Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Nimrod defended

In defense of the numerous Israelis who have been saddled with the name of one of the larger villains in Bereishis, it should be noted that the Ibn Ezra (10:9) says that the reason why Nimrod was called a great hunter before HaShem was that "he would build altars and offer on them wild animals to HaShem". He rejects the practice of looking for meanings to names in Tanach whose meanings are not stated explicitly (thereby dealing with the big red flag that his name comes from the root meaning "to rebel"). He notes the existence of d'rashos that interpret Nimrod differently, but insists that his explanation is the p'shat.

I've found that the Ibn Ezra has a tendency to defend the border between p'shat and d'rash - see also his comments on Yiska and on the beginning of the Akeidah - which is a very valuable service in this era (both his time and ours) where p'shat and d'rash are so often conflated. He seems to have fallen out of favor, though, perhaps for this reason (or, more likely, for the reason that no one likes dikduk, which most of his comments are about).

One is m'chuyav to know the entire Torah with only the simple p'shat, one is m'chuyav to know the entire Torah with every d'rasha, and one is certainly m'chuyav to know the difference between the two.

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