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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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Creative License When Interpreting the Bible

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Finally, Rabbi Forhman recommends Learning to Read Midrash. I have not read this book, but under his recommendation, I will endeavor to add this to my reading list.

This is all quite significant. There is an ongoing debate about whether there is “psak” with regard to Hashkafa. Can we state that certain ideas or philosophies that are not prohibited by Jewish law are effectively out of bounds because certain rabbis rejected those ideas? Using the reasoning proposed by Rabbi Fohrman I think we can say that there is no psak in hashkafa. I think we can also say that there is no real reason to establish specific interpretations on Chumash as the “right” interpretations or give special privileges to popular interpretations or commentaries.

We are supposed to read the text and learn it. It’s not enough to review the same familiar commentaries. The idea is to challenge ourselves to find the interpretations that make sense to us and sometimes those might even be original ideas.

One final thought. I think we do a great service to Torah Judaism if we expand the limits of acceptable interpretations on Chumash. The more ideas we allow, the more flavors and varieties of thinking will flourish. This is a good thing. A more narrow view of what is acceptable in terms of non-halachic matters can have negative consequences. It would be wise to seek to avoid those consequences. I support Rabbi Forhman’s approach. I think it’s a good thing. More importantly, I think it’s the right thing.

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About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.


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