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By Daniel Boyarin

Continuing via in depth readings of passages from the early midrash on Exodus The Mekilta, Boyarin proposes a brand new thought of midrash that rests partially on an figuring out of the heterogeneity of the biblical textual content and the constraining strength of rabbinic ideology at the construction of midrash. In a forceful mix of conception and studying, Boyarin increases profound questions about the interaction among historical past, ideology, and interpretation.

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22:15]; He revealed Himself to them in buckler and shield, as it is said, "His truth is a shield and a buckler," etc. [Ps. 91:4], and it says, "Take hold of shield and buckler," etc. [Ps. 35:2]. 15 We have here an explicit statement on the nature of midrashic reading. It is founded on the idea that gaps and indeterminacies in one part of the canon may be filled and resolved by citing others. R. Yehuda says that the way to interpret our verse is to consider it in the light of many other verses. ''16 Far from being limited to interpretation in its context, the verse is considered as impoverished in meaning when read only there.

14:29]. It became a sort of day, as it is said: "Thou hast trodden the sea with Thy horses, the day of mighty waters'' [Hab. 3:15]. It crumbled into pieces, as it is said: "Thou didst break the sea in pieces by Thy strength" [Ps. 74:13]. It turned into rocks, as it is said: "Thou didst shatter the heads of the sea-monsters upon the water" [Ps. 74:18]. It was cut into several parts, as it is said: "To Him who divided the Red Sea into parts" [Ps. 136:13]. It was piled up into stacks, as it is said: "And with the blast of Thy nostrils the waters were pried up" [Exod.

The paradox is at the very heart of midrash; a text is being cited that is supremely authoritative for both attitudes and behaviors, and at the same time the local meanings of that authoritative text seem to be undermined. Now, any attempt to read this paradox is a kind of reduction of its meaning; there is a sense of loss. But not to read it at all seems to be an even greater loss. And to assert that midrash is merely some kind of erotic play with the text would be the greatest loss of all. I wish to claim that midrashthe Oral Torahis a program of preserving the old by making it new.

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