Home » Malki Rose, Religion and Jewish Thought

Form one Planet: HIStory or MYstory

April 6, 2011 – 12:55 pm23 Comments

Captain Planet and the Planeteers pose for promotional photo

By Malki Rose

If there is one broyges bigger than who has ownership of certain clumps of the Middle East, it’s who has ownership of the most accurate account of its history. If the holy books of Semitic peoples or indeed any ancient peoples hold the key to understanding the where, who, why, and when of human history, which culture do we assume has the most accurate account?

While most of us can recognise as denialist propaganda versions of history written by David Irving or those who wrote imaginatively glorious ‘versions’ of the achievements of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin that are nothing short of fancy in the face of failure, there remains a small corridor of more moderate historical and liturgical discussion that remains unscrutinised for accuracy and somehow taken as gospel (no pun intended) by its followers.

Jewish thinking asserts that the Torah is the ultimate and only book of truth, Christians think likewise of the entire old and New Testament, and while travelling Jews shove the hotel gestures of the Gideon’s tenderly behind toilet bowls to make a statement to themselves of just how misguided and blasphemous the Christian version really is; Muslims meanwhile, attest to the Quran being the most accurate, up to date embodiment of everything Judeo-Christian, from Ibrahim to Jesus.

Relatively few bother to explore the clear and present connections that each of these religious ideologies and their respective texts have to one another. Perhaps this is viewed as dangerous or heretical. But it doesn’t need to be so.

By exploring similarities in the text, much light can be shed on the origins not only of all three faiths, but also of many modern world ideas.

In a three-way fit of religious self-absorption, near sightedness and ignorance, Jews can be heard to remark, “This is taken from Judaism”, the Christians “This began with John the Baptist” and the Muslims “This has its origin with Mohammed”.

Careful analysis of each text or set of apparently unique customs reveals that everyone has borrowed something from someone.

The seemingly Jewish custom of wearing a kippah (skullcap) is sorely lacking in clear exegetical support. Minus the Middle Eastern cultural custom of hair covering (as discussed in The Jewish Hijab: Halacha gets hairy) and a mention in the Shulchan Aruch that “a man should not walk four cubits without a head covering”, the wearing of an actual kippah appears to be far less grounded in Jewish Law than we give it credit. In fact, it would seem the kippah itself is Christian, and that way back in the 7th century, long before Jews wore kippot, the Celtic, Oriental and Roman Church Clergy were wearing them (now called the Zucchetto) to protect their tonsured heads from the elements.

It is not our own, we did not invent it, yet the only reason not to credit the source of the Yarmulke might be a fear of appearing derivative or, worse, a fear of validating another religion.

In the same way, many outsiders can see simply that the origin of the Shtreimel or Spotek can be found in the fur-lined hats worn in the cold climates of Eastern Europe and Russia at the time these fluffy hat-wearing sects began. But ask a young Belz Chassid of the origin of this minhag and his subjectivity will simply not allow him the clarity to view the custom with any amount of true historical accuracy.

The book of Exodus insists on translating the Egyptian name “Moshe” as if it were Hebrew and claiming “because he was drawn forth from the water”, when not only is there no Hebrew word with this translation but neither the name nor its root is ever used again anywhere in the Tanach to refer to anything remotely relating to water or drawing anyone, child or adult, forth from water. It is a frequently occurring Old and Middle Kingdom Egyptian word that simply means “son” or “child”.  Furthermore, it is not unreasonable to consider that Yocheved (his alleged birth mother), Batya (the daughter or Pharoah who apparently found him) and Pharoah could all have referred to him as such.

It is the early rabbinic authority’s unwillingness to understand Egyptian language, culture and history in any sense outside of viewing them as corrupt and immoral (as per Rambam), which inhibits their, and therefore much of our understand of pre and post Exodus Jewish ideas.

In a similar vein, we see that when Megillat Esther first references Esther it states that Mordechai “Omen Et HaDasah, hi’ Esther”, which is translated as he “raised Hadasah, she was Esther”, to which the Rabbinim remark that this was because Hadasah was her other name.

Most of the concubines collected by Ahasuerus had been gathered from the families of slaves who had remained in the Persian kingdom after Cyrus’ edict to allow Jews to return to Jerusalem. Jews had already been in Persia since 1948 BCE. Upon brief examination of the language spoken and written in Persia, Sanskrit, we see that the word for ‘slave’ is ‘Dasa’, or more literally ‘slave girl’.

Like in most multicultural societies where more than one language is spoken by a substantial portion of the populace, words from one language often become ingrained in the other (i.e. the Yiddish word “Tachles” used by Adolf Hitler in his maiden speech). Given the amount of time Jews had been residents of Persia it is entirely reasonable to suppose (and philologists and Persian historians agree) that Sanskrit words would have been utilitsed in the writings of the Jews. If we substitute this Sanskrit translation, the passuk reads that Mordechai “raised the slave girl, she was Esther”.

If Mordechai truly was the original author of the Megillla, as the Bava Batra claims, then surely forming a brief acquaintance with Mordechai’s spoken language of Sanskrit, would have served well and been most prudent to those who went on to decipher it, redact it, and generate new inferences from it. In fact shouldn’t the study of a text from any culture require first and foremost a familiarity with its primary language?

Then there is the wonderful Midrash taught by Rav Hiyya (Bereishit Rabbah 38:13) of Avraham as a young boy in his father Terach’s store in which he sold idols. One day in Terach’s absence Avraham takes a stick, smashes all the idols, and places the stick in the hand of the biggest of them. Terach returns to a smashed up store and enraged, demands to know which transgressor had done this. Avraham, but a child, answers “…the biggest of them rose up and smashed all the others”. Terach, remarks that he is not a fool, and realizes that they are inanimate.

Interestingly the same story is told in the Quran (Sura 21:51). It is not a teensy bit nor vaguely similar. It is almost verbatim and certainly thematically and characteristically identical.

Believe it or not, Muslim and Jewish scholars disagree (shock horror!) on who owns this story. But while it is claimed that Rav Hiyya brought down this Midrash in the 2nd century, the Midrash Bereishit Rabba was thought to have been redacted many years later around the time of the first writing of the Quran after 632 CE.

Some scholars, argue that many changes to the Midrash took place after this time and it is not impossible that this story was added to the Bereishit Rabba in light of the original Quranic account.

Other scholars assert that what is more than likely is that Mohammed heard this story from a local Jew or Christian and included it in what would later become part of Sura.

Either way the story serves as equally useful to the monotheistic followers of Islam and Judasim who sought to demonstrate the foolishness of polytheistic idolatry.

But neither Rav Hiyya nor Mohammed bother to tell their audience where they heard this story.

It is said that the difference between research and plagiarism is footnoting.

If this is so, and if we are to borrow ideas from other cultures why not reference them when we express them.

Are the foundations of our faiths or indeed our cultures so feeble that to reference another might truly threaten the existence of our own?

Surely we are made of stronger stuff than that.

There have been many discussions about the “Chosenness” of the Jewish People; a notion which warrants neither absolute abandonment nor total acceptance. Rather it can be viewed through eyes of simple truth – that every nation is chosen for something and has something unique to offer the world. But the notion of the Jews, their customs, their ideologies and practices being altogether and supremely groundbreaking is simply a case of a somewhat justified superiority complex gone horribly wrong.

Neither Jews, Christians, Muslims, nor any other culture, can hope to be one hundred percent right, one hundred percent of the time, no matter what brilliant revelations and innovations we bring to this blue-green planet.

If anyone ever caught an episode of ‘Captain Planet’ an animated children’s series of the 1990’s, a great truth can be found in its premise.

Captain Planet himself was indeed the hero and looked up to by all the young Planeteers. But each of them were responsible for and in possession of a ring which symbolised their own unique elements namely wind, water, earth and fire. It was only when the Planeteers joined together to combine their unique energies that Captain Planet was able to triumph and like all superhero series, save the day!

The broyges should not exist.  It exists only because everyone is sitting on the edge of their own cultural branch, and is so far removed from the origin of the story that they are unable to see how the branch connects to the other side of the tree.

Are we afraid that if we acknowledge the other branches we may place ourselves or our children at risk of changing branches and foregoing our identity?

Our cultural myopia inhibits our ability to view the true origins of ideas we think belong to us.

We all play a unique part in the forming of history and ideas, and will almost certainly generate a greater power combined than the already great power we generate on our own. We need to recognise and celebrate our own Jewish strengths, while also recognising the strengths of other cultures, and give credit where credit is due.

It takes only a brief look at some of the above examples, or indeed any comparison of religious and historical texts, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Hammurabi codex, the Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas, the Quran and of course the Tanach, to realize that we are all barking up exactly the same theological tree, a commonality which should demystify ‘the other’, help us step outside of our alienating comfort zone and unite us all.

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23 Comments »

  • AccidentialKorach says:

    Hadasah = Hi Dasa = slave girl.

    Malki – I have never heard of this before – you have made my century!

    Oh and by the way – I agree with your article – let’s all play nice.

  • food for thought says:

    Eds: Irrelevant comment/link removed

  • Ari says:

    Even though the approach you have outlined is useful in understanding certain things within the world’s relgions and indeed our own – And I for one respect many people who spend years studying cultural contexts relating to Jewish texts with the hope of revealing/understanding better even one or two interesting things contained in them I think that it would also have been useful for your piece to explain that not everything that seems logical is necessarily true and that many of the suggestions put forward in terms of cultural connectedness of rituals and other things are in deed only theories which may be true, but are not necessarily so. Furthermore, not everything comes from the same theological tree, and that in each culture there are things peculiar to it that are unique which cannot necessarily be understood in terms of context – atleast from ouw perspective of thousands of years of distance to such contexts.

    A final note regarding some of your assertions, that should be directed at some in the modern yeshiva world and not necessarily to the Rabbis of the past who indeed engaged in some of what you speak of, atleast to the extant that was possible in their day
    You write:

    It is the early rabbinic authority’s unwillingness to understand Egyptian language, culture and history in any sense outside of viewing them as corrupt and immoral (as per Rambam), which inhibits their, and therefore much of our understand of pre and post Exodus Jewish ideas.

    I am no expert on Egyptian history per se, however, it is a bit far-fetched to expect the ‘early rabbinic authority’s”(whether you take that to be the Rabbis of the pre-Mishna period, Talmudic Period, gaonic period or any other period) to be able to study Egyptian culture that is of any relevance to the texts in question. The Egyptian Language you speak was only deciphered recently thanks to archeological finds and linguistic advances regarding the entire region.I am not sure that viewing them as immoral was the reason for stopping them investigating such culture – rather it simply wasn’t available. Indeed Rambam, lived in Egypt as is well known and I am not certain his comments are directed at the Egypt of his day in any case.

    You also wrote:

    If Mordechai truly was the original author of the Megillla, as the Bava Batra claims, then surely forming a brief acquaintance with Mordechai’s spoken language of Sanskrit, would have served well and been most prudent to those who went on to decipher it, redact it, and generate new inferences from it.

    Again as above I am not sure that it was necessarily possible or rather I am not certain that atleast some early Rabbinic authorities did not have any knowledge of Sanskrit(I will check with a friend of mine who is an expert in this exact area and will get back to you).

    Indeed the early Rabbis and until the times of the Rishonim (and even some of the more recent Achronim) valued an understanding of culture and also cultural context in understanding Judaisms sacred texts. It is true that some of their conclusions were not necessarily teh same as that of modern academia as was their methodology however, one cannot expect more of them than anyone else who lived at their time and who also acted contrary to modern academic method.

    I am also not claiming that, had they lived in our day, they would necessarily be academics – indeed I think that they viewed many more aspects of our religion uniquely than modern academics. I feel that academia, would do well to tend a little more towards such a view in terms of all cultures. Such a view, doesn’t fit well into equations but it fits better into the hugely diverse nature of the world and its cultures.(And I sense such a movement since the 19th century – though, again, I am no expert)

  • Akiva says:

    This conversation – and these texts – are not ‘history’ in the sense you use. And that is actually the heart of the whole problem.

  • Tweeter says:

    Love the article Malki, and really appreciated the tree metaphor. Let’s just hope that people take your message to heart

  • Ari says:

    Akiva

    For once you and I agree but albeit with slightly different approaches to what that means – the bible is not history in the modern sense – rather its aim
    is to correctly frame historical events in the correct theological and ethical perspective

  • Malki Rose says:

    AccidentalKorach,

    Thank you, but it would appear some have missed the essence of this article, or indeed any of its major points. Playing nice would be.. well.. nice.

    Ari,

    Your first point is extremely important. That just because something seems to make sense or appears logical doesn’t make it so.

    I heard a delightfully quaint story about the invention of the Cornish Pasty, which claimed that they were invented as a way for miners to have their lunch without the dirt getting directly on their food, i.e. that the outer pastry was merely a vessel for holding the meal within.

    Being a lover of good pastry myself, I can’t quite envisage someone eating all the insides of any pasty and then throwing the outer goodness out. (Blasphemy!)

    The crimped edges were described as being essentially a crude form of ‘braille’, so that the miners were able to figure out how to hold the pasty in the dark.
    (Stories about the Cornish Pasty go back to the 16th century, well before industrialised mining.)

    As Mark Twain said, “Never let facts get in the way of a good story”.

    Like the pasty, there would certainly be many elements of religious and cultural traditions which don’t quite exist for the reasons we think they do.

    You are correct that not EVERYTHING comes from the same theological tree. What I was suggesting was that in the case of the Abrahamic religions and some Semitic cultures much of it does.

    Having said that, even in some forms of polytheism, such as Hinduism, there are overlapping ideas with a Monotheistic one. Ideas that have been shared across two seemingly opposing religions can sometimes be for simple reasons, such as that two cultures shared the same geographical location and experienced the same natural phenomenon, or suffered similarly under a despotic leader, or perhaps were both influenced by a third party cultural influence.

    I also agree that it would be great if the modern Yeshiva world learned how to observe Jewish culture in a more globally and historically affected context.
    But remember there is this wonderfully entrapping idea of ‘not following in the ways of the gentiles’, and this prevents the Jewish scholar from thinking outside their own back yard. So the question is how to encourage them to see Jewish ideas within a wider cultural context without feeling threatened by it?

    An important correction.

    While it is true that an understanding of Egyptian Hieroglyphics was not widespread until after the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, it is not true that it was not understood at all.

    Ibn Washiya had been translating Hieroglyphics into Arabic more than a century before the Rambam was born.

    It is also extremely important to note that just because Hieroglyphics were not widely understood, Egyptian culture was still widely available to be understood through the use of Demotic and Coptic literature, which was essentially the same language written in a different script. The Rambam, amongst others, was most certainly in a position to gain a thorough understanding of Egyptian cultural practices… especially since he was living right there where the literature was available. Nothing far fetched about that.

    There would be a reason why he, or others, chose not to understand it. What would that reason be?

    As for your last point, perhaps the Rabbanim tried their best to understand Judaism within their wider cultural contexts, sometimes aided by a greater or lesser knowledge of local languages and customs. And perhaps had they lived in our times they may have been more (or perhaps less) informed on these matters.

    But the problem that I have with this is that if we are expected to accept the Rabbinic findings and decisions as conclusive and unquestioningly canonised, and then incorporate them as defining aspects of our daily lives, then that puts an inordinately large responsibility on our sages’ shoulders to make sure they have gotten it right.

  • Marky says:

    Malki, I find your article wierd. Regarding the story of Avrohom Ovinu in Terach’s store, it is ludicrous to even consider that it originated with the Muslems. Between Avrohom and Mohamed there was about 3,500 years and the forebears of the latter were generally pagans. No continuity whatsoever from generation to generation. I confirmed this with some Muslims.

    You obviously have never looked at a streimel up close. It is nothing like the fur hats worn by the gentiles. And anyhow the fur hats of the latter were not religious garb.

    Your “pshat” in the Megilla makes no sense. Why would Mordechai’s cousin be a slave girl? And anyhow the Tannoim were a lot closer to the event that someone speculating 2,500 years later! And don’t forget that some of the Tannoim were part of the Sanhedrin, who were required to be fluent in 70 languages.

    On the other thread you go on to bag a Tanna calling his teaching nonsensical. Again, he was a lot closer than you to the receiving of the Torah. Also, afaik not one other Rabbi challenged him on this.

    Not satisfied with that, the next on your list to have a go at is non other than the Torah itself with the story of Moshe Rabeinu!

    If I would have known that you are from the Reform movement or someone who doesn’t believe in Torah Min Hasomayim, I would not have responded, as there are others like that posting here. You did initially sound like Orthodox but got it wrong somewhere.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Marky,

    My question was whether there is an ability to consider reading Judaic ideas within wider contexts without feeling threatened by it or finding it necessarily blasphemous.

    You are a case in point.
    (And your leaping to the assumption that I do not believe in Torah Mi’Sinai or that I am part of the Reform movement only reinforces that.)

    I know very well that between Avraham and Mohammed is several thousand years. But we are talking about the existence of the story of Terach and the idols. Since the story is not written in the Torah and appeared in the Koran around the same time as it appeared as a Midrash, why is it so ludicrous to question who invented the story?

    I am not sure what there is to ‘confirm with Muslims’.

    I did not say that the fur hats worn by gentiles in Eastern Europe were their religious garb, only that as a kept tradition amongst yidden that it became one for yidden from those towns.

    Certainly, I have seen a shtreimel up quite close.

    Your disapproval of my reexamination of the word ‘Ha Dasa’ appears precious. Again making my point. (Is it not possible that even our people make errors in translation? Or are we above that?)

    You can call it ‘bagging’ the Torah or the Tanaaim. But I don’t see it that way. I think it is a case of us being intelligent being and taking responsibility for what we take upon ourselves and what we take into our hearts as infallible truth.

    I can keep my emunah and still question every word of what I have learned. Not everyone is as comfortable with that.

    Perhaps you have missed the essence of the article, that there is much in our tradition that is shared by several cultures, some bits are less accurate that others. And hilariously, even when we agree on a single event in religious ‘history’, we disagree on who owns that piece of information as you’ve demonstrated.

    I suggested why it would have been that Esther was a slave girl, and also alluded to the meaning of Moshe’s name. Neither ‘fact’ changes the essence of the Torah and its meaning or should cause a ripple in anyone’s Emunah.

    I keep thinking of that scene in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ with the men discussing who is right.

    Avram: (gestures at Perchik and Mordcha) “He’s right? and HE is also right? They can’t both be right!!!”

    Tevye: “You know… you are also right.”

  • Ari says:

    Just one more note that I just realised now after reading your piece more caregully:

    You wrote:

    Upon brief examination of the language spoken and written in Persia, Sanskrit, we see that the word for ‘slave’ is ‘Dasa’, or more literally ‘slave girl’.

    Now I am no expert on ancient Persia(still haven’t spoken with my mate who is) but I do not believe that Sanskrit was the main language spoken in the ancient Persian Empire – Rather Old Persian, Elamite and Aramaic. From the little I do know I think that Hindu culture and perhaps Sanskrit may have influenced general Persian culture but I still do not believe that Sanskrit was the general language – Certainly not the “lingua franca”. Perhaps you could point me in the direction of the article you utilised for your claim – The only articles I seem to be able to find(not that I have looked extensively) discuss the connection between the Hebrew name Hadassa and the godess Ishtar/Venus – particularly in terms of the myrtle.

    Marky,

    I really do identify with much of what you wrote. There is a piece by Shai Agnon on the Shtreimel in his short stories – well worth the read – particularly in the lead-up to Shabbat Chazon. But since it’s Agnon why wait till then?

  • Marky says:

    Malki, the reformers and other non believers also called Chazal’s teaching nonsensical. It doesn’t work both ways.

    If the Midrash quotes Rav Chiya-who was 400 years before Mohamed why would a believer question it.

    If over the years the Rabbis had not stopped us from mixing with and learning from other cultures, we would be only history like the Romans and others.

    We are all human and there are things we don’t understand. So are we going to say it is nonsensical Ch”V. Some things are not meant for mere mortals to understand. Whereas other things are because we are lacking in understanding.

    Ari, where are these short stories from Shai Agnon?

  • TheSadducee says:

    Ari

    I think you are right about the Persian language issue – Malki’s sources would be interesting to examine. IIRC – Old Persian was the primary written language (there were also others) and Aramaic was the primary spoken language.

    As to Esther – technically, everyone living under Persian rule at the time (5-4th C. BCE) was a “slave” of the Great King. Anyhow, she was a royal concubine which would have limited her personal freedoms drastically.
    As to amateur pshat – the lesson is obvious here – Jewish women are great in bed. :)

    Marky

    There has been an ongoing history of Jewish interaction and development with non-Jewish learning and cultures. I’ll give you an example – the Jewish community of Constantinople prayed in Greek rather than Hebrew, including reading the Torah (we have legislation from the time of Emperor Justinian [6th C. CE] which informs us of this).

  • Marky says:

    The Sad, I was referring to other cultures(you didn’t give an example of that), not languages(in fact, I am writing in the Aussie language..:-)).

    Whether she was the royal wife, royal concubine was later. “omen Es Hadassa” was written before she became anything royal.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Marky

    I’ll let you consider the use of the language of the majority as having a necessary cultural effect. I.e. your use of the word “Aussie” (and its various meanings implicitly understood through inculturation) is peculiar to Australian culture – not because you use English to write.

    I would suggest that the only real example of where Jewish communities deliberately cut themselves off from the cultural influences surrounding them was limited to the Orthodox communities in eastern Europe as a result of Hasidism (and even this is small scale because of the Haskalah etc).

    Judaism is not a “pure” religion in the sense that it is not affected by other cultures/beliefs – it is a product of social/cultural and historical development through association with non-Jews. Look at the issue of polygamy in Europe vs that of in the ME – why did European Jews drop polygamy but those of the ME retain it?

  • Marky says:

    The Sadd, polygamy or momogamy in Judaism had nothing to do with other cultures. By Ashkenazim there was a ban because of a bad experience that could repeat itself.

    I am not sure I understood you comment re haskala/Chasidim. You seem to be mixing up haskala and Chassidim. The Chassidim were-with some other groups-fighting the haskala.

    What about the Rabbonim’s gezera about not eating Pas akum, Bishul Akum, Stam yeinom etc., banning going to circuses and many more examples in the times of Chazal. In no small part to stop any cultural connections. Also fighting helenism etc. etc.

    Yes, there were always ties such as business. However, there is only one reason we have our own schools and other institutions, which again proves my point.

  • Ari says:

    Malki,

    In terms of your assertions regarding the midrash on Moses’ name found in the Torah. In terms of the claim that there is not a Hebrew root used with a similar meaning – this is simply not true. What academics point to is that based on the midrash, the name should be passive yet it is the active form of the hebrew root for drawing out. It appears sparcely but it does appear – see its usage in 2Sam. 22:יז and in the parallel Ps. 18:טז. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the Torah would use a midrash based on a root that was unknown to the listeners – that seems untenable. And another point to consider is that midrashei shem in the Tanach do not always make precise sense in terms of the name given but rather only approximate sense. In terms of the possibility that the name is of Egyptian etymology, as far as I am aware, scholarly opinion is divided as to the etymology of this name. Some even agree with the etymology given in the midrash and concur that there is such an egyptian name with such a meaning. Others uphold the view that you’ve presented.

    Marky,

    On the same topic of language as you have raised above and based on some of your comments to Malki – a question to consider:
    What language did Pharoah’s daughter speak and how does that influence our understanding of the midrash shem and hence the topic of Malki’s article at large?

  • Ari Silbermann says:

    One final final final point Concerning the discussion regarding Avraham and the idols – I have yet to fully look at all theplaces it features in rabbinic literature but Marky makes a sharp point in regards to r’ Chiya even though it is far from conclusive- what is conclusive to my mind is that a similar story clearly featured in the book of jubilees – I also won’t be able to look into other sources such as Q252 which may also contain such traditions. Nethaniel J
    Helfgot recently argued in Tradition Journal of its connection to the story of Gidon in Judges .
    Although I agree that there are various influences on culture I don’t think examples demonstrate this. And if anyvhimg show how careful one needs to be in making comparisons and detecting influences

  • Marky says:

    Ari, Rashi gives examples of other places where this is used for hotza’a. One of the meforshim explains Rashi as saying that both in Aramis and Hebrew it means this. Rashi himself says it, but the Gur Arye explains it. She may have spoken Aramis or another language where it also had the same meaning(there are often similarities between languages).

    I think Malki’s issue must be that there is no other place where it is used with water. I think that is what she means, because Rashi quotes sources where it is used for pulling out(and so do you). However, the Torah just adds water to explain how it was here, but that doesn’t mean that it always means (pulled)out of water. Although one of Rashi’s examples is “pulled out of milk”

  • Ari says:

    Marky,

    In the source that I quoted it is in reference to water. I can almost assure you that she did not speak Aramaic. Furthermore, the very Rashi you quote shows us that Rashi’s understanding of Hebrew roots was not as advanced as our own – which has developed since then – due to the work of grammarians past and present.
    Given that perhaps she called him a name in the language that she spoke(which is not Semitic) – Would it not be worthwhile to study the language she spoke in order to better understand the Torah?
    One other possibility which may set your mind at ease, which can work based on the verse, albeit a little forced, is that Moshe was named by his mother.

  • Ari says:

    I apologise for my disjointed post above. Essentially Abraham and the idols motif goes back to way before Islam and appears in the Book of Jubilees which, although part of the apocrypha, features old Jewish exegesis and in some cases contains ancient Jewish traditions sometimes found in later midrashim . Helfgot’s article highlights the possible source of inspiration for that particular motif.
    Your examples show how careful one needs to be in determining context and cultural influences.

  • Marky says:

    Ari, the possibility that his mother named him, is quite reasonable as that sentence itself talks about both Paroh’s daughter and Yocheved. No need to be forced. Makes sense. It could also be that Batya called him a name from his own people’s language. She could have asked or learnt it from her dealings with the Jews. Many possibilities.

    Re your comment about it being worthwhile learning other languages, I have brought up before the fact that the Sanhedrin needed to know them all. A lot of the Tannoim who were mefaresh the Torah were part of the Sanhedrin.

    I am not at all into grammar/roots of words etc., but I would have thought Rashi would be an expert. I will find out what knowledgable people from my aquaintance think.

  • Ari says:

    Rashi was indeed an expert for his time.

  • Marky says:

    I spoke to people very much into grammar(Rabbis and others). They have never heard of this. They have no doubt that Rashi was a genius in this field- in his times as well as in ours.

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