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October 7, 2015 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Genesis

After a year of the not-very-exciting Soncino Chumash, I am happy to introduce you to a new commentary I am studying this year.  Ktav Publishing has a group of (highly edited) medieval Torah commentaries, and this year I am focusing on Akedat Yitzchak, by Isaac Arama (a 15th-c. Spanish rabbi).  I can’t really classify Arama yet; sometimes he seems rationalist (discussing medieval science) but at the same time he is pretty literalist when discussing the Torah and even midrash.

After most phases of creation, the Torah says that God described it as good.  But this is missing for man.   Why?

Arama writes: “until his death, the issue remains in doubt. Depending on his lifestyle, his existence may turn out to have been worthwhile (good) or otherwise. .. [Midrash Tanhuma adds] that God does not associate his name with the living, meaning that while alive, one cannot be certain that a person will maintain his moral plateau.”

Which is why I find it irritating that governments name highways, courthouses etc after people now living.  Why name something after Congressman X when there’s still some risk that X will be caught doing something noxious?  This problem is unavoidable of course in donor financed institutions like Jewish schools, but it seems to me that public facilities should be governed by the principle set out by Arama: while someone is alive we really don’t know whether he/she should be honored.


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