Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Vayigash II: Can Peshat be Inspirational? (Part I)

אעלך גם עלה - כלומר ארד עמך וגם עלה אעלך, כמו וברכתם גם אותי. גם עלה. שנקבר עם אבותיו במערת המכפלה:

In an earlier post, I commented on the ways in which peshat sometimes provides a convincing explanation that nonetheless deflates more inspirational and spiritual possibilities. In his comment on Bereishit 46:4, Rashbam provides us with another such example. This verse’s promise of return to Eretz Yisrael seems—in the context of the Torah’s larger narrative—to refer to the eventual redemption of Ya’akov’s descendants. The ominous buildup to slavery starts now and this verse hints at its eventual end. [See Ramban on 46:1 for this reading of the text.] But Rashbam wants to see this promise fulfilled to Ya’akov himself, in a more local, less archetypal way. So he proposes that the divine promise here is that Ya’akov will return to C’na’an, and he indeed does, albeit posthumously. This sort of explanation sometimes takes some of the drama out of the text, even as it often preserves accuracy; here I think it may overreach altogether and sacrifice the larger narrative that the lives of the Avot seem intended to highlight in the first place.


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