Parashat Shemini – Erev Shabbat 25 March 2022
Week: 20-26 March 2022
Torah portion: Leviticus 9:1 –11:47 Haftarah: 2 Sam. 6:1 – 7:17
Theme: Darosh Darash – The middle and the essence of the Torah
he Human book, the Bible, is also a book that requires interpretation. The Bible lives in and of its interpretation. It is the Torah itself (our Pentateuch) that asks to be interpreted, as it appears from the words found at its center. According to a tradition contained in the Talmud, the center of the words of the entire Torah is constituted by the Hebrew expression darosh darash (“seek, sought”; that is, “made intense searches”) which is found in Leviticus 10:16. The passage from the Talmud says:
The first scholars were called “soferim” because they counted (verb “safar”) every letter of the Torah. They said that … the words “darosh darash” (Lev. 10:16) mark the middle of the words of the Torah (Babylonian Talmud Qiddushim 30a).
The verb darash, “to seek”, is here taken in its sense of “study”, “solicitation”, “investigation”, even “exegesis”. Scripture itself requires interpretation. And this interpretation is also plural…
The Jewish tradition speaks of the “seventy faces” that the Bible presents (cf. Numbers Rabbah 13, 15, The Midrash Rabbah III, Numbers, Deuteronomy, edited by Freedman, H. Soncino, London-Jerusalem-New York, 1977, p. 534.) and of the multiple readings to which each verse lends itself (Cf. Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 35a). But the Christian tradition also affirms the same thing. Augustine recalls that “from the same words of the Scripture … more meanings are derived” and that “the same words are understood in different ways” (Augustine of Hippo, La dottrina cristiana III, 27, 38, edited by TARULLI, V. New City, Rome, 1992, p. 175): from the plurality of the text to the plurality of readings.
Plurality that in contemporary exegesis is also plurality of methods of reading the Bible: historical-critical method, narrative analysis, the approach that resorts to the Jewish interpretative traditions, and the approaches towards the human sciences, the sociological approach, the psychological approaches, and the anthropological-cultural approach.
Just as in a human encounter it is necessary to listen to the other to understand and dialogue with him, so the encounter with the biblical text requires that we try to listen to it and understand it in its otherness. Look for … darosh darash! Moses inquired about what would separate the Israelite from contact with God and God’s sanctuary in this Parashat Shemini. Perhaps the only form of reading of the biblical text that is mercilessly rejected is the fundamentalist reading, defined as a silent invitation “to a kind of suicide of thought”.
For Reflection and Discussion: What do you think about the following statements: (i) “The ideal student of biblical texts is not so much a learnedstudent as a learningstudent”, and (ii) “The essence of the Torah is continued inquiry and study” (Emet Ve-Emunah).
Bibliography: Manicardi, Luciano – Guida alla conoscenza della Bibbia (Qiqajon, Italia: 2009).
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Fernando Gross, Brasil, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2017-2019