tries to tease the true meaning from the text by allowing it to speak for itself. However, he is a sufficiently traditional Torah scholar that when he evaluates ambiguous passages, he builds on the Talmud and famous Jewish commentaries. In doing so, he takes a middle position between Dr. Nehama Leibowitz and R. Yoel Bin-Nun (see here: link). The former focused mainly on commentaries and the latter seldom uses them. R. Etshalom uses them as necessary, focusing on the texts but incorporating traditional commentaries, much like R. Elchanan Samet.

A true pedagogue teaches not only his syllabus but the tools for study. In each essay, R. Etshalom pauses to explain what he did, what interpretive tools he used. His methods are mainly literary but they vary. Sometimes his main idea comes from recognizing key words that link texts, other times by understanding the limitations of what the characters knew at the time. Walking away from the book, you are not only dazzled by R. Etshalom’s interpretations but empowered to study on your own in greater depth.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

98 comments

  1. Ummm…. Brisker derech?!

  2. Gil — Since you have a relationship with the author, how about a guest post fleshing out an example? Could be good for book sales.

  3. I liked very much the ideas in his first book and intend to buy and read the second book. However, unless the second is very different from the first, it doesn’t exactly contain “captivating prose.” No big deal, that’s not why anyone buys this type of book.

    Also, here and in the linked article, I think you misunderstand Nechama Leibowitz and what she was doing. She was extremely focused on the Biblical text itself. One of the principal tools she used to teach was the mefarshim. But her focus never left the text of the Torah.

  4. How does R. Etshalom’s approach compare with that of R. Menachem Leibtag?

  5. Do these books follow the same approach as his Torah.org email series or is it different? Here is a sample from Beshalach of his Torah.org series.

    http://www.torah.org/advanced/mikra/5762/sh/Beshalach.pdf

    He’s an amazing teacher btw.

  6. william gewirtz

    the controversial approach of R’ Mordekhai Breuer ztl was often compared to that of brisk. Where bible critics identified different authors, R. breuer would read different perspectives. for example, the two stories of the meraglim (a leadership and a spy mission), the multiple celebration intertwined in the regalim, etc. are classic examples of his approach. IIRC, prof. leiman attacked the influence of bible criticism.

  7. Avi: Generally the same approach

    Skeptic: I believe they are somewhat similar but, perhaps, R. Etshalom uses commentaries more often.

  8. It is my (subjective, of course) impression that in this series R’ Etshalom does not present any specific approach to Torah study. He is trying to introduce the readers to a whole scale of modern approaches. Some chapters remind of RM Breuer, some are very RM Leibtag-ish and so on.

  9. R’ Gil,

    you just (indirectly) connected Rav Leibtag with the Brisker derech. While both can be described as analytic, that’s where any similarity ends. The approach to the text (whole and specific pieces) is worlds apart.

  10. I could be wrong about R. Menachem Leibtag. I’ve only read a little of his work and heard him speak once, all a few years ago.

  11. for those interested to hear r’ leibtag he is sir at OZ on the upper west side – interestingly enough one of the topics is:
    is Kugel kosher
    an unorthodox approach to biblical scholarship

    obviously the reference is to james kugel – who btw, is at the s&p synagogue this weekend as sir

  12. How do you know? Maybe he’s speaking about hot potato kugel in the midbar and the remazim to it in the heintegeh parasheh. 🙂

  13. rafael – good to have a sense of humor. but i believe that r’ leibtag takes issue with those that think james kugel is not orthodox. i have never heard him speak on this topic – which i think is a new one for him – and i believe he at least read his book.

  14. on sunday there seems to be a symposium too at s&p on approaches to tanach:

    WHERE THE YESHIVA MEETS THE UNIVERSITY
    Join in a special day of study with four scholars (Rabbi Hayyim Angel, Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, Professor James Kugel and Mrs. Rachel Friedman) who illustrate how traditional and academic study methodology can enhance our ability to derive meaning from the Bible.

  15. For those interested in a double-header, Prof. Kaplan is speaking at Cardozo on Sunday late afternoon: http://www.cardozo.yu.edu/MemberContentDisplay.aspx?ccmd=ContentDisplay&ucmd=UserDisplay&userid=10642&contentid=23200&folderid=606

  16. “Surprisingly, proponents of the Brisker conceptual model of Talmudic study do not fully carry it over to Bible commentary. Rather, they either engage in traditional homiletics (derush) or halakhic interpretation.”

    I think that R Zevin in ishim veshitos on R Chaim makes the case otherwise. He brings a whole lomdishe p’shat on what Avraham was thinking at the akedah. (Of course, for those on the side of the ‘bear debate’ who don’t buy trhese types of theories about the avos, this is largely irrelevant.)

  17. shaul spira – do you believe r’ chaim literally believed the other side of the bear debate – or is it derech limud of many chachamin?

  18. shaul shapira

    “shaul spira – do you believe r’ chaim literally believed the other side of the bear debate – or is it derech limud of many chachamin?”

    I have no idea. I didn’t watch the video, I just saw the debate on Hirhurim. All I was saying is that we find these pshatim on Tanach also. I think Marc Shapiro has book claiming Brisker Torah on Shas is also somewhat make believe (“ahistorical”). I’m not going to psycho-analyze R Chaim. There is a very recent posting on Seforim blog about this sort of thing, but it doesn’t say all that much.

  19. Shaul: If I understand what you’re saying, that’s what I meant in the first paragraph by “halakhic interpretation”.

  20. ruvie: do you believe r’ chaim literally believed the other side of the bear debate

    I believe he did

  21. gil – any literature you can point to on this – for reading purposes. don’t have an opinion – hard to know what people believe in or not.

  22. “I believe he did”

    Better question: did the Vilna Gaon? (=the Sages who read history books too.)

  23. Ruvie: No literature. Just a gut feeling.

  24. shaul shapira

    Shaul: If I understand what you’re saying, that’s what I meant in the first paragraph by “halakhic interpretation”.

    I’m not sure I get it then- I don’t see how it’s at possible in the first place. The equivalent to R Chaim Al Ha’rambam, would be to find two pesukim that contradict each other and thhen explain how they don’t. But that’s mostly been done already by Sifra, Sifri etc. Also, there’s usually no machlokes Rambam and Ra’avd to deal with. I was trying to say that I see the same unemotional, cold, calculating type of torah in R Zevin’s portrayal of R Chaim, as opposed to cute chassidishe vertlach. I can usually tell if if a vort on the parsha came from the Brisker Rav or the s’fas emes.

  25. shaul shapira

    I didn’t mean to be so long winded in the previous comment. I think it would make things much simpler if you could provide a few examples.

  26. The equivalent to R Chaim Al Ha’rambam, would be to find two pesukim that contradict each other and thhen explain how they don’t. But that’s mostly been done already by Sifra, Sifri etc. Also, there’s usually no machlokes Rambam and Ra’avd to deal with.

    That is exactly what R. Etshalom does (and I believe I describe in this post). He also looks at machlokes between commentaries, such as Rashi vs. Ramban. But mostly contradictions between different passages, e.g. the two descriptions of the building of the Mishkan.

  27. gil – btw, on kugel as not orthodox – r’ leibtag disagrees with those that put james kugel out of bounds of orthodoxy. a recurring theme on hirhurim.

  28. I’d be interested to hear how he defends Kugel. The best defense I’ve heard (from a Bible professor) is that Kugel didn’t really mean what he wrote in his last chapter.

  29. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: Thanks for the free publicity. BTW, the panel was originally scheduled from 5:00-7:00pm but then changed from 4:30-6:30, so, I assume, as not to conflict with the superbowl. Not being a sports fan, I don’t particularly care, except insofar as, hard as it may be to believe, some people would prefer watching the superbowl to hearing me speak. My only concern was that it shouldn’t conflict with Downton Abbey!

    Rav Hayyim’s famous comment on the Akedah is one of the better examples of this genre. I believe it was meant absolutely seriously. For a penetrating critique of Rav Hayyim’s comment (not mentioning him by nane), see Rav Hutner, Maamarei Pahad Yitzhak on Sukkot, Maamar 29.

  30. Or some people are reading something that is not in that last chapter, as we’ve discussed before. I think the ball was last in your court to produce a killer quote in its context.

  31. Lawrence Kaplan

    Re Prof Kugel: I’m with Gil on this one. I thought that Alan Brill’s critique was right on the mark.

  32. FTR, I’m not particularly a fan of his analysis; but, I failed to see anything in that last chapter that was unambiguously beyond the pale of Orthodoxy.

  33. The essay I linked to by R. Etshalom was an analyses of parsha Bshlach, and an indepth look at the Chiasmic structure and lessons of nationhood that could be learned from it. He didn’t talk about contradictions at all.

    Does the “Brisker” derech only look at contradictions are at literary structure as well?

  34. shaul shapira

    IH on February 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    I failed to see anything in that last chapter that was unambiguously beyond the pale of Orthodoxy.

    Is there anyone beyond the pale of orthodoxy in your opinion? (On the left) Or am I beating a dead horse?

  35. Shaul — read the last chapter and decide for yourself. Most of it can be previewed at: http://tinyurl.com/6tngvel

  36. Since it was Shabbat I have no notes from the lecture. R’ leibtag spoke 5 times and the lecture on is kugel kosher was ok but needs some work so it can flow better ( which r’ leibtag agreed afterwards but said he change the focus based on the crowd and amount of time). R’ leibtag believes kugel can be kosherized. To him it’s not important how the chumash came into being the Chumash – certainly what we have is not what is meant when we do hagbah and say zot hatorah. That being said he believes biblical scholarship can be helpful in the knowledge of understanding text. R’ leibtag is from the literary school (think r’ yoel bin nun, r’ Breuer …) that believes in reading text without commentaries first unecumbered by rabbinic commentary.

    R’ leibtag believes that kugel is more hareidi in how one should view text than anything else. More later.

  37. “Shaul — read the last chapter and decide for yourself. Most of it can be previewed at: http://tinyurl.com/6tngvel

    The site says “no preview”

  38. Ah, it may not work from outside the US (due to copyright issues, as I understand).

  39. [a general Google Books issue, not specific to this example]

  40. it was interesting to see r’ leibtag give a wider derech for one to be otd. as long as you believe in hashem and he wanted this holy book – however it can into being – to be given to the jewish people then you are more or less kosher. in the end he says kugel’s book in not how to read the bible – but how it was read. he disagrees with the analysis that when mbs tried to seperate the junkyard and find the pearl – what it found was just a junkyard (the text). his view that kugel believes the chumash is only what people make of it – the interpretation is all that matters – is a hareidi view in not trusting the text and only can be viewed by certain kosher interpretators. the literary school – of which r’ leibtag is a member of – is concerned in rereading the text and using certain tools to discover new meanings of the text (kugel i believe rejects the use of literary analysis of distinctive texts). for example, the flood story not being true is no problem for leibtag since he views it as a stepping stone or preview of moshe and har sinai (word association, similarities of 40 days…). to him the purpose of the chumash is not a history book (although one needs to be careful where that slippery slope ends) but that hashem chose us to be am segulah and the xhumash is a template on how to ivdu at hashem (or that we are obligated) – to which i think kugel will concur to that point.

  41. ” to him the purpose of the chumash is not a history book (although one needs to be careful where that slippery slope ends) ”

    I find this to be a very bizzare position. If the Chumash is not a history book, then it is not a history book. No slippery slope should or could exist.

    If the only reason you believe an event happened in reality is because it’s written in the Chumash, then the Chumash is a history book and you need to deal with that. If that is not the case, then why is there any slippery slope concern?

  42. Avi – you can believe or read beresheit in a non historic manner- flood, babel, maybe the avot never existed but can you say the same about moshe and had Sinai too ? I think not. So you have to draw the line somewhere.

  43. It is also clear to me that r’ leibtag read kugel’s how to read the bible but really has no knowledge of modern biblical scholarship like brettler, fishbane, milgrom, levinson, Ben sommer……

  44. “Avi – you can believe or read beresheit in a non historic manner- flood, babel, maybe the avot never existed but can you say the same about moshe and had Sinai too ? I think not. So you have to draw the line somewhere.”

    I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying that the Avot never existed. If I felt that way, I could not daven the Shemonah Esrei as written. But I have no problem saying that the Avot did not live exactly as the midrashim and the chumash make it sound like they lived, and I have no problem saying that Moshe and Sinai didn’t happen exactly how the Torah and Midrashim describes it happening. That it happened I have no doubt. That our scientific way of understanding history could live up to what children are taught in school, I have many doubts. And I have no doubt that in time, we will understand a bit better what happened. As it is, the “traditional” understanding of what happened with Moshe at Mount Sinai is not agreed upon by all Jews. Some say the whole torah was given at sinai, some say just some parts. Some say 2 statements were heard by all, some say all 10 statements were heard by all. The historically accurate aspects of the story are not clear.

    A story does not have to be historically accurate to be true or relevant. At the same time, just because a story is not historically accurate, doesn’t mean you can dismiss it entirely.

  45. Avi – kugel and r’ leibtag would both agree with your last line

  46. R’ leibtag believes that kugel is more hareidi in how one should view text than anything else.

    Interesting. I assume he means Prof. Kugel believes the meaning lies not in the text itself, but only in how the text is interpeted by the Rabbis over time (i.e. Da’as Torah)?

  47. IH- exactly. that is his point about kugel. Hareidim also do not respect the text on its own and it’s only their nterpretation that counts.

  48. Ruvie-when you use the term Charedim with respect to Parshanut, I am unsure of what you mean. Ae you using the term as code for looking first and foremost at Drashas Chazal, the Gdolei HaMarshim from Rashi through R D T Hoffman Zl and the Meshech Chachmah, Baalei Chasidus, Baalei Musar , etc, as opposed to anyone who eschews reliance on Mfarshim, utilizes literary analysis and considers Biblical crit of some value ? Please clarify your usage of the term.

  49. Ruvie wrote:

    “Avi – you can believe or read beresheit in a non historic manner- flood, babel, maybe the avot never existed but can you say the same about moshe and had Sinai too ? I think not. So you have to draw the line somewhere”

    Please explain how anyone can be intellectually honest, resolve doubts in their own faith and justify drawing a proverbial line in the sand R”L as to the existence of the Avos, but not as to Moshe Rabbeinu, Yetzias Mitzrayim and Maamad Har Sinai?

  50. Steve b. – I believe that r’ leibtag means when he uses the word ” hareidi” – that the only the meaning of the text is the interpretation of the rabbis only. Therefore, the text can be only interpretated via these rabbis. The text is limited n this sense.

  51. Steve n. – r’ leibtag has no problem accepting archeology and other disciplines if they can really prove something. The key is the message of the the text. I would say its similar to the rambam’s approach.

  52. Steve b. – since kugel believes the meaning of the text is what we make of it – that we or it’s interpreters give the text it’s meaning, r leibtag calls this the hareidi approach.

  53. “Please explain how anyone can be intellectually honest, resolve doubts in their own faith and justify drawing a proverbial line in the sand R”L as to the existence of the Avos, but not as to Moshe Rabbeinu, Yetzias Mitzrayim and Maamad Har Sinai?”

    I don’t think you can. Which was my point earlier. But also, no line in the sand is needed. Judaism and knowledge does not end with the Chumash.

  54. If Steve’s fundamentalist slippery slope argument is true, then Rambam et al were surely wrong in saying that parts of Sefer B’reishit were allegorical. Or that the earth has existed for several billion years.

  55. avi – i think i have correctly stated or represented some things. i am not saying r’ leibtag doesn’t believe in the avot. i believe he does. but as we have seen because of science and other disciplines we no longer believe in 6 DAYS of creation or the flood story. the question is what are fundamental to our system and what can be explained differently given new data into the past (and of course how believable the info is). my point being the whole chumash seems to be (lefei r’ leibtag) a setup up for the exodus and har sinai – and the chumash is a message book on how to live our lives as a chosen people and a servant of hashem.

  56. “. my point being the whole chumash seems to be (lefei r’ leibtag) a setup up for the exodus and har sinai ”

    Strange idea there. The Chumash ends with the Jewish people entering Israel. The building of the Mishkan seems to be the focus of the Chumash, along with the climax of Entering Israel. The exodus is the explanation for all the other things the Chumash tells us about. (“because I took you out of Egypt”) and Har Sinai is given the most brief of explanations or story.

    But regardless of that… The idea that the flood story or the 7 days of creation have some special meaning, over say the Tower of Bavel, or generations of humans living past the age of 300 years old, seems very bizzare to me. But regardless, there are 70 ways to interpret any event described in the Torah.

  57. Avi. – I may have misstated. Stories like the flood and sodom stories seem to be a preamble to yeziat mitzraim. And har sinai- in that much of word play and numbers ( like 40 days) are similar and therefore connected thematically. Until the modern era people took these stories – esp. creation literally and factually.

  58. Ruvie wrote:

    “Steve b. – I believe that r’ leibtag means when he uses the word ” hareidi” – that the only the meaning of the text is the interpretation of the rabbis only. Therefore, the text can be only interpretated via these rabbis. The text is limited n this sense”

    Viewing traditional Parshanut as limited ignores the wide range of interpretations therein.

  59. Avi wrote in response:

    “Please explain how anyone can be intellectually honest, resolve doubts in their own faith and justify drawing a proverbial line in the sand R”L as to the existence of the Avos, but not as to Moshe Rabbeinu, Yetzias Mitzrayim and Maamad Har Sinai?”

    I don’t think you can. Which was my point earlier. But also, no line in the sand is needed. Judaism and knowledge does not end with the Chumash”

    However, one can certainly argue that Judaism begins with the Chumash.

  60. IH wrote:

    “If Steve’s fundamentalist slippery slope argument is true, then Rambam et al were surely wrong in saying that parts of Sefer B’reishit were allegorical. Or that the earth has existed for several billion years”

    Please indicate in the Yad, as opposed to MN, where Rambam posits such a theory. The isssue of the age of the earth is an irrelevant red herring, especially if one works from the twin premises that Maaseh Breishis is not meant to be read in a purely literal sense, and that science explains natural phenomena and the Torah explains why and how a Jew is supposed to act.

  61. Ruvie wrote:

    “Steve b. – I believe that r’ leibtag means when he uses the word ” hareidi” – that the only the meaning of the text is the interpretation of the rabbis only”

    I think that the use of the sociological term “Charedi”, is improper. IOW, anyone who works from the literary POV can not just supplement Chazal and the Gdolei Mfarshim, but can also supplant the same in their entirety if he or she so chooses?

  62. Steve — Moreh Nevuchim not the Yad.

  63. Steve — Please indicate in the Yad where Rambam posits the 13 ikarrim?

  64. Ruvie wrote:

    “Avi. – I may have misstated. Stories like the flood and sodom stories seem to be a preamble to yeziat mitzraim. And har sinai- in that much of word play and numbers ( like 40 days) are similar and therefore connected thematically. Until the modern era people took these stories – esp. creation literally and factually.”

    Interesting view. But still, the path to Israel took 40 years. I agree that the numbers and word plays connect themes and ideas, but I think they are much larger than just specific events, such as yitziat miztrayim or Har Sinai, or making the way to Israel. In Shoftim, virtually all of the Leaders, lead the Jewish people for 40 years. And the Beit Hamikdash is said to be build 480 years after Yitziat Mitzrayim. (12 * 40) The word plays and numbers are much larger than any individual event. I believe they even extend past Tanach and into the Midrashim in general.

  65. Steve b. – “I think that the use of the sociological term “Charedi”, is improper”

    I am sure I am doing a disservice to r’ leibtag’ s view but not articulating it correctly. That being said, he views kugel’s approach that the text has no real meaning other than what chazal gave it. He views this to the hareidi viewpoint at looking at the text – that the only meaning is how our selected rabbis view it. He believes they are one in the same on how they view the text. It’s the hareidi not in a sociological context.

  66. “However, one can certainly argue that Judaism begins with the Chumash.”

    You can argue it, but I don’t think it’s true. Judaism begins with the Torah Sh’Baal peh. It came before the Chumash. We were a people before we went down to Egypt, and before we got the Torah.

  67. Avi – no doubt that is true. Do look at yehoshua as a factual book of Jewish history on how we conquered the land? Or a theme based message in the text that may not represent what really happened ( based on current historical view of archaeology etc it seems problematic to read the text literally or historically)

  68. Avi – the question of when Judaism began as a religion as oppose to a people in a certain piece of land ( like Frenchmen are people who live in France) is not so pashut

  69. “Do (you?) look at yehoshua as a factual book of Jewish history”

    I don’t think that any book in the Tanach is there to teach us history. They wouldn’t have laws of Kodesh if they were.

    “Avi – the question of when Judaism began as a religion as oppose to a people”

    Who says it was ever two different things? Gd says we are a Mimlechet Kohanim, not a Dati Kohanim.

  70. avi – Who says it was ever two different things?

    many. but not rabbis

  71. “many. but not rabbis”

    Ironically, the only thing that keeps Reform and Orthodox Jews, or Rav Kook and Ben Gurion connected, is the the emphasis on Judaism being a people rather than a religion. However, the only time the two truly could be separated was from reformers who wished to be a good citizen in the street and a good Jew at home.

    Without that, you’d have as many religions within the Mosaic persuasion as you have types of Christianities.

  72. avi – “is the the emphasis on Judaism being a people rather than a religion.” it can be both and may be its hard to tell the difference. at one time we were a people that worshipped ykvk in a certain land and that was it – no different that other people that worshipped their gods in their land. at some point it switch from being jews from judah (judaism as a people identifier – no different than frenchmen are from france) to a religion. how and when that happened is an interesting topic.

  73. “at some point it switch from being jews from judah … to a religion.”

    Again, my point is that never happened. And ironically the people you might think you could point to to argue that it did happen, proves that it didn’t.

  74. avi – “Again, my point is that never happened. And ironically the people you might think you could point to to argue that it did happen, proves that it didn’t.”

    i have no idea what you mean. think of it this way: why did the ten tribes disappear – why didn’t they keep their religion? what happened there that didn’t happen later on.

  75. “i have no idea what you mean. think of it this way: why did the ten tribes disappear – why didn’t they keep their religion? what happened there that didn’t happen later on”

    They separated themselves from the people, and tried to go their own way, adopting the religious practices of the people around them. But their first step was to say that the Kingship and people of King David’s line, was not their own.

  76. avi – like there was no avoda zara in the south? the principles of the religion should have been there if it existed.we have no king david line today yet the religion and its accouterments are with us. but then again thats rabbinic judaism – but we assume it goes back to sinai.

  77. IH asked:

    “Steve — Please indicate in the Yad where Rambam posits the 13 ikarrim?”

    I never maintained such a POV. As Larry Kaplan and any serious student of Rambam’s writings will tell you, the reconciliation and understanding of Rambam’s intent on any Hashkafic issue when one can raise questions of possibly contradictory statements in Rambam’s writings does not mean that one find a makor in the text that suits ones’ POV , but proceeeding from the premise that the same Rambam wrote the Perush HaMishnah, Yad, Shemoneh Prakim and MN, but probably with different intended audiences and purposes.

  78. Steve — Nu, so why did you ask “Please indicate in the Yad, as opposed to MN, where Rambam posits such a theory.”?

  79. “avi – like there was no avoda zara in the south? the principles of the religion should have been there if it existed.we have no king david line today yet the religion and its accouterments are with us. but then again thats rabbinic judaism – but we assume it goes back to sinai.”

    What does this have to do with Avodah Zara? I forget which king it was, but he forbade the people from the North from going to Jerusalem. The line of King David was carried until the time of the Crusades amongst the Gaonim and Exliarchs. Don’t know if it was an accurate line or not, but they believed it to be. The Av Beit Din was supposedly always a member of that lineage, and was chosen for that reason.

  80. IH-I knew without even waiting for an answer that you would refer me to the MN.

  81. avi – i would think there is more to our religion than the line of david and its kings. i do not think that makes us jews and keeps us jews. again, what makes a jew a jew and not just a judean ? originally he/she cam from judah. at some point the identifier from a place to a religion – probably somewhere during the second temple time. if you are interested in a different perspective read: shaye cohen’s the beginnings of jewishness

    http://books.google.com/books/about/The_beginnings_of_Jewishness.html?id=vX8moleho2kC

  82. MiMedinat HaYam

    “Without that, you’d have as many religions within the Mosaic persuasion as you have types of Christianities”

    actually, there are some (born, even raised (somewhat) jewish) jews who see no conflict with judaism and catholocism.

    and they arent “messianist jews” (who are protestant, usually baptist or evangelicals). they go to mass regularly, etc. (and dont particularly look to convert us.)

    slippery slope, ignorance, non acceptance, whatever.

  83. ” i would think there is more to our religion than the line of david and its kings. ”

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure that Tanach has more to say than the existence of King David. However, rejecting a nations king is tantamount to rejecting the nation that the king still represents.

  84. avi -“However, rejecting a nations king is tantamount to rejecting the nation that the king still represents.”

    Hasmoneans for 500 please! how many years was that were there was no davidic king in judah? why were there no torah true in the north – and how many prophets were from the north ? many – does it all add up?
    i think your statement is not accurate. its just rejecting political authority not its religion (or at least it could be)

  85. “Hasmoneans for 500 please! how many years was that were there was no davidic king in judah?”

    True, but there was nobody at that timing claiming to be the real king from Judah either.

    The point is not where people lived, but if they associated themselves with the Jewish people or not. The Hasmoneans were linked to Jeruselem, and there was nobody from David saying otherwise.

    ” why were there no torah true in the north – and how many prophets were from the north ? many – does it all add up?”

    It adds up perfectly, as the prophets tried to get the people to re-unite.

    “i think your statement is not accurate. its just rejecting political authority not its religion (or at least it could be”

    No, it’s rejecting people hood and a connection to the nation.

  86. Lawrence Kaplan

    For the Rambam, a non-Davidic king over art of Israel has the halakhic status of a king, even when there is a Davidic king ruling over the other part. He explicitly rules that if there is more than one Jewish King at the same time, as long as neither is subject to the other, they all bring the korban of the Nasi.

    Ruvie : I think you meant to write 200 years.

  87. avi – “True, but there was nobody at that timing claiming to be the real king from Judah either.” we just don’t know. what we do know is that being jewish was not connected during this period to davidic kingship and judaism and torah was already established. while in the north we really do not understand why there was no torah and yet they had prophets.
    also, it seems from the history books that many stayed in the north and were never deported. so why was there no religion – they did worship ykvk (and also baal) – so the question remains why not torah or religion maintained? how did it disappear?

    ” No record exists of the Assyrians having exiled people from Dan, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun or western Manasseh. Descriptions of the deportation of people from Reuben, Gad, Manasseh in Gilead, Ephraim and Naphtali indicate that only a portion of these tribes were deported and the places to which they were deported are known locations given in the accounts. The deported communities are mentioned as still existing at the time of the composition of the books of Kings and Chronicles and did not disappear by assimilation.”

    hence my interest on what make jews jews.

  88. lawrence kaplan – 500 was dollars (as a big question vs 100 or 200) – but you are right 200 would have a double meaning – i am not that smart to think of that on the cuff. my issue is what does kingship have to do with religion? – maybe a lot but its still interesting how religion in the north disappears – it questions how much religion was there in all of israel in general and how late our religion may have been founded (yet we have this wonderful collective historical memory – lets remember the avot keep all of the torah)

  89. ” while in the north we really do not understand why there was no torah and yet they had prophets.
    also, it seems from the history books that many stayed in the north and were never deported. ”

    Yes, only the elites were exiled. The rest of the people merged and converted with their non-Jewish neighbors after deciding to have nothing with the Jewish people anymore. The elites felt differently and so had to be exiled.

  90. There are stories in the Apocrypha from people who were exiled or stories of people who we are meant to believe lived during that time. Can’t remember the names of the books right now though.

  91. avi – “Yes, only the elites were exiled.” isn’t that true in the south as well after the first destruction? i am trying the differences and similarities. i assume there were prophets in north and some stayed or were with the people. just don’t see why one disappeared and one survive based on kingship. probably the religion was not solidified as much as we think – or as we were taught.

  92. Ruvie wrote:

    “Steve b. – since kugel believes the meaning of the text is what we make of it – that we or it’s interpreters give the text it’s meaning, r leibtag calls this the hareidi approach”

    I think that a far better description, and without any negative connotations that the term charedi conjures, would be a traditional rabbinic approach.

  93. Steve b. – I don’t think you are correct – that is not the traditional rabbinic approach. No negative connotation meant by hareidi approach – its his usage of the word and he thinks kugel is in that camp with his approach.

  94. ” just don’t see why one disappeared and one survive based on kingship. probably the religion was not solidified as much as we think – or as we were taught.”

    I have no idea what you mean about the religion. There are French people living in America with strong French identities today, without any religion.

    In Bavel, the elites were able to set up schools, and maintain the davidic line. They were even given positions of power in the government for their community. The Assyrians did the opposite and would not allow people to have their own identity.

  95. Ruvie wrote:

    “Steve b. – I don’t think you are correct – that is not the traditional rabbinic approach. No negative connotation meant by hareidi approach – its his usage of the word and he thinks kugel is in that camp with his approach”

    The traditional rabbinical approach AFAIK, is to see how Rashi, Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Seforno, Rashbam, Netziv, Meshech Chachamah, and other similar commentaries, understand the text as per their understanding of Chazal, as well as via the many Baalei Chasidus, Musar and other sefarim on Parsha via such Talmidei Chachamim as Akeidas Yitzchak,Ohr HaChaim, Klei Yakar,Chasam Sofer, Beis HaLevi etc. I reject the usage of the term “charedi”, which has a clearly pejorative sense and application and is being used way beyond its intended meaning in the course of this discussion.

  96. Steve — funny watching you be PC, but Ruvie was just reporting what R. Leibtag said this past Shabbat (Ruvie on February 4, 2012 at 10:01 pm)

  97. IH-Ruvie used the term Charedi-which AFAIK, is a sociological term, which really no bearing on the discussion at hand, and which is a pejorative term for Parshanut al Pi Chazal and the traditional Mforshim.

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