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  • 1
    Language: English
    Year of publication: 2015
    Titel der Quelle: Melilah - New Series; Manchester Journal of Jewish Studies
    Angaben zur Quelle: 12 (2015) 31-42
    Keywords: Abraham ; Asher, Abraham ben Gedaliah ibn, ; Bible. Criticism, interpretation, etc. ; Midrash rabbah. Criticism, interpretation, etc. ; God Biblical teaching
    Abstract: Abraham ben Asher’s Or ha-Sekhel, an exposition of Genesis Rabba, was published in Venice in 1567. The author frequently interprets midrashim by listing and then harmonising series of “doubts” or “questions” (sefekot or sheʾelot) that arise in the text. The present study analyses this mode of exegesis by examining Abraham ben Asher’s interpretation of the exposition of the Call of Abraham at Genesis Rabba 39:1. The midrash likens the biblical account (Genesis 12:1) to a wayfarer who, on seeing a burning building, asked whether anyone was in charge and was subsequently confronted by the owner. Thus Abraham asked whether anyone was in charge of the world and then received his divine mandate. Abraham ben Asher begins his interpretation with a startling observation: the midrash seems to imply that Abraham questioned the existence of God. In the harmonising interpretation that follows, Abraham ben Asher reassures the reader that the patriarch considered the nature of divine providence rather than God’s existence. Nevertheless, as this paper argues, he deliberately led his audience to entertain the notion that Abraham once lacked a proper understanding of monotheism. This serves a rhetorical purpose, capturing the reader’s interest in how the expositor will solve the problem he raised. By assailing readers with questions and then providing solutions, Abraham ben Asher also creates the impression that any uncertainties that may arise in the study of midrash will inevitably have satisfactory resolutions because the sages’ words can always be expounded so as to reveal harmonious and coherent interpretations.
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