Thursday, November 29, 2012

Your Vayishlach Parsha stumpers

Here are some stumpers you can share with friends, neighbors, and anyone else you wish to annoy.
  1. Why does Bethel have two naming stories? Twice we are told that Yaakov named the place "Bethel". Each time he erected a marker, and poured on it some oil, from the flask he conveniently had in his pocket. Why did it happen twice? (Of course, this smells like a doublet.)
  2. How can Rashi say Yaakov kept "taryag mitzvos?" Never mind the usual objections (he married sisters, he robbed from Esav, etc.) and instead recall that only a king- woman-kohen- farmer hybrid could actually fulfill all 613 commandments. If it means he kept the "spirit" of the 613 as one Rashi super-commentator says, well, what does that mean, and why would Yaakov need to keep the "spirit" of the a law like "slaughter all the Amalekites" when the Amalakites hadn't yet committed the crime that made the law necessary?
  3. Let's stipulate: All midrashim are true and from Sinai. So did Dina marry Shimon or did she marry Iyov? Both possibilities are represented in the midrashim, and both hang on scriptural pegs. But how can both be true? Obviously, one opinion is wrong. (and compounding the difficulty, if Dina did marry Job, it follows that nine different Tannaic guesses about the dates of Job's era are wrong. On BT: Bava Basra 15a, we find the following possibilities advanced. Job was from the time of (1) Moshe, (2) spies (3) Judges (4) Esther (5) David (6) Queen of Sheba (7) Chaldeans, (8) Return from Exiles and (9) Javob. One other opinion says (10) he never lived at all. Clearly, not all of these are correct, which seemingly imperils, or better yet, demolishes, the typical yeshiva guy's view of the Tannaim and their infallibility.
  4. Let's stipulate: All midrashim are true and from Sinai. On Gen 35:8 Rashi quotes an aggada based on a Greek pun. Are Greek and Hebrew co-Holy? This is not so crazy as it sounds. Go to BT Sanh 76b and you will find a Talmudic debate about the meaning of the following words: ואיש אשר יקח את אשה ואת אמה זמה הוא באש ישרפו אתו ואתהן Rabbi Yishmoel darshens the pasuk -- in fact he learns the Halacha -- based on what a Hebrew word means in Greek. In other words, Rabbi Yishmoel believed that God's law was hidden in a Greek/Hebrew homonymMore

Originally posted December 2, 2009

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