Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Prophet Milton (PBUH)

For no other reason than that it bugs me, here I protest against the Anglicizing of personal names of people in Jewish history. I understand why Biblical personalities are Anglicized. That is how they are popularly known. But why would a 3rd century amora like Shmuel need to be called Samuel, when in fact few outside of scholarly circles would have heard of him in any case? Why does Moshe ben Maimon have to be called Moses ben Maimon? Why is the Maharal known as Judah Loew and not Yehuda Loew? The Vilna Gaon is R. Elijah instead of R. Eliyahu. The Hafetz Hayyim is called R. Israel Meir ha-Cohen, as if great confusion will result if he is called R. Yisrael Meir ha-Cohen instead. Can it be that people will be so perplexed at the unfamiliar form that they must be condescended to? I doubt it. Who would think to call Gorbachev "Michael"? Or Muhammad "Milton" (or Mahomet)?

On the other hand, if they were known in their own time by another form, ala R. Moses Feinstein (see his stationary) I guess it's no big deal (as is, ultimately, the whole problem of Anglicizing names -- I just want to be annoyed at things sometimes).

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Genesis 12:6 "And the Canaanites were then in the land."
1) Aryeh Kaplan’s Living Torah – nothing
2) Hertz – “i.e., was already in the land. ‘Before the Age of Abraham the Canaanites had already settled in the lowlands of Palestine—Canaan, be it noted, signified Lowlands (Sayce). The interpretation of this verse as meaning that the Canaanites were at that time in the land, but were no longer so at the time when Genesis was written (an interpretation which misled even Ibn Ezra) is quite impossible. The Canaanites formed part of the population down to the days of the later Kings.
3) Artscroll - nothing

Gen: 14:14 "he pursued them as far as Dan"
1) Aryeh Kaplan - "A city at the northern end of the Holy Land, 12 miles north of Lake Hula, and 120 miles north of Hebron. It may have been called that since it would later be named Dan, or else there may have been an ancient city there by that name (Radak). Targum Yonathan identifies it as Dan of Caesarea, since Caesarea was some three miles to the east of Dan. (See Joshua 19:47, Judges 18:29). Saadia identifies it with the Banias River."
2) Hertz - The name is given to the place by anticipation. Formerly it was called Leshem (Josh. 19:47) or Laish (Judg. 18:29). It is in the extreme of Northern Palestine.
3) Artscroll – At Dan, in the north of Eretz Yisrael, Abraham’s strength ebbed because he foresaw prophetically that his descendants would set up a calf there as an idol [I Kings 12:29] (Rashi). This is one of many instances in the Torah where future events have an effect on current history. The sense of this phenomenon is that the potential for the future is contained in the present; if there was idolatry in Abraham’s offspring, it indicated an insufficiency in him.

By the way, what is “current history”?

Genesis 36:31 "Now these were the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the children of Israel".
1) Aryeh Kaplan "Simply, this means that these kings reigned long before there was a king in Israel. Many commentaries, however, state that the first king of Israel alluded to in this verse is Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 33:5; Rashbam; Ibn Ezra; Ralbag). We do, however, find that there were Edomite kings contemporary to Moses (Numbers 20:14). Therefore, it must be said that Moses was not considered a king until the concept of a king was given to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 17:15). It also appears that the chiefs (alufim) ruled over Edom right after the Exodus (cf. Exodus 15:15), but the kings may have reigned concurrently (see Mekhilta on Exodus 15:14; but see Ramban on Genesis 36:40). Of course, if the alufim are seen as tribes (see Genesis 36:40), this does not present any problem. There is a tradition that the Edomite kings began to reign 550 years before the first Israelite king (Rabenu Chananel, quoted in Bachya on Genesis 32:16). Since Saul, the first king of Israel, took his throne in 2882 (879 b.c.e.), this would mean that Edom's kingdom began 550 years earlier in 2332 (1429 b.c.e.). This was the year that Levi died, and it is well established that Levi was the last of Jacob's sons to die. Thus, there may have been a tradition that Esau's kingdom did not begin during the lifetime of any of Jacob's sons. There is, however, a conflicting tradition that the reign of Bela (Genesis 36:32) began in 2258, twenty years after Jacob came to Egypt (see note on Genesis 36:32)."
2) Hertz – This verse raises an obvious difficulty. Ibn Ezra understands the ‘king’ to refer to Moses, the ruler of the Children of Israel. A more satisfactory explanation of the verse is the following. In the last chapter there had been an emphatic promise from God Almighty to Jacob that ‘kings shall come out of thy loins’. The Israelites, no doubt, cherished a constant hope of such a kingdom and such a kingly race. Moses himself (Deut. 28:36) prophesied concerning the king whom the Israelites would set over them; and hence it was not unnatural that, when recording the eight kings who reigned in the family of Esau up to his own time, Scripture should go out of its way to reassure the Israelites that their history was not yet complete. The words in the Hebrew are, ‘before the reigning of a king to the sons of Israel’; and it might be rendered ‘whilst as yet the children of Israel have no king’; there being nothing in the words expressive of past tense, or indicating that, before they were written, a king had reigned in Israel.
3) Artscroll – Rashi cites this verse as an example of the prophecy given to Rebecca that ‘the might shall pass from one of them to the other (25:23), meaning that the two brothers would not both be great simultaneously. Thus, when Esau had kings, Israel had none, and when Israel rose up, Esau declined, and his kings were defeated by Israel. (there's more elaboration on this theme, about the state of the Jews in 2000 years of galut, but it is pretty tangential to the issue in question and I'm tired of typing! also note the asymmetry in Artscroll's elaboration on Rashi's peshat.)


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