Friday, June 10, 2005

Even a Midrash has mazal.

It says in the Zohar* הכל תלוי במזל אפילו ספר תורה שבהיכל, that even a sefer Torah has mazal. Practically speaking this means something like this: you know how in shul there are those three sifrei Torah that have grungy mantles and maybe missing a piece of one of their handles that only get pulled out on Simchas Torah? I don't mean the ones with the gartel on the outside; those are passul and haven't been fixed. Yes, those are the sifrei Torah that can't get no respect.

Anyway, this post really has nothing do with the question of mazal or ein mazal le-yisrael. Putting aside the metaphysical and the philosophical we all know there are the people that get soup spilled on them by waiters and people who don't. Let's call it mazal for fun.

In Reb Gil's very interesting post about the number of Jews that left Egypt a commenter brought up the issue of the 80% of the Jews that died due to their unworthiness for redemption in the plague of darkness. It is one midrashic opinion. Another midrash has it that one in 500,000 - not one in 5 - died. Rashi (btw, his 900th yahrtzeit is this Tammuz/ July) brings the midrash of one in five and that is an example of the lucky midrash. It is accepted as a factual, historical occurrence by many people. Why isn't 1/500,000 so accepted?

My point is not that midrash is often, perhaps nearly always, non-literal or allegorical in some fashion, but that they tend to have no point if taken at face value. To have to even say that is like pointing out that fire is hot. To have to bring sources from the geonim, rishonim and acharonim that make that point ought to be superfluous. Even if not one Torah scholar in 1500 years had said that this is the nature of midrash it should not be necessary to realize that is the case.

Its interesting to read Chumash and as you do try to remember the details not found in the text that you expect to be there. Those are the midrashim with mazal.

*Yes, I know.

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