Thursday, March 13, 2008

What's peshat with peshat? Is there a place for peshat in Orthodoxy?

In this comment thread (link) commenter SB critiques the forthcoming YU-OU Day of Peshat conference (see here* - I think I'll be there).

He writes:

"WADR, if one would read the list of topics, one would think that Pshat and the academic study of Tanach, as defined and severely critiqued by R Moshe Lichtenstein are the only or preferred means of Parshanut HaMikra. Like it or not, Rashi and Ramban both spend much time delineating what is Pshat, Drush and which Medrash is worth considering and which is far fetched from the Pshat. Ibn Ezra cites but also for the most part vehemently rejects Karaite based interpretations. It is too bad that noone is on the listof speakers who can deal with the issues of the borderline between Pshat and Drash."


"FWIW, the Abarbanel is very critical of Ibn Ezra's intimation that Joshua Bin Nun wrote part of the Torah ( Bamidbar 21:1)."

To which I reply:

"The homiletic style is sovereign within Orthdoxy right now (as partially evidenced by your fine parasha roundups), with peshat being almost considered illegitimate these days.Thus, a better critique would be for the drush establishment to integrate some peshat a bit more, rather than for some solitary occasions like this one, which are trying to return peshat to a legitimate endeavor within Orthodoxy, to be asked to integrate homiletics. Homiletics is strong, now let's support peshat too."

and I ask:

"Will you cherry pick to find commentators who are critical of Abarbanel's unorthodoxies? Or to criticize the Gemara's intimation that Yehoshua wrote part of the Torah?It isn't the Orthodox exegetical establishment that is beleaguered, within Orthodoxy, these days. My recommendation is to allow Ibn Ezra and Neo-peshat some space to function within Orthodoxy, if not for their own intrinsic value, then at least so that the part of our community which is incapable of being edified by gematriah and farfetched non-literal explanations can also be edified by the study of Tanakh."

* And here for the list of speakers and topics.

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