Justice... not something you'll find in this post. In recent months I've discovered a few commentators that I wasn't aware of or was aware of but not really familiar with, and I thought I'd write a little bit about my impressions of them here. This certainly does not do justice to their character or commentaries. Philo of Alexandria  - Everyone's probably heard of Philo. Though not everyone really knows who he was. Many of Philo's views on Judaism are still shrouded in mystery, but here's a short summary of what we know: He was a religious, observant, Jewish philosopher living in Alexandria in Egypt in the decades prior to the destruction of the Second Temple. His birth-name probably was Philon (Philo in Latin languages) which means "friend". Rabbi Azaryah de Rossi translated his name into the Hebrew "Yedidyah", but there were even tannaim at the time who had non-Jewish names, such as Antignos of Socho, so more likely that Philon really was h

Egyptian influences on the Tribe of Yehudah - pt. 3

 Just a couple of additions to what I wrote here  on the connection between Egypt and Yehudah: Zerach, son of Yehudah - Similarly named: Zerach the Cushite, who Rabbi Ahron Marcus says was the son-in-law of Pharaoh Shishak. In my opinion, Zerach and Shishak led armies of a unified Egypt - Egyptians, Libyans and Cushites. Achan son of Carmi, a descendant of Zerach, in Aramaic means "snake", so we've got another "snake name" to add to Nachash, Nachshon and Saraf.

Book Review: Shaul and Binyamin by Ben Tzion Luria

I thought I would do something a bit different this time, and perhaps I'll do this again from time to time, which is give my thoughts on a Tanach-related book I've read. Earlier this week, I finished chipping my way through Shaul and Binyamin by Ben Tzion Luria. I thought it was an interesting book, however, it's got one major downside that I'll address shortly. First of all, the upsides: Luria had a fascinating way of breaking down Tanach verses and reading between the lines. He has many fantastic chiddushim in the book and I think it's well-worth reading, even if one - such as myself - doesn't agree 100% with all of his ideas. One of the things I liked best is right in the first chapter: He explains why logically researchers should accept Chazalic traditions about Tanachic events and uses for evidence the Talmudic traditions of the genealogies of certain famous figures from the time. This was an issue that had bothered me since I read Malchut Beit David by Yaa

Overton Window And The Slavery In Egypt

Note: The following is a translation of a dvar Torah I wrote earlier for my yeshiva's weekly newsletter. In our upcoming parsha, Shemot, we start reading about the harsh slavery of Bnei Yisrael in Egypt. These events are quite puzzling, considering the verse in the beginning of the parsha: "But the Israelites were fertile and prolific; they multiplied and increased very greatly, so that the land was filled with them." This puzzlement grows even more when we discover what it meant, exactly, that Bnei Yisrael were "prolific" and "increased very greatly", as described in Seder Hadorot: "And the sons of Esav prepared to do battle with the sons of Yaakov...and of the sons of Esav 80 men were killed and of the sons of Yaakov not one...and Yosef and his brothers the heroes of Egypt set out to confront them..and they killed from them about 600 men all of the heroes of Se'ir the Khorite...and Yosef fought with all of the neighboring enemies and he caus

Thoughts about Ivtzan and Tanachic name-meanings in general

 One of the names that has long puzzled me is Ivtzan. You know, short-time judge from the Book of Shoftim, comes from Beit Lechem. According to the gemara, Ivtzan was Boaz. But that's another story. Perhaps worthy of a post around Shavuot-time. I first began pondering Ivtzan's name around the summer of my fifth year in Yeshiva. For a while I thought it might come from the mineral name Avatz (אבץ) - zinc, but I couldn't find any evidence that Avatz is an old word. Also, why name a person after zinc? A few months ago, I noticed that there was a place in Israel called Tevetz (תבץ). That still doesn't explain the etymology, but it is  a plausible direction. It would work with multiple other names of people that are merely taken from place-names; evidence of early Zionism. However, a couple of weeks ago, while reading Ben-Tzion Luria's Shaul and Binyamin, I came across a paragraph where he pointed out that the meaning of Gilad comes from the treaty between Yaakov and Lav

Parallels between the leadership of Shivat Tzion and the sub-groups that came with them?

 Been awhile. But I thought I would put forward this idea suggested by my (new) Tanach chavruta: We started learning Ezra and Nechemiah Wednesday before last. When we reached ch. 2 he suggested that the list of the leadership of Shivat Tzion - Zerubavel, Yeshua, Nechemiah, S'rayah, Ra'alyah, Mordechai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rechum, Ba'anah - corresponds to the sub-groups that came with them to Eretz Yisrael: Families from Yehudah, Binyamin, Levi, Kohanim and the Bnei Netinim - descendants of the slaves of Shlomo who converted. Very interesting theory, but does it hold water? Zerubavel - Yehudah. Yeshua - Kohen Nechemiah - unknown (whether or not this is Nechemiah Hatirshata, author of Nechemiah is unknown, but either way, his tribal identity is, at least according to p'shat, unknown. S'rayah - unknown, some believe this may be S'rayah Hakohen, last KG of the First Temple. Ra'alyah - unknown. Mordechai - likely the  Mordechai, so Binyamin. Bilshan - unknow

The Plot To Take The Crown

Recently I stumbled upon a site  that appears to have been some sort of high school Tanach project in Israel. In the site, the writers, apparently, students, discussed the story of Achiyah Hashiloni anointing Yerov'am as though it was a criminal trial. They pointed fingers at Achiyah for plotting with Yerov'am to take over the United Israeli Kingdom and creating an Efraim-based government. I actually thought they made a fascinating point: From a secular perspective, it certainly seems as though Achiyah, from the old Israeli religious capital Shiloh, situated in Efraim's tribal territory, wanted to return the old glory of Efraim by seizing control of the kingdom through the anointing of Yerov'am to kingship. The Tanach provides us the religious/spiritual background, but now I wonder whether there were people in that generation who may have not been aware of all of the spiritual processes that took place and, as bystanders, may have thought that this is exactly what happe