Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Let the Tanaaim be Tannaim!

Rashi and Ramban discuss, in parshas Eikev, the midrash which claims "the clouds of the divine glory brushed their garments and pressed them so they looked like freshly ironed articles" while the Jews were marching through the desert.

My object, when I read midrash and rishonim, isn't to discover what "really happened" but to see, as best possible, what the writer is attempting to convey. I think all parties under discussion here - Ramban, Rashi and most crucially the original midrash - are of the view that the clouds of glory literally kept everyone's clothing looking sharp as that's where their reading of the verse takes them.

Here, the verse says שִׂמְלָתְךָ לֹא בָלְתָה and the midrash, followed by Rashi and Ramban, take that to mean what it says it means just as they take ואש מתלקחת בתוך הברד to mean what it says it means.

I argue that if a verse says something supernatural happened, the Sages believed it happened. Many of the so-called supernatural midrashim are just alternative readings of the verse. In such cases what apart from our own squeamishness stops us from concluding that the Sages though that what the verse says happened actually happened? (and please note the distinction between what the sages thought happened, and what actually happened as there aren't necessarily one and the same)

Search for more information about Midrash at4torah.com

No comments: