Volume 29 Number 61
                 Produced: Fri Aug 20  6:14:45 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Breuer's tanach
         [Moshe Feldman]
Eye for an Eye
         [Wendy Baker]
Fundamentals of Faith
         [Cheryl Maryles]
Halacha Uproots the Scripture
         [David and Toby Curwin]
Literal meaning does not equal p'shat
         [David I. Cohen]
LITERAL=Verse by itself; PSHAT=Verse in Context
         [Russell Hendel]
         [Russell Hendel]
Pshat vs Teitch (translation)
         [Ellen Krischer]
Scope of Oral Torah - was P'shat vs Teitch
         [Joseph Geretz]


From: Moshe Feldman <MFeldman@...>
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 18:12:02 -0400
Subject: Breuer's tanach

Is Breuer's tanach, which is based on manuscript called keter 'aram
tzova (at least starting towards the end of sefer dvarim), clearly the
most correct?  I understand that in the charedi community in Israel
there is now a big argument on this issue.  Does anyone know what the
argument is of those who are against Breuer's chumash?  What about his
methodology (described in his hakdamah) of deciding based on a majority
of manuscripts for the majority of chumash, for which he does not have
the keter 'aram tzova?  What about his decisions regarding ta'amei

Kol tuv,


From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 08:58:01 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Eye for an Eye

Something that seems missing in this discussion is the fact of the
importance of eye for an eye-etc. as a limiting factor in what you can
get for an injury.  I think of it as no more than an eye for an eye etc.
This serves as a limiter and a equalizer of all humanity.  A rich man's
eye is not worth more than a poor man's eye.  Even if monetary payment
was the intent, perhaps for all but life for a life, this concept rules
the maximum amount.  I think that this interpretation fits the simple
pshat of the pasuk.  What a lovely idea in a time of harsh punishments
and general inequality in the ancient world surrounding the Israelites.

Wendy Baker 


From: Cheryl Maryles <C-Maryles@...>
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 10:58:08 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: Fundamentals of Faith

> From: Joseph Adler <jadler@...>
> That is, if the concept of the Mashiach and the after life is so
> important to Jewish faith, why then does one have to rely on a
> Midrashic-like analysis to prove that the concept of the Messiah is in
> fact Biblical in origin?  In particular, respondents of my question
> often refer to Genesis Rabbah, Rashi, Onkelos and the Rambam to prove
> that the Chumash contemplated the concept of a Messiah.  But why is this
> very important article of faith left to such "superficial" exegesis when
> the Torah could have explicitly spelled out the concept as it does with
> various other Mitzvot? There are several Mitzvot that are enumerated in
> the Torah in very clear and understandable language; why then do we need
> to rely upon a Remez to prove our point in these 

First of all, I don't think you should sell "midrashich-like analysis"
so short. Without it, I don't know how you'd keep shabbos, eat meat,
Your Tefillin wouldn't be square and black as that isn't even midrashic,
it's purely oral. However, I believe that the answer to your question is
more explicit then you are making it out to be. As far as afterlife, the
Ramabn points out that if there is a punishment of kares which implies
being cut off, there must be something to be cut off from.(more then
mere death) The messianic era is clearly foretold in the prophcy of
bilam, as well as the later parshiot in dvarim. Where it clearly states
that in the end of days Hashem will gather the exiles etc. It is really
the ressurection which the gemara uses drashas to prove is from the
torah (see the last perek of Sanhedrin).


From: David and Toby Curwin <curwin@...>
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 22:01:23 +0300
Subject: Halacha Uproots the Scripture

Joseph Geretz <jgeretz@...> wrote:

> If this is not the case, please explain the reasons for the Six books of
> the Mishna, the vast writings of the Talmud, both Babylonian and
> Yerushalmi as well as the vast number of commentaries which explain and
> elucidate the meaning, parameters and guidelines, of the Written
> Law.

I think this is an easy one. The purpose of the Mishna, Talmud, etc. is
to determine halacha, not to determine the pshat (simple
meaning/translation) of the text. Remember the rule, that in certain
cases "halacha okeret mikra" (halacha uproots the scripture).

> Also, your statment that there is significance to the *plain meaning*
> does not contradict my assertion that there are certain instances where
> there is no significance to the *plain translation*. 
> Having said that, I agree with you that in the vast majority of cases
> there is significance to the literal translation. However there are
> still many instances where the literal translation runs *contrary* to
> the simple meaning of the Pasuk. 

If I understand correctly, these instances are the exception that proves
your rule. I'm not sure that they actually exist, which is why I doubt
your approach. Can you give examples where all commentators agree
that what you call the literal translation is not correct? (And I stated
earlier, ayin tachat ayin does not apply, since the GR"A said in
regard to it "halacha okeret mikra".

-David Curwin
Kvutzat Yavne, Israel


From: David I. Cohen <BDCOHEN613@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 1999 09:15:46 EDT
Subject: Literal meaning does not equal p'shat

The discussion of the "literal meaning" of verses in Torah becomes
confusing because many posters seem to think that the terms "literal
meaning" and "p'shat" are synonymous.
    As Nechama Leibowitz zt"l (Jerry Parness is correct) pointed out so
often, even "translation" of a word is in reality commentary. She often
said that there is no such thing as saying something "in other words"
without some change in meaning and comment on what the speaker thinks
that the writer "actually meant".
    She pointed out that the quest for "p'shat" is a search for the
original intent of the words used. This is different from a "literal
meaning" which denotes what the words "say", not necessarily what those
very same words actually mean, in context. Sometimes, for example, a
midrash can actually provide the "p'shat" of a verse, which would be a
far cry from its literal meaning. For example, in Bereishit 18:26 the
words "in the city" are clearly superfluous. The midrashic idea that the
people who would save S'dom must be involved in the city life (and not
cloister themselves), according to Nechama Leibowitz, is the actual
p'shat of that phrase.
    When Onkelos puts an expansive "commentary" in his Aramaic
"translation", he is simply trying to elucidate that actual "p'shat" of
the words.
    Kol tuv,
    David I. Cohen


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Tue, 10 Aug 1999 01:19:06 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: LITERAL=Verse by itself; PSHAT=Verse in Context

Several postings have started a thread on the difference between Pshat
vs literal translations. What is or what should be Pshat (Joseph
Alexander, Ellen (v29n36), David, Toby v29n32 etc).

Here is a simple idea that I have used on my Rashi-Is-Simple website: I
distinguish between the meaning of VERSE BY ITSELF and a VERSE IN

Let us apply this to the famous EYE FOR AN EYE verse (v29n36).

If ***all*** I heard was AN EYE FOR AN EYE then indeed I would be
justified in saying it means that if Bob takes Simons eye out then the
court takes Bob's eye out.

BUT (Approach 1 of Rambma Torts Chapter 1) if I hear of SEVERAL types of
renumeration that are clearly monetary, such as sickness and disability,
AN EYE verse as referring to Monetary value.

Similary (Approach 2 of Rashi Lev 24:20) if another similar verse
EXPLICITLY says that MONETARY compensation should be used for injury
then the CONTEXT (of similar verses) requires me to "PERCEIVE" EYE FOR
AN EYE as refering to monetary value (In passing regarding "As a person
gives a blemish to a person SO SHALL BE GIVEN ***IN** HIM"--the phrase
"GIVE IN" refers to MONETARY liability (not literal) giving).

We can now define terms
---"taking out an eye for an eye" is the VERSE BY ITSELF (literal meaning)
---"Paying the value of an eye for an eye taken out" is the PSHAT or
meaning of the text based on its context.

I have found this idea useful in understanding several verses and in
explaining several texts. For complete details on EYE FOR AN EYE (the
above was only a sketch) visit http://www.shamash.org/rashi/v2-21-24.htm

Russell Hendel; Phd ASA; Moderator Rashi Is Simple


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 22:59:33 -0400 (EDT)

I would like to supplement some of the comments on "What is PSHAT"(Simple
meaning) with an OPERATIONAL criterion: I distinguish beween PSHAT of a
Rather than be philosophical let me give 3 specific examples:

EXAMPLE 1: The Hebrew root A`S`H can mean GROW WILD or TRIM/FIX.  If
**all** I had was the verse "She should A`S`H her nails(Dt 21:12)" then
the PSHAT of the VERSE could be either "Let her nails GROW" or "Let her
TRIM her nails"(Yevamoth 48a). But only the interpretation "Let her
nails GROW WILD" fits in as the PSHAT of the CHAPTER, which speaks about
letting her look ugly so that the person who captured her should not be

EXAMPLE 2: The PSHAT OF THE VERSE Lev 25:35 "Don't lend with interest
AND FEAR GOD" could mean either "Don't try and subterfuge the law (Eg by
lending to a non jew with interest knowing full well that the non jew
will lend to Jews so that you look as if you are lending to Jews))" or
it could mean "FEAR GOD & Battle your temptation to always make a
profit". But only one of these PSHATs fit with the whole COLLECTION OF
ALL VERSES that end with FEAR GOD---namely, don't subterfuge the law
since God who knows man's thoughts is watching (The verses with FEAR GOD
are LEv 19:14,32&25:17,36,43).

EXAMPLE 3: The PSHAT of the VERSE AN EYE FOR AN EYE could equally mean
the MONETARY value of an eye for an eye or could mean take out his eye
because he took out your eye. But the PSHAT OF THE CHAPTER which speaks
about monetary damage for sickness and disability (Ex 21:19) strongly
suggests that EYE FOR AN EYE should be interpreted monetarily also.

Two points should be made: 
--In all these cases we do not have the 'LAW uprooting the Pshat' but
rather we have the PSHAT of the CHAPTER uprooting the PSHAT of the VERSE
(Cf David Curwin in the name of the Gra MJv29n44). 
---We have no conflict between PSHAT and DERASH but rather have a
perspective of PSHAT OF ONE VERSE vs PSHAT of a whole COLLECTION OF VERSES.  

In other words I think that of the 3 items mentioned by Binyomin Segal
(syntax, context,semantics v29n46) it is CONTEXT that holds the KEY to
understanding the various approaches to Pshat.

Many of these ideas occur frequently in my Rashi website.
Russell Hendel; Moderator Rashi Is Simple; http://www.shamash.org/rashi/


From: Ellen Krischer <krischer@...>
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 09:26:18 -0400
Subject: RE: Pshat vs Teitch (translation)

I am having a hard time understanding Joseph Geretz's reluctance to see
value in what he calls "translation".

> ... my opinion against accepting simple *translation* is not an
> opinion against acepting simple *meaning*. These are two different
> things.

And what is wrong in there being a value to both?

> If this is not the case, please explain the reasons for the Six books of
> the Mishna, the vast writings of the Talmud, etc...

These are halachik (legal) documents.  They are important, even crucial to
our lives.  But that does not preclude there being other-than-halachik value
in Biblical writings.

> Also, your statment that there is significance to the *plain meaning*
> does not contradict my assertion that there are certain instances where
> there is no significance to the *plain translation*. 

I don't understand this at all.  How can there be no significance to the
"plain translation?"  These are the words of God!  We believe the words
weren't chosen arbitrarily.

> However there are still many instances where the literal translation
> runs *contrary* to the simple meaning of the Pasuk.

Even if I agreed with you, so what?  I still claim a value to literal
translation in every case.  Just because we don't accept it as halacha or
literal history doesn't mean there is no value in discovering what it is.

> If I had a third grader who came home reciting "Ayin Tachas Ayin -an
> eye for an eye". I would not think, "Oh, very nice. Today they
> translated, tomorrow they will learn Pshat". I'd be on the phone to
> the Rebbi in an instant asking "what in the world are you
> teaching!!??".

TORAH!!!!  As opposed to what many schools are teaching now which is some
mish-mash of Torah, halacha and drash.  Most kids in today's yeshivot have
no idea that the story of Avraham and the pit of fire isn't in the text.
They have no clue that most of what they learn about Noah just plain doesn't
appear. They have no clue that the text does not explain why Moshe is not
allowed to go into the land of Israel.  And on and on.

I don't want my children to learn Bible stories.  I want them to learn
Bible.  Yes, I also want them to learn history, halacha, drash, etc, etc.
each in its time and in its context.

Ellen Krischer  


From: Joseph Geretz <jgeretz@...>
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999 20:41:54 -0400
Subject: Scope of Oral Torah - was P'shat vs Teitch

Eli Clark wrote:
> We regularly find traditional commentators offering
> alternative interpretations to that of the Oral Law.

I'm not sure what you qualify as being Oral Torah and what qualifies as
being alternative to Oral Torah. My understanding is that any correct
P'shat or Chiddush (novel explanation) is included in Oral Torah.

Did not H-shem show Moshe Rabbeinu, Rabbi Akiva as he was explaining the
meanings of the crowns on the letters? And did not H-shem tell Moshe "Af
Zeh Ne'emra B'Sinai - This too was given on Mount Sinai [as part of the
Oral Torah]"?

Kol Tuv,

Joseph Geretz
Focal Point Solutions, Inc.


End of Volume 29 Issue 61