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tradition-cabinetby R. Yitzchak Blau

Intertextuality, the idea that biblical stories use parallel language and themes to link with other biblical stories, is a staple of contemporary literary interpretation of Tanakh. As many have pointed out, Hazal often note such biblical parallels (see Bereishit Rabba 85:9,11). In this article, Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot utilizes this method to explain the source of a famous midrash. A well-known midrash (Bereishit Rabba 38:13) depicts Avraham as working in his father’s idol store and smashing all the idols. What motivates this midrashic tale? Presumably, some of the motivation is to provide a back-story for Avraham and to explain why Hashem selected him (although arguably Bereishit 18:19 does so). In this essay, R. Helfgot suggests that many literary and thematic parallels between Avraham and Gidon led Hazal to compose this midrash. Gidon destroys his father’s idolatrous altar and the Gidon chapters in sefer Shoftim make many allusions to Avraham. Apparently ,there is some deeper connection between these two biblical characters.

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About Yitzchak Blau

Rabbi Yitzchak Blau is Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivat Orayta and also teaches at Midreshet Lindenbaum. He is the author of Fresh Fruit and Vintage Wine: The Ethics and Wisdom of the Aggada and an Associate Editor of Tradition.

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