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Commentary on Midrash Rabba in the Sixteenth CenturyThe Or ha-Sekhel of Abraham ben Asher$
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Benjamin Williams

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198759232

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198759232.001.0001

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Abraham ben Asher’s Commentary—An Examination of Selected Texts

Abraham ben Asher’s Commentary—An Examination of Selected Texts

(p.64) 4 Abraham ben Asher’s Commentary—An Examination of Selected Texts
Commentary on Midrash Rabba in the Sixteenth Century

Benjamin Williams

Oxford University Press

Abraham ben Asher’s approaches to expounding midrash are examined through analyses of five of his comments. The first illustrates an exegetical method prominent in the ʾOr ha-Sekhel—the enumeration and resolution of difficulties in a particular text. Abraham ben Asher also provides discursive comments without this particular structure and brief clarifications of unfamiliar terms or textual errors. Abraham ben Asher’s understanding of midrash and how it should be interpreted is assessed by examining his first comment on Genesis Rabba. His use of philosophical concepts and terminology is then considered by comparing his explanation of Genesis Rabba 69:1 with those of Samuel Yafeh and Solomon le-Vet ha-Levi. It emerges that, by employing modes of interpretation used more widely among contemporary Sephardi biblical commentators, Abraham ben Asher presents each of the sages’ interpretations as a coherent and consistent whole that is replete with meaning and may be understood correctly in multiple ways.

Keywords:   Genesis Rabba, exegesis, Bible interpretation, Samuel Yafeh, Solomon le-Vet ha-Levi, Yefeh To’ar, Lehem Shelomoh

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