Midrashic Interpretation

Found 65 Search results

  1. The Blindness of Yitzhak

    Rabbi Ezra Bick

    Who is Isaac? Why, despite his seemingly passive nature, is he named as one of the patriarchs?

  2. Midrash Eikha Rabbah

    Part 9

    Dr. Yael Ziegler | 55 minutes

    This shiur is about Eikha Rabba, one of the earliest compilations of midrashim. Chazal read Eikha as speaking to their own situation - the aftermath of the second Churban. Chazal succeed magnificently in transforming Megillat Eikha from a book of mourning into one that provides consolation, hope, and restoration of dignity.

  3. The Mystery of the Acacia Tree

    Rabbi Alex Israel | 36 minutes

    This shiur focuses on the “Atzei Shittim” (acacia trees) brought for the mishkan. What are these trees, and how and where do Bnei Yisrael obtain them? We analyze several (mainly) midrashic approaches.

  4. Mizmor 4

    Rabbi Avi Baumol

    Individual verses from Mizmor 4 are evaluated from the vantage point of the Midrash thereby giving insight into the Midrashic style of interpretations.

  5. Mizmor 13

    Rabbi Avi Baumol

    Mizmor 13 begins in despair and ends in ecstasy. The Mizmor describes the feeling of despair and abandonment from God. Alternatively, the Mizmor is about believing in God, rejoicing in impending salvation, and being capable of composing a new song to God in the face of the adversity.

  6. Mizmor 30

    Rabbi Avi Baumol

    Mizmor 30 while mentioning the “Dedication of the House” actually refers to emotions, feelings, and movements of the soul. Complacency can cause our metaphorical house to atrophy, and sin can turn our fortress into rubble, leaving our souls susceptible to the dangerous elements we encounter every day of our lives.

  7. Lot's Separation from Abraham and Ruth's Return

    Dr. Yael Ziegler

    תאריך פרסום: תשסט | |

    The book of Shoftim ends on a dark and ominous note, describing an immoral and corrupt society that deserves destruction. Through the midrashic depictions of both Ruth and Orpah in Megillat Ruth, and comparison to the characters of Avraham and Lot in Genesis 13, Dr. Yael Ziegler explains that Ruth is the person who ultimately saves the Jewish nation from their corruption, single-handedly leading them into a better era. Using classical commentaries, Ziegler describes the path of morality and kindness depicted by Avraham, as opposed to Lot's cruel and immoral path.   Ruth makes a conscious decision to return the nation from Lot's path, down which they had strayed throughout the book of Shoftim, back to Avraham's path of righteousness, thereby instilling modesty and kindness back into Am Yisrael. 

  8. Aviya, Assa, and Ba'sha – Civil War

    Rabbi Alex Israel

    Sharp discrepancies between the account of Aviyam in Melakhim and in Divrei Hayamim lead to the conclusion that Aviya served God while concurrently tolerating other religious phenomena - an anathema to the worldview of Melakhim: zero tolerance for idolatry and hence absolute condemnation of Aviya. Assa, the next king, removes idolatry from Yehuda and reestablishes the covenant with God. However, when he perceives a military threat from the Northern Kingdom he turns to Aram for help and not to God. 

  9. A Rabbinic Reading of Shaul: The Binyaminite Hero

    Rabbi Francis Nataf | 58 minutes

    An analysis of the composite picture that emerges from a tribal study of Binyamin as the background to the countertextual rabbinic preference for Shaul over David. Through this study, we come to a greater appreciation of rabbinic parshanut, both methodologically as well as regarding the hierarchy of religious values that account for the difference visions of leadership held by Binyamin and Yehudah.


  10. Shall Kohen and Prophet be Slain in the Sanctuary?!

    Rabbi Moshe Taragin

    Why is the story of the murder of a Kohen and Prophet in the Beit Hamikdash so dominant in the midrashim and in the prayers of Tisha be-Av? The connection between him and the tragedy of Tisha be-Av is quite indirect; why, then, is his murder presented as such a fundamental and important event?

    The Sages pinpoint several sins that were themselves the cause of the destruction. Aside from these specific sins, the Sages regarded the nation's refusal to accept rebuke from the prophets as a fundamental factor leading to the great tragedy.

    The people would ignore the prophets of God and wave off their warnings with stubbornness and a complacency born of illusion. They convinced themselves that God would not destroy His own Temple. They wished to continue making merry and living their worry-free lives, rejecting out of hand the concept of reward and punishment. Additionally, people of vulgar spirit who were living successful lives were incapable of accepting advice from dusty, wandering moralizers.

    For this reason Yirmiyahu mourns for the destruction, which came about mostly because of the nation's inability to listen to the prophets and their messages. Every individual always has the ability to repent, thereby avoiding punishment and destruction. But the moment he shuts himself off and blocks his ears, the road to repentance is closed.

  11. You Comfort Me in Vain

    A Clarification of the Connection Between Pesach and the 9th of Av

    Rabbi Elyakim Krumbein

    The Midrash comments that Pessah and the 9th of Av always fall on the same day of the week.

    The Pesach of Egypt was not an ideal sacrifice. The true festival lay ahead, in the future, in Eretz Yisrael.  What was required of the nation in Egypt was a demonstration of faith in that future despite the difficult conditions that existed in Egypt. The combination of the maror and the Pesach declares that faith in the future is victorious over the depression of the present; it is indeed possible to taste the redemption in the very grains of the maror.

    Eating maror in the Beit HaMikdash was meant to help us identify with the heroic faith of our forefathers in Egypt, which attained its justification and its realization in the celebration of the Pessah in the Mikdash.  But after the Beit Hamikdah was destroyed, the grand celebration of Pessah appears to have been a passing euphoria; the Pessah of Egypt - observance of the mitzvot under difficult conditions - became the dominant situation for all generations.  For the weary nation of Israel only absolute redemption can justify the old understanding of Pesach in Egypt - as a road-sign for the future.  At this stage the Pesach of Egypt appears as nothing more than yet another example of the gloomy scenario which plays itself over and over - a perverted observance of the beautiful Torah which exists only in the dreams of seers.  The maror was supposed to be the basis for the Pessah sacrifice, but Tish'a be-Av gives it a new perspective: the sacrifice has disappeared, but the maror remains.


  12. Creation of World and Man in the Midrash

    Rabbi Dr. Avraham Walfish | 59 minutes

    In this lecture we will explore some of the main ideas that Hazal sought to teach in their midrashic exegesis of the story of creation. We will examine the dispute regarding public discussion of Ma'aseh Bereishit, we will attempt to discern the reasons for this prohibition, and we will investigate the ways in which Sages continued to expound upon the creation story despite this restriction. We will study several important issues discussed in the midrash, including: the meaning of tohu va-vohu, the ramifications of divine creation by means of speech, perfection  and imperfection in creation, and the role of angels in creation.  


  13. Why Did the Sages Compare Chana to a Sotah Woman?

    Dr. Adina Sternberg | Hour and 8 minutes

    How is Chana's story portrayed in midrashic literature, and what can we learn from this portrayal? A close reading of the text of the story reveals how the sages came to their surprising interpretations, and teaches us how to view the goals and purposes of midrashim.  

  14. Rashi‘s Educational Innovations in his Bible Commentary

    A Peek into his Pedagogical Toolbox

    Dr. Lisa Fredman

    תאריך פרסום: תשע"ה | | Hour

    We will investigate the many diverse educational techniques and tools utilized by Rashi in his Bible Commentary. Some of these techniques will only be detected through the examination of Rashi manuscripts. Uncovering these tools will enhance our appreciation and admiration for the commentary and its composer.

  15. Midrash and Peshat - Why Was Yitzhak Blind?

    Rabbi Ezra Bick | 58 minutes

    Why did Yitzhak love Esav more than Yaakov? Many midrashim grapple with this question, attempting to understand Yitzhak's reasoning behind his favoritism. Through a close examination of a number of these midrashim, we can try to understand the deeper meaning of each midrash and what it reveals about the spiritual psychology of Yitzhak. 

  16. Haftarat Vayera: the Widow and the Oil

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  17. The Akeida: Midrash as the Mind of Avraham

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  18. Midrashic Canaan and Avraham's Response

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  19. Tehillim 92: A Song for Shabbat - and for Teshuva?

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  20. Noah's Vineyard - a Priority?

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  21. Peshat and Derash – Midrash Aggada

    Part 1 - Introduction and the Attitude of the Geonim to Midrash

    Rabbi Amnon Bazak

    What are the definitions of Peshat are Derash? Which of the two is the central way of interpreting the Torah? What was the attitude of the Geonim to Midrash?

  22. The Raven: A Message for Eliyahu and for Noah

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  23. Peshat and Derash – Midrash Aggada

    Part 2 - Peshat Commentators in France - Rashi and Rav Yosef Kara

    Rabbi Amnon Bazak

    Rashi often incorporates midrashim in his biblical commentary. He was the first commentator to draw a clear distinction between commentary on the level of peshat, and teachings on the level of derash. Rashi represented a turning point: he awarded extensive attention to the plain meaning of the text in his commentaries on Tanakh. However, Rashi himself was aware that his exegesis was not the "last word" in the realm of peshat; he acknowledged that if he had time he should indeed compose new commentaries


  24. Peshat and Derash – Midrash Aggada

    Part 3 - Peshat Commentators in France - Rashbam

    Rabbi Amnon Bazak

    Both Rashbam and R. Yosef Kara base their opinions on the teaching of Chazal that “the text never departs from its plain meaning,” but they understand this statement in different ways. According to R. Yosef Kara, it is a testament to the superiority of peshat over derash, while according to Rashbam it is simply a stamp of legitimacy granted to study of the peshat. In addition, while R. Yosef Kara regards the derash as separate from the text, according to Rashbam it represents a central level of the text itself in keeping with the principle of polysemy established by Rashi, his grandfather. In any event, both commentators share a fundamental approach that draws a distinction between peshat and derash, and views the study of peshat as a legitimate realm of study in its own right.

  25. Peshat and Derash – Midrash Aggada

    Part 4 - Peshat Commentators in Spain and in Provence - Ibn Ezra and Ramban

    Rabbi Amnon Bazak

    According to the Ibn Ezra, the Torah can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, and throughout his commentary, there are many instances where he rejects an interpretation that represents derash. In addition, Ramban was more consistent than any other commentator in distinguishing between peshat and derash.


  26. Peshat and Derash – Midrash Aggada

    Part 5 - Peshat Commentators in Spain and in Provence - Radak

    Rabbi Amnon Bazak

    Radak, the greatest of the Provencal commentators, cites many midrashim, however, he too notes the need to draw a distinction between peshat and derash, and rejects midrashic interpretations that do not match the plain meaning of the text.

  27. Peshat and Derash – Midrash Aggada

    Part 6 - The Rambam and his son, Rabbi Avraham

    Rabbi Amnon Bazak

    Rabbi Avraham, son of the Rambam, in the footsteps of his father, joins the prevailing spirit of the medieval commentators in explaining the text in accordance with its plain meaning, maintaining a clear separation between peshat and derash. He divides midrashim into five categories, maintaining that most belong to the category of lyrical or metaphorical interpretation of verses. He emphasizes that those midrashei Chazal which do not pertain to principles of faith or to matters of halakha, are not to be regarded as binding tradition that must be accepted. He draws a distinction between those midrashim that flow from reasoned consideration of the verse, and those whose intention is not to explain the meaning of the verse but rather to use it as a springboard to teach a different lesson. Concerning midrashim – whose interpretation of verses are 'logical suggestions' – Rabbi Avraham emphasizes that the teachings are not to be considered as binding, received tradition.

  28. Rivka: Three Years Old?

  29. Yitzhak Weeping for Yaakov

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  30. Yaakov's Shattered Hopes for Tranquility

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  31. Potifar's Wife's "Altruistic" Justifications

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  32. Yosef Sold into Slavery: Stop and Smell the Spices

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  33. Yosef's Confused Priorities

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  34. Selling Yosef for Shoes

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  35. Where was Reuven When Yosef was Sold?

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  36. The Guilt of Shimon and Levi

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  37. Seven Cows and Togetherness

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  38. Wagons for Yaakov - Midrash and Meaning

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  39. Yehuda and Yosef - the Lion and the Ox

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  40. Yosef's Wagons and Egla Arufa

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  41. Yaakov's Tearful Reunion with Yosef and the Recital of Shema

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  42. Yaakov's Reunion with Yosef and the Message of the Shema

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  43. The Weeping of Yosef and Binyamin and the Exiles to Come

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  44. Brothers Do Not Kill Brothers

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  45. Beshallach - A Different Look at a Midrash about the Splitting of the Sea

    Rabbi Jonathan Snowbell | 17 minutes

    A familiar midrash explains that on the 7th day of Pesach, we don't say Hallel because God's creations were drowning. But a less - widespread midrash has a different reason for not saying Hallel: that Bnei Yisrael were still in peril. We examine the different viewpoints of these midrashim, suggesting that the destruction of evil is good, and that it may be acceptable to rejoice at the destruction of evil.

  46. Bemidbar - "Hefker" like the Wilderness

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  47. Primordial Wisdom

    Rabbi Shlomo Dov Rosen

  48. Rashi

    Part 1

    Dr. Avigail Rock

    It is impossible to exaggerate Rashi’s importance in shaping the worldview of the Jewish People; it may be said that after Tanakh and Talmud, Rashi’s commentaries are next in line in terms of their influence. Rashi’s commentary on the Torah is the point of departure and the foundation of many of the biblical commentators who come after him.

    While the character of Rashi’s parshanut on Tanakh was oriented towards peshat, the simple meaning of the text, it was also influenced by the need to contend with Christian claims, at a time when Christian scholars of that faith were attempting to wrestle with biblical passages on the basis of peshat. We may also find polemical content in Rashi’s commentary as he contends with Christian biblical exegesis.

    Rashi sees himself, above all, as a champion of peshat, However, Rashi adds that in his commentary he will integrate certain midrashim which are harmonious with the syntactic structure of the verse, only if the additional details which are found in the midrashim dovetail with the context and sequence of the verses.

  49. Rashi

    Part 2

    Dr. Avigail Rock

    Rashi’s commentary is composed, for the most part, of adapted midrashim. What motivates Rashi to turn to midrashim that apparently do not explicate the peshat?

    • A difficulty in the verses that has no reconciliation with the peshat.
    • The Torah does not speak in the human vernacular. Rashi adopts R. Akiva’s approach, according to which every word has meaning and significance. Therefore, one should be precise with biblical language, and even when the reader has no difficulty understanding the verses, one may derive information from some extraneous element in the text.
    • Maintaining the internal logic and sequence of the text by filling in lacunae.
    • When the verse and its midrash constitute excellent opportunities to transmit a spiritual or ethical message, Rashi cites the midrash even though there is no exegetical need for it.

  50. Rashi

    Part 3 - The Moral and Educational Philosophy of Rashi (I)

    Dr. Avigail Rock

    Does Rashi explicate the verses only when he finds some difficulty in them, with the sole motive of clarifying the text, or does Rashi see himself as obligated not only to explain the verses, but even to educate the community and to transmit messages by way of parshanut when these opportunities arise?

    Regardless of the position we maintain regarding Rashi’s motivations, there is no doubt that Rashi — whether intentionally or unintentionally — has becomes one of the great developers of Jewish education throughout all generations.

    Rashi is directly responsible for shaping a significant part of the ethical and educational tradition of the Jewish nation, in a myriad of well know topics. Specifically, Rashi took a special interest in discussing the sin of Lashon Hara.

  51. Chukat: Unbelievable!

    Rabbi Jay Kelman

  52. Moshe Fasting on the Mountain: Being Great by Being Good

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  53. Implications of the Akeida Part 9: Moral Ambiguity and Competing Values

    Rabbi Ezra Bick | 33 minutes

    In this shiur, we examine a strange midrash whose implications are not entirely clear.  In the midrash, the Accusing Angel goads Avraham, trying to prevent him from continuing with his task. He appeals to human emotion, saying that even if Avraham can withstand this impossible test – it is just a precursor to other, even more challenging tests. He also argues that Avraham will bear full responsibility for his actions, which will have no benefit to anyone: “Tomorrow, God will say that you are a murderer and completely guilty.” The angel tells Yitzhak (who ostensibly agrees to cooperate with Avraham’s plan) that if he dies, apart from Sarah being heartbroken at having her son stolen away, Yishmael will inherit the special things Sarah labored to give to Yitzhak.  At this point, according to the midrash, Yitzhak asks  his father“where are the sheep for slaughter” as a plea for mercy.

    What is this argument, and why is this the climax? Is the prospect of losing material items to be viewed as more horrible than the prospect of theft or killing?

    Ultimately, rational ethics are more complicated in real life. When removed from the abstract, in the messiness of life, values are complicated and can clash in unexpected ways.

  54. Vayeitzei: Consequences of Jacob's Deceit

    Rabbi David Fohrman |

    Last week, we saw Jacob trick his father Isaac and stole Esau's birthright, devastating his brother and causing him to cry. Are we really meant to applaud Jacob's behavior? In this video, Rabbi Fohrman explores the scene when Jacob and Rachel first meet, in which Jacob too cries. Through a deeper understanding of this midrash, we are shown special insights into the text and can begin to understand how Jacob can be called a man of truth.

    If you enjoyed this video, please visit AlephBeta.org to watch more.

  55. Shmot: If Midrash is Real, Why Isn't It Peshat?

    Rabbi David Fohrman |

    Welcome the book of Exodus! In this video, we explore the strange midrash in which the arm of Pharaoh's daughter stretched through the river to fetch Moses. Why do the Sages tell us such an odd story? Rabbi Fohrman argues that we need to put ourselves into the eyes of Pharaoh's daughter, and help us see that when we want to achieve something, God will help us find a way to do it.


    If you enjoyed this video, please visit AlephBeta.org to watch more.

  56. How did the Rabbis come up with all this? Case studies in understanding peshat and midrash

    Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky | Hour

    What are the origins of midrashei Chazal? How did the rabbis come to their understanding of the pesukim as reflected in the midrashim? This lecture presents a number of examples of the way in which midrashei Chazal reflect Chazal’s understanding of Tanakh.  

    Click here for a downloadable audio version of this lecture

  57. The Biblical Origins of the Midrash of Avraham the Iconoclast

    Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot | Hour and 10 minutes

    This lecture discusses the origins of the midrashim focusing on Avraham. Where did these midrashim come from? Through an analysis of the story and other parallel texts we get a glimpse into the world of Chazal’s Tanach study and their understanding of midrashim. We explore thematic and literary parallels between the narratives which lead Chazal to draw comparisons between them and presents an interesting dimension to both stories.

    Click here for a downloadable audio version of this lecture

  58. Biblical Roots of Midrashic Stories-Towards an Understanding of Midrashic Methodology

    Rabbi Moshe Shulman | Hour and 6 minutes

    This lecture discusses the relationship between the Biblical text and the midrashic text through an analysis of a number of midrashim. We explore the methodology of midrash and understand its foundations and its intersections with pshat.


    Click here for a downloadable audio version of this lecture

  59. "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not their own" Why the decree of exile?

    Dr. Brachi Elitzur

    Midrashei Chazal offer many instances of judgmental evaluations of biblical characters that are different – sometimes even quite contrary – to the impression we receive from a reading of the plain level of the biblical narrative. Often, a midrash will judge a person favorably concerning an act that seems, on the literal level, to be a sin; there are also instances in which the midrash attributes a sin to a character even where no such act is mentioned in the text, nor is there any sign of any rebuke or punishment. An example of this phenomenon is the accusation of Avraham, by no less than four different sages, of bearing responsibility for the decree of subjugation that Bnei Yisrael will suffer in Egypt for 210 years. This article explains the seemingly unbridgeable gap between Avraham's character as depicted in the biblical text, and as reflected in the midrash and the question of Divine retribution on a nation that has not yet been born, which already pervades the decree of future subjugation. Through an exploration of the midrashim and the biblical text we can understand that the sages are attempting to inculcate values for the guidance of national and political life for the generations to come.

  60. The Taking of the Blessings – Means vs. Ends

    Dr. Brachi Elitzur

    At the center of our parasha is the story of how Yaakov obtains the blessings meant for Esav, his brother. In the midrashim that serve as background to Rashi's well-known explanations, Chazal take a positive view of Yaakov's actions, justifying and legitimizing his taking of the blessings, while Esav stands accused of the most demonic sins in the history of man, sins whose connection with the plain text seems far-fetched. In this shiur, we will explore the difficulty of discovering the textual evaluation of Yaakov's act. Close examination of the literary devices employed by the text will reveal an ambivalent and undecided stance in relation to the act of deception, and we will try to understand what message this equivocation means to convey.

  61. Mikra: Gateway to Midrash?

    Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom | Hour and 10 minutes

    The Midrashic authors of the millenium following the era of the Mishnah, saw the Tanakh not as a document rather as a living testament of ongoing history, including their own post-Biblical world. They undertook a responsibility, both social and pedagogic, to derive lessons, to associate stories and to vivify Biblical characters in their own Byzantine, Sassanian, Islamic and Christian worlds. In this session, we will investigate a sampling of over 20 Midrashic/Aggadic texts to demonstrate this approach and to provide examples of various perspectives of this "ongoing dialogue with Mikra"


  62. Between Rashi's Torah and Nakh Commentaries: Similarities, Differences and Rationale

    Dr. Lisa Fredman

    תאריך פרסום: 2022 | | Hour and 3 minutes

    Thousands of studies have been dedicated to Rashi's Torah Commentary, much fewer have been written about his commentary on the rest of the Tanakh, and little attention has been paid to comparing the two. Using Esav as a case study, we will compare Rashi's treatment of this biblical personality in both commentaries, uncover significant differences, and posit important reasons for this discrepancy.

  63. Rashi and Rav Yosef Kara

    Rabbi Amnon Bazak

  64. Ibn Ezra and Ramban

    Rabbi Amnon Bazak

  65. Rabbi Avraham - son of the Rambam

    Rabbi Amnon Bazak