Of Angels and Men: Peshat As A Universal Tool

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In the opening pages of Family Redeemed, Rabbi Soloveitchik proclaims:[i] [ii] “I am sorry to say that many Jews don’t look to Bible for guidance and that its spiritual message, so indispensable for man today, is completely ignored. Our approach to Biblical interpretation is too often homiletical; it is the pulpit and the synagogue approach. The Book of Books has become a compilation of sermonical inspirational texts, popular maxims and vulgar common sense. However, the most beautiful aspect of the Bible is its Weltanschauung, its world view, its spiritual outlook upon both the world and man.”[iii] While Rabbi Soloveitchik does not discount the value of homiletical biblical interpretations, his point strikes at a seemingly intuitive notion, that we should strive to understand what the Tanakh itself is saying. The impact of Tanakh on our lives is immeasurable. Rabbi Hayyim Angel states that Tanakh “shapes our religious worldview, our religious and moral behavior, and our core values and ideals,”[iv] and thus it is only natural to desire to comprehend its messages.

In sincere pursuit of this end, new camps have formed and fresh methodologies have been developed. In the last half century, a Tanakh “revolution”[v] has occurred in Israel.[vi] The movement, with Yeshivat Har Etzion and Herzog College at the helm, has aroused controversy in other circles in the Religious Zionist world.[vii]  The primary element of this controversy has been a return to peshuto shel mikra, which will be referred to as “peshat” for convenience. Another camp expresses the need to exclusively view Tanakh through the eyes of Hazal and earlier commentators and not through grappling with the text to find the “simple meaning.” They believe that only Hazal and early commentators were able to achieve an accurate understanding of the text. A careful analysis of each of these two approaches and the assumptions upon which their Biblical methodologies are predicated will reveal the roots of their debate and reflect how struggling to find the “peshat” of the verses of the Tanakh should be perceived as a universally critical tool.

The Peshat Methodology

Prior to analyzing the theological assumptions behind these movements, a description of the methodologies employed, as well as few illustrative examples, is necessary. Before describing the peshat movement, it is imperative to provide a working definition of the term peshat. Mori verabbi Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein explains that “Peshat seeks to enter into the content of the text, to understand the meaning of the words, to explain the use of alternative expressions, to examine passages in their context and contrast similar passages.”[viii] Rabbi Hayyim Angel provides a briefer definition of peshat and defines it as “the primary intent of the author.”[ix] The essential methodological assumption of the peshuto shel mikra movement is described by Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun, a founder of the movement, as “the key to learning Tanakh and understanding it, is found within it.”[x]  What this means is that there is no inherent need for help from external sources in order to understand Tanakh.[xi] Rabbi Ezra Bick elaborates further: “there is a peshat, a plain meaning, which is accessible and which is meant to be understood by the reader… the meaning of the text is found in the text and your job is to find it.”[xii] A thorough reader is deemed capable of understanding the meaning of a story or episode in Tanakh through grappling with the words of the text alone.

Literary analysis is another characteristic of the movement: structural, plot, and character analyses are used to understand the meaning of the text.[xiii] In contrast to most medieval commentators who analyzed verse-by-verse, the peshat movement often looks at an episode more broadly in order to understand it.[xiv] A final distinguishing characteristic of the peshat movement is its use of commentaries and midrashim. While others may study commentaries and their approaches as an end in itself[xv], the peshat school utilizes them differently. As Rabbi Ezra Bick puts it, “the pioneering work of Rashi and Ramban, Radak and Abarbanel, the Netziv, and Rav Hirsch, are aids, not the subject itself.”[xvi] This is consistent with the goal of the peshat school, to understand the text itself, and not the commentator. Rabbi Hayyim Angel sums up the nuanced approach to commentaries as: “We must consider them ‘our eyes to the text’ rather than as substitutes for the text”.[xvii] Additionally, Midrashim are used to illuminate the text, sometimes by pointing out parallels, emphasizing linguistic nuances, or finding gaps in the narratives, but are not themselves the subject of study.

A few examples from a prominent figure within the peshat movement will help elucidate this methodology by demonstrating how finding another place where a word is used in Tanakh will help elucidate its meaning. Rabbi Amnon Bazak, in his book “Nekudat Peticha”, attempts to explain the meaning of the words “yad rama” (Shemot 14:8) which appear in the context of Bnei Yisrael leaving Egypt[xviii]. Rashi comments that the words mean “lofty and openly displayed might”.[xix]  Rabbi Bazak challenges Rashi’s reading because merely two verses later the Jews are described as being frightened. Rabbi Bazak says that there is room to present an alternate explanation which is in line with the peshat. He quotes two other verses in Tanakh where “yad rama” is used (Bamidbar 15:30, Devarim 32:27) and proves from there that what the verse means is that Bnei Yisrael had a sense of haughtiness, as if their exodus from Egypt was of their own doing. This example reflects three different aspects of the movement’s methodology. It reflects dedication to a close reading of both the local verses and relevant verses found in other locations in Tanakh; it displays a willingness to disagree with the opinion of earlier commentators if their opinions are not in line with the peshat, and finally it represents the readiness to be critical of Bnei Yisrael if the peshat of the verses so indicate.

Another example that highlights the methodology employed by the peshat school is Rabbi Bazak’s interpretation of the narrative involving Hovav Ben Reuel and Moshe in Bamidbar (10:29-32).[xx] Moshe requests that he stay with Bnei Yisrael on their journey towards the Land of Israel. Hovav declines Moshe’s offer but Moshe petitions him to stay in order to serve “as their eyes” and guide them toward Israel. Interestingly, the Tanakh does not record a response to Moshe’s appeal. Rabbi Bazak notes the absence of an answer from Hovav and attempts to explain this peculiarity through a peshat reading of the verses. He suggests that the lack of a response implies that the key point of the story is not the result but rather the question itself. Moshes request should be viewed negatively since it is a plea to flesh and blood, which runs counter to the spirit of the surrounding verses. Those verses (Bamidbar 9:17-18, 10:33-34) and other verses in Tanakh (Devarim 8:15-16, Bamidbar 15:39-41) emphasize that Bnei Yisrael must rely on the help of God to lead them while in the desert and not man. Moshe and Bnei Yisrael must realize that they need not rely on the eyes of Hovavsince the Ark of God will lead them. Rabbi Bazak arrives at this conclusion through a close textual reading and thereby noticing the gap in the narrative. Additionally, he makes use of both nearby and distant passages as a means to understand the Tanakh’s approach to relying on human beings. Finally, it reflects a willingness to criticize a great biblical figure even if Hazal and earlier commentators had not done so. Rabbi Bazak’s analysis is emblematic of a number the key characteristics of the peshat school.

The Derash Methodology

The other school of biblical interpretation will be referred to in this article as the “derash” school, and in general is characterized by the use of the tools of rabbinic interpretation to diverge from the simple reading of the text. Perhaps the most common reason for this is in order to look at the figures in the text in a more positive light in order to view figures in the text as stellar role models for subsequent generations. In this pursuit, the “derash” school chooses specific teachings of Hazal or early commentators which aid their method of understanding.[xxi] One is not supposed to interpret the stories pertaining to great biblical figures in the manner that a simple reading of the text would imply. A reader is deemed incapable of understanding the text on his own since they lack the skills necessary to discover the abstract complexities which lead to uncover the deeper- and more accurate- meaning. Remarks of commentators that criticize biblical figures[xxii] should not be viewed as legitimate models of interpretation for a reader, only the esteemed status of the commentator justifies him understanding the verses in that way.[xxiii]

A classic example of this approach is with regard to David and Batsheva. From the simple reading of the verses it seems clear that David committed a few grave sins relating to murder and adultery in the process of taking Batsheva as a wife. This approach is based on Natan’s reproach of David as well as David’s confession:  “‘Wherefore hast thou despised the word of the LORD, to do that which is evil in My sight? Uriah the Hittite thou hast smitten with the sword, and his wife thou hast taken to be thy wife…’ ‘And David said unto Nathan: ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’”[xxiv] (Shmuel 2:12:9,13). This is indeed how a number of medieval commentators understand the story as well[xxv]. According to this reading, David’s ensuing confession and repentance absolve him from these severe sins. In contrast, the “derash” school diverges from this approach and instead begins with the a-priori assumption that David could have not committed such serious sins because of his exalted status, reflected by his being the progenitor of the Messiah.[xxvi] Instead they focus on the talmudic dictum “”Whoever says that David sinned is in error(Shabbat 56a).” As a result, they understand David’s sins to be significantly less severe than a peshat reading would understand.

Theological Assumptions of the Movements

The approach of the “derash” school is predicated upon a critical theological assumption, namely, we do not live on the same exalted plane of existence that the holy biblical figures lived on, and we are thus not capable of relating to them. They are fundamentally different than us and any attempt to analyze them based on our own frame of reference is simply a mistake[xxvii]. They are viewed as near-angelic figures. This perspective can be extracted from the writing of Rabbi Aharon Kotler: “The actions of our forefathers, who, as we have said, were the foundations of the Jewish people and of the whole world, could not have been influenced in the slightest by personal inclinations and desires.”[xxviii] Or as Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein describes this approach: “many in the religious camp adopt the approach, namely, that gedolei Yisrael are superhuman. One cannot draw any comparison between us and them. They have no emotions, struggles or drives, and certainly never sin.”[xxix] Rabbi Lichtenstein argues that “this approach evolves from an admirable concern for the preservation of our respect and reverence for our gedolim.”[xxx]This approach is based on a key assumption. For biblical figures like the Avot, Moshe or David to be considered worthy of the accolades and place they receive in our tradition, they need to be pristine characters. Plainly, for them it is inconceivable for great figures to have sinned since it would diminish their holy stature.

In contrast, Rabbi Mordechai Breuer, a monumental figure in the peshat movement writes: “To endeavor to understand the plain sense of the Bible is to accept the fundamental assumption that ‘the Torah speaks in human language’.”[xxxi] We are deemed capable of understanding the actions of great biblical figures. Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein describes the critical assumption of the peshat movement: “Human nature in the Torah is basically similar to the human nature we are familiar with. Our view of the biblical drama, and our suggestions for analyzing the narratives, are based on an understanding that emotions like love, hate, envy, compassion and the whole gamut of human emotions with which we are familiar, are identical to their counterparts in the inner world our forefathers.”[xxxii] This stance is the justification for the peshat school. One is able to read the text through one’s own eyes simply because he or she can relate to the figures and dramas that fill the verses of the Tanakh.

The Crux of the Debate

The true source of this debate revolves around one major question. What makes the figures in Tanakh like the Avot, Imahot, Moshe, and David so extraordinary? The derash school believes it is because biblical characters were superhuman, flawless figures imbued with exalted souls who never seriously erred. The peshat school answers this question completely differently, affecting their entire methodology. Simply put, it is not being superhuman that made them great, it was specifically the fact that they were human, and were capable of achieving greatness despite the difficult trials and tribulations inherent to man’s emotional existence.[xxxiii] Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein phrases it as follows : “The Torah, however, presents the forefathers to us as human beings, and their lives as human lives. Of course they are lofty, outstanding individuals, the elect among men, the ‘beloved of God,’ but they achieve all this while retaining their human qualities- and therein lies their greatness.”[xxxiv]  The fact that they sin is only natural as human beings. Yet their ability to nonetheless be extraordinary figures despite this is what makes them great.

The clearest proof of this perspective is found in the thought of the two founding roshei yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein and Rabbi Yehuda Amital. Rabbi Lichtenstein writes: “Were Avraham not to have had any human emotions or drives, and would thus have taken his son to be sacrificed just as one would an animal, then akeidat Yitzchak would not have constituted as monumental a display of faith and religious resolve as it did; it would have lost its significance. Thus, we cannot overlook the sins of several of gedolei Yisrael, but we must view them in the broader context of Hazal’s overall attitude towards these exceptional personalities. These are giants who sinned, but whose sins do not diminish their greatness”.[xxxv] Rabbi Amnon Bazak in describing the thought of Rabbi Amital makes a critical point: “Do we wish to see artificial, angelic figures, who neither err nor sin? What do such figures have to offer us? Should we falsify the plain sense of Scripture in order to create unrealistic characters? Or perhaps, just the opposite: based on an understanding of the complexity of Biblical figures, we should adopt a different approach to life, which does not view human complexity as something essentially negative.”[xxxvi] Rabbi Amital’s point is striking but intuitive. Instead of imposing our own perspective of the ideal nature of man onto Tanakh, we should allow the perspective of Tanakh to influence our own.

Usefulness of Peshat For the Derash School

Despite this fundamental disagreement, which is certainly le’sheim shamayim, what should not be lost in the crossfire is the pertinent value peshuto shel mikra possesses for both schools. As has been exhibited, the peshat school believes in the value of the simple reading of the text in addition to the meaningful teachings of Hazal and earlier commentators. Yet grappling to find the simple meaning of the text is equally important for the derash school. This is because in order to both understand and truly appreciate the words of Hazal and earlier commentators, one needs to understand how they arrived at their conclusions. Their interpretations and analyses were not created in a vacuum, but rather derive from the words of the Tanakh itself. Understanding the peshat of the verses leads to a deeper appreciation of the contributions of both Hazal through midrashim and early commentators.

With regards to early commentators, this approach can be discerned in a number of teachings from the peshat movement. In the introduction to his book “Passages,” Rabbi Michael Hattin states that “we will meet the Rishonim through the study of the text itself, via an attentive reading that will naturally introduce them. To study the text thoroughly is to anticipate many of their questions and to more fully appreciate their solutions. A student who immediately consults Rashi or Ramban after a cursory reading of the verse has failed to adequately understand either one of them or the subtleties of the verse itself.”[xxxvii] This idea is very intuitive.  Ramban and Rashi examined and struggled with the text first before arriving at their conclusions. If they choose one approach to the text, we want to understand how they got there. If they stray from the simple reading we must ask what educational, pedagogical, or religious message lies therein. A few examples will illustrate the value of this approach. Rabbi Menachem Leibtag, in his attempt to understand why there are so many interpretations of Moshe’s sin at Meriva, suggests the following methodology: “to better understand why there are so many different opinions, the first part of this week’s shiur carefully analyzes the key pesukim of this narrative. To understand why there are so many opinions, we must begin with the Torah’s own description of their sin…let’s do on our own what (most likely) all of the commentators did on their own before they wrote their commentaries…That would be the most logical way to figure out wherein lies his mistake.”[xxxviii] In doing so Rabbi Leibtag emerges with an understanding of what drove the various commentaries to reach their conclusions. Another illustration of this methodology can be found in the writings of Rabbi Hattin. After determining the many problems with Rashi’s chronology in his comments on hayei sarah he says the following: “It is not enough to simply say that Rashi’s interpretation is ‘wrong.’ Having concluded that it is untenable from a textual standpoint, the more important task now is to ascertain why Rashi may have proffered it… We must begin to ponder the deeper significance of the source, the implication of its reading that only on a surface level appears implausible.  Perhaps Rashi’s intent was to communicate far more important ideas, that only for the sake of brevity are couched in terms of the age of the protagonists.”[xxxix] This methodology allows Rabbi Hattin to understand Rashi’s insights about Yitzchak’s part in the akeidah. The common denominator in these examples is that a close reading of the text and determining what the peshat might be, allows for greater understanding and respect of the commentaries.

A similar approach is true with regards to the Hazal’s midrashic comments, which were not created in a vacuum. Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein claims that “the midrash’s attempt to provide answers for questions of this kind is not arbitrary nor is it guesswork; it is based on an analysis of the motivating factors that underlie the text.”[xl] For one to understand midrashim, one must begin with an analysis of the simple meaning of the text. This is for two primary reasons. The first is that very often the midrash’s goal is to enlighten us about the simple meaning of a narrative. Dr. Yael Ziegler writes “it has been my experience that a deeper examination of midrashim often uncovers a deep apprehension of the crux of the narrative[xli]”. Therefore one must grapple with the simple meaning of the text itself in order to eventually understand what Hazal’s comments are revealing about it. Secondly, Dr. Ziegler comments that “when the midrashim do stray from the simple meaning of the text, it is often enlightening to ask why they did so and to try and determine the objectives of the midrash.”[xlii] How can one ascertain if Hazal are indeed straying from the simple meaning of the text in order to advance some type of message, if one has not previously grasped the simple reading?

An extraordinary example of this approach can be found in an article written by Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun. In Bereishit the verse states with regard to Lot’s hospitality of the angels in Sedom: “And he prepared a banquet for them, and baked matzot, and they ate” (Bereishit 19:2). Rashi commenting on the verse quotes a midrash which says “It was Pesach”. This comment is shocking. How can it have been Pesach if Bnei Yisrael had not even gone down to Egypt yet? Rabbi Bin Nun writes: “At some stage, the realization hit me. I read the chapter as it is written, and was suddenly struck by the depths of the insight possessed by Hazal and by Rashi. It is specifically when one reads the text itself directly – rather than through the eyes of the commentaries – that Hazal’s view emanates from the words of the verses… The many parallels between the overturning of Sedom and the plagues on Egypt practically shout out, ‘Pesach!’ Hazal had all these parallels in mind when they drew their conclusion in the midrash.” Rabbi Bin Nun continues by saying that by not trying to read the Tanakh in a simple and straightforward manner “we lose out on the treasures of the biblical text, which fill a person with supreme joy and with the love of God. We lose out on the joy of the simple, plain reading, as well as on an understanding of the midrash,… and its greatness. The midrash recognizes expressions characteristic of the Exodus from Egypt, within the story of Lot’s exodus from Sedom. Indeed, ‘it was Pesach.’”[xliii] This is a striking example of how only through attempting to understand the simple meaning of the text itself allows one to fully appreciate the brilliant comments of Hazal.

Thus, despite the deeply rooted debate between the peshat and derash schools, peshuto shel mikra should be seen universally as both a valuable and critical tool when studying Tanakh.

Avraham Wein is a first-year student studying Tractate Ketuvot at Yeshiva College.

[i]  I would like to thank Rabbi Shalom Carmy, Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg, and Dr. Moshe Cohen for their willingness to share their time and expertise in preparation of this article.

[ii] While Rabbi Soloveitchik was not a member of the peshuto shel mikra school per se, he can be seen as a “father figure” to this school. His impact is significant on a number of leading figures in the peshat movement. See Mosheh Lichtenstein, Moses: Envoy of God, Envoy of His People: Leadership and Crisis from the Exodus to the Plains of Moab (Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Pub. House, 2008), 267.

[iii] Joseph Dov Soloveitchik, Family Redeemed: Essays on Family Relationships. (Hoboken, NJ: Toras Horav Foundation, 2000), 3.

[iv] Hayyim Angel, “Introduction,” in Hayyim Angel, Peshat Isn’t so Simple: Essays on Developing a Religious Methodology to Bible Study (New York, NY: Kodesh Press, 2014), 7.

[v] The term revolution is relative because it can be seen a return to the roots of earlier biblical commentary. See Ezra Bick, “Preface,” in Torah MiEtzion: New Readings in Tanach, ed. by Ezra Bick and Yaakov Beasley (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2011), Xiv-xvi.  Additionally see Yosef Markus, “A Collection Of Sources,” in My Constant Delight- Contemporary Religious Zionist Perspectives on Tanakh Study (Hebrew), ed. by Yehoshua Reis (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2013), 219-46.

[vi] Although not exclusively in Israel. For examples refer to Hayyim Angel, “Literary Theological Methods”, in Hayyim Angel, Peshat Isn’t so Simple: Essays on Developing a Religious Methodology to Bible Study (New York, NY:  Kodesh Press, 2014), 128.

[vii] See the writings and teachings of Rabbis Tzvi Tau and Shlomo Aviner. This movement has been referred to as the “Tanakh Bgoveh Shamayim” approach as opposed to “Tanakh Bgoveh Eineim”. While this is humorous, it is an unfair distinction simply because the peshat school firmly believes that their methodology is what Chazal desire.

[viii] Mosheh Lichtenstein, Moses: Envoy of God, Envoy of His People: Leadership and Crisis from the Exodus to the Plains of Moab (Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Pub. House, 2008), 224.

[ix] Hayyim Angel, “From Black Fire To White Fire”, in Hayyim Angel, Peshat Isn’t so Simple: Essays on Developing a Religious Methodology to Bible Study ( New York, NY:  Kodesh Press, 2014), 13. I interpret Rabbi Angel’s statement to mean what the author expected the reader to grasp. Additionally, Rabbi Shalom Carmy’s writings discuss relevant issues in defining peshat. See  Shalom Carmy, “Editor’s Note: A PESHAT IN THE DARK: REFLECTIONS ON THE AGE OF CARY GRANT,” Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought 43.1 (2010): 1-6.

[x] Yoel Bin Nun, “On The Study Of Tanakh In Yeshivot”(hebrew), in How I Love Your Torah: Essays In Honor Of Yeshivat Har Etzion On The Fourty-Fifth Anniversary of Its Founding(hebrew) ed. by Yitshak Rakanti, Shaul Barth, and Reuven Ziegler(Alon Shevut: Yeshivat Har Etzion, 2014) 77.

[xi] Rabbi Carmy has pointed out that there can be different ways to define “external sources.” Are the fields of archeology and linguistics considered external sources or are they a necessary background for the text (but the text still stands on it’s own)? This important discussion is not within the purview of this article. See Shalom Carmy, “Editor’s Note: A PESHAT IN THE DARK: REFLECTIONS ON THE AGE OF CARY GRANT,” Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought 43.1 (2010): 1-6. Also see Hayyim Angel, “Literary Theological Methods”, in Hayyim Angel, Peshat Isn’t so Simple: Essays on Developing a Religious Methodology to Bible Study (New York, NY:  Kodesh Press, 2014), 118-136.

[xii] Ezra Bick, “Preface,” in Torah MiEtzion: New Readings in Tanach, ed. by Ezra Bick and Yaakov Beasley (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2011), Xv.

[xiii] ibid. xvii. See Rabbi Amnon Bazak’s introduction to the first volume of his book: “Amnon Bazak, Nekudat Peticha(Alon Shevut, Israel: Tzomet), 5766

[xiv] Ezra Bick, “Preface,” in Torah MiEtzion: New Readings in Tanach, ed. by Ezra Bick and Yaakov Beasley (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2011), xviii. Also see Rabbi Shalom Carmy’s comments available at http://www.lookstein.org/articles/imitate_ramban.htm

[xv] This can be viewed in part as the result of the extraordinary work of Dr. Nechama Leibowitz. It is subject to debate if this was actually her intent though. See Hayyim Angel, “The Paradox Of Parshanut”, in Hayyim Angel, Peshat Isn’t so Simple: Essays on Developing a Religious Methodology to Bible Study (New York, NY:  Kodesh Press, 2014), 36-57.

[xvi] Ezra Bick, “Preface,” in Torah MiEtzion: New Readings in Tanach, ed. by Ezra Bick and Yaakov Beasley (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2011), Xv. Emphasis added.

[xvii] Hayyim Angel, “From Black Fire To White Fire”, in Hayyim Angel, Peshat Isn’t so Simple: Essays on Developing a Religious Methodology to Bible Study (New York, NY:  Kodesh Press, 2014), 13.

[xviii] “Amnon Bazak, Nekudat Peticha vol. 2(Alon Shevut, Israel: Tzomet, 2009), 71.

[xix] chabad.org

[xx] “Amnon Bazak, Nekudat Peticha vol. 2(Alon Shevut, Israel: Tzomet, 2009), 153-154.

[xxi] The methodology of “picking and choosing” can be viewed as dangerous. This topic is not within the scope of this article though. See Amnon Bazak’s article in  My Constant Delight- Contemporary Religious Zionist Perspectives on Tanakh Study (Hebrew), ed. by Yehoshua Reis (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2013), 195-206.

 

[xxii] See the Ramban’s commentary on Bereishit 30:1 for an example.

[xxiii] See Yehoshua Reis, “Preface”(hebrew), My Constant Delight- Contemporary Religious Zionist Perspectives on Tanakh Study (Hebrew), ed. by Yehoshua Reis (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2013), 9-10. Also see Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein’s important analysis in ibid. 244

[xxiv] Mechon-Mamre translation

[xxv] See the comments of the Sefer Chassidim, Abarbanel, and Ralbag

[xxvi] Avigdor Nebenzahl, Sermons On Sefer Bereishit(hebrew),( Jersualem, 2003), 396.

[xxvii] ibid. 378-379

[xxviii] Aharon Kotler, Mishnat Rabbi Aharon pt. 3 (Lakewood, N.J., 5748), pp. 179-180.

[xxix] Yosef Markus, “A Collection Of Sources,” in My Constant Delight- Contemporary Religious Zionist Perspectives on Tanakh Study (Hebrew), ed. by Yehoshua Reis (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2013), 244.

[xxx] ibid.

[xxxi] Mordechai Breuer, Pirque Bereshit(Alon Shevut, Israel: Tevunot Press, 1998),iii. Also see Ezra Bick, “Preface,” in Torah MiEtzion: New Readings in Tanach, ed. by Ezra Bick and Yaakov Beasley (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2011), Xvi. and Yehoshua Reis, “Preface”(hebrew), My Constant Delight- Contemporary Religious Zionist Perspectives on Tanakh Study (Hebrew), ed. by Yehoshua Reis (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2013), 11.

[xxxii] Mosheh Lichtenstein, Moses: Envoy of God, Envoy of His People: Leadership and Crisis from the Exodus to the Plains of Moab (Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Pub. House, 2008), 250. Also see the quote from Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein in Yosef Markus, “A Collection Of Sources,” in My Constant Delight- Contemporary Religious Zionist Perspectives on Tanakh Study (Hebrew), ed. by Yehoshua Reis (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2013), 245-46.

[xxxiii] It is critical to note that this does not mean to view these figures crudely as unspectacular beings. Rather it means to understand their acts within the appropriate context of chazal and early commentaries. This point is clear from the writings of Rabbi Yaakov Medan, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein and others. See ibid. 186 and 245. I also heard this point from my esteemed teacher Rabbi Michael Rosensweig.

[xxxiv]Mosheh Lichtenstein, Moses: Envoy of God, Envoy of His People: Leadership and Crisis from the Exodus to the Plains of Moab (Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Pub. House, 2008), 253. Bolding is my own. Also see Yosef Markus, “A Collection Of Sources,” in My Constant Delight- Contemporary Religious Zionist Perspectives on Tanakh Study (Hebrew), ed. by Yehoshua Reis (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2013), 236.

[xxxv] ibid. 245-246

[xxxvi] Amnon Bazak, “The Legitimacy to Be Human in the Thought of Rav Amital”, in Alei Etzion 17, ed. by Reuven Ziegler(Alon Shevut, Israel: Yeshivat Har Etzion, 5772), 23. For a similar educational perspective see Yuval Cherlow’s article “David the King Of Israel Lives(hebrew)” in My Constant Delight- Contemporary Religious Zionist Perspectives on Tanakh Study (Hebrew), ed. by Yehoshua Reis (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2013), 189-194.

[xxxvii] Michael Hattin, Passages: Text and Transformation in the Parasha (Jerusalem, Israel: Urim Publications, 2012), 8.

[xxxviii] Tanach.org. Menachem Leibtag, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

[xxxix] Michael Hattin, “Chronology and Interpretation,” in Torah MiEtzion: New Readings in Tanach, ed. by Ezra Bick and Yaakov Beasley (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2011), 236. For another interesting example see “Joshua Berman, “Hearing the Baby’s Cry,” in How I Love Your Torah: Essays In Honor Of Yeshivat Har Etzion On The Fourty-Fifth Anniversary of Its Founding ed. by Reuven Ziegler(Alon Shevut: Yeshivat Har Etzion, 2014) 74.

[xl] Mosheh Lichtenstein, Moses: Envoy of God, Envoy of His People: Leadership and Crisis from the Exodus to the Plains of Moab (Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Pub. House, 2008), 224.

[xli] Yael Ziegler, Ruth: From Alienation To Monarchy(New Milford, CT: Maggid, 2015), 11.

[xlii] ibid.

[xliii] Yoel Bin Nun, “Lot’s Pesah and Its Significance,” in Torah MiEtzion: New Readings in Tanach (Shemot), ed. by Ezra Bick and Yaakov Beasley (Jerusalem: Maggid, 2012), 152-154.