Medieval Commentary in the Modern Era: The Enduring Value of Classical Parshanut.
Rabbi Yaakov Blau
A centuries-old manuscript unrolls on a computer tablet on the cover of Rabbi Yaakov Blau’s new book, Medieval Commentary in the Modern Era: The Enduring Value of Classical Parshanut.
It is a telling illustration of his theme: how to use the medieval commentaries to enhance contemporary understanding of Tanach (Torah, Nevi’im, K’tuvim – the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings).
Rabbi Blau advocates a sugya (topic) approach, gathering all the places where a topic is discussed and comparing the comments of different mefarshim on each issue.
He demonstrates the sugya approach by considering questions that arise as one studies: Why is something repeated three times in a row? How does someone prove he is a prophet? How precise are numbers in Tanach? Why are anonymous personalities identified by the mefarshim as specific people? Why are minor characters said to be major ones?
There are many examples, every one of them fascinating. He uses four commentaries – Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Targum, and Radak – and gives a chapter to each.
In the renaissance of studying the Written Torah that is happily occurring in our day, many teachers are using new analytic methods and applying terms from literary criticism to verses in Tanach. In an opening chapter Rabbi Blau exchanges ideas with Rabbi Yaakov Beasley, another accomplished instructor, on whether the “old” or “new” methodology should be the primary focus in Tanach study today.
The book is 83 pages long. His students can attest that Rabbi Blau does not waste one extra word as he opens the richness of the text. The book reflects Rabbi Blau’s style of teaching: the excitement of learning, the encouragement of questioning, and the sharing of precise knowledge.
This book will be valuable for everyone who enjoys learning Tanach, and for teachers who want their students to enjoy learning.
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