Friday, September 30, 2005

Vigilante Atonement

Pesiqta Derav Kahana is an anthology of homiletical midrashim, which were assembled probably some time during the 5th century CE in Israel, by a rav named Kahana. It goes through the Jewish yearly cycle (starting with Hhanuka, interestingly enough) and comments on the special Torah and Haftara readings of the year.

Pesiqta Derav Kahana: pisqa 25
introduction to the haftara Shuva

(a homiletical midrash)

טוב וישר ה' על כן יורה חטאים בדרך
God is good and honest; therefore, he shoots sinners in the street
(Tehillim 25:8)

They asked Wisdom:
"A sinner — what is his punishment?"
It answered:
Evil pursues those who do evil (Mishley 13:21)

They asked Prophecy:
"A sinner — what is his punishment?"
It answered:
The sinning soul — it will die (Yehhezqeil 18:4)

They asked Torah:
"A sinner — what is his punishment?"
It answered:
He can bring an asham sacrifice, and atonement will be achieved —
this is what it means when it says
"[the sacrifice] will be accepted to atone for him"
(Vayiqra’ 1:4)

They asked God:
"A sinner — what is his punishment?"
God answered:
He can repent, and atonement will be achieved —
this is what it means when it says
טוב וישר ה' על כן יורה חטאים בדרך
(Tehillim 25:8)
My child, what do I ask of you? Seek me and live!

Ribbi Pinhhas said:
What does it mean, that God is both good and honest?
על כן יורה חטאים בדרך
God shows them a path by which they can repent,
and therefore Hosheia‘ warned Israel, saying "Repent, Israel..."

I taught this midrash to one of my Parshanut/Midrash classes today. It was good. They loved the grammatical ambiguity whereby יוֹרֶה can mean either he shoots or he will guide. It also brought up all kinds of philsophical questions about reward and punishment, which must be discussed sometime. For now though, shabbat shalom v-shana tova!

2 Comments:

Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

for all kinds of philsophical questions about reward and punishment.see ramban's shar ha'gemul w/ r'sperkas notes

9/30/2005 1:59 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

I liked that the Medhrosh has God speak Aramaic: בני, מאי בעינא מנכון. Unlike all the abstract concepts "Wisdom", "Prophecy", and "Torah", which speak the formal language of the Jewish people, Biblical Hebrew, God Himself speaks to his children in the personal, loving, informal language of the Jewish people, Aramaic.

(Steg, thanks for showing me the Semitic original of this post last night. Oh, and much thanks for Shabbos.)

10/02/2005 12:08 PM  

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