Monday, February 01, 2016

Last night Ted Cruz asked Iowa voters to ""awaken the body of Christ that we may pull back from the abyss." What did he mean here?

My suggestion is "body of Christ" is intended as an allegory for the Christian voter's conscious. When he says he wants the body of Christ to wake up, he means the each individual voter should rouse his or her own sense of Christian morality and cast his or her vote through that frame of reference. Or at least that's what I think.

I mention this because it brings to mind a fascinating Rashi. Numbers 20:15 says: " our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers." [King James]

Rashi tells us "From here [we learn] that when Israel is afflicted with punishment, the Patriarchs grieve in the grave."

Is this also an allegory? Or is Rashi [*] simply trying to describe an event with no underlying meaning? Is he saying something in code as Ted Cruz presumably did when he called for Jesus to wake up? Or does Rashi think that Abraham, Issac and Jacob are actually "grieving in the grave" when Jews are afflicted?

My answer: There are two reasons to conclude that Rashi is describing an event here:

(1) He's responding to a specific grammatical cue. he vocalization of the word "v'la'avoseinu" suggests that the fathers this verse has in mind are specific and particular fathers. The patach under the lamed indicates a definitearticle, so the last part of the verse should be read "to THE fathers." This tells us that the fathers spoken about here are not ordinary and generic ancestors, but specific fathers,

(2) Rashi did not consider himself a darshan. Though he will at times cite a drash (by which I mean something not suggested by a reading) he almost always introduces it with a formula like "And our Rabbis darshaned as follows." Even when he does this, he almost always provides the pshat first and only introduces a drash when there is some shortcoming in the pshat.

On Numbers 20:15 Rashi offers only one reading. Typically, when Rashi offers just one reading, that reading is what he understands to be the pshat.

[Please note: Rashi is citing the Tanchuma, but the discussion I wish to have is about what Rashi imagined happens to the Patriarchs when Israel suffers, not what the author of the Tanchuma thought]

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