Chumash Musings

Yosef, Slavery and Morality

by R. Gil Student Sometimes we struggle to understand specific laws or passages that do not seem to fit into the Torah’s overall picture of harmony, community and connection with God. One such issue is that of slavery, which the Torah permits and legislates. The moral approach that seems most true to me, most consistent with Torah and history, is ...

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The Mount Sinai Narrative: A Literary Analysis

by R. Gil Student Seven weeks after the Exodus, the Jewish people gathered around the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. This historic experience is described primarily in five chapters: Exodus 19-24. 1)Although see also Deut. 4 In a 2015 book, Prof. Benjamin Sommer of JTS dissects this passage into multiple sources in which he finds different accounts ...

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Angels and Afterlife

by R. Gil Student I. Angels and Visions The Torah speaks explicitly about angels but gives little detail about these supernatural creatures. A debate about these biblical narratives reflects not only different understandings about the nature of angels but also about other crucial concepts. According to Jewish tradition, Avraham is visited by three angels (Gen. 18:1). Rambam (Moreh Nevukhim 2:42; ...

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Long Biblical Lives

by R. Gil Student The biblical lists of generations include descriptions of very long lives. For example, Adam lived 930 years (Gen. 5:5), Noach 950 (9:29), and the longest — Mesushelach 969 (5:27). How do we relate to these descriptions of longevity, well beyond anything we can expect of human beings? Two approaches emerge from Medieval Jewish commentary. I. Theories ...

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Koheles and Political Struggle

by R. Gil Student Who wrote Koheles, the biblical book of Ecclesiastes? The traditional answer to the question of Koheles’ authorship is Shlomo HaMelech, King Solomon, who according to tradition wrote Shir HaShirim, Koheles and Mishlei (Koheles Rabbah 1:1), which were copied and finalized by Chizkiyahu and his counterparts (Bava Basra 15a). My question is not which person wrote Koheles, ...

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