Sunday, February 01, 2009

Yesterday's Parsha

Exodus 13 (KJV):

6Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD.
7Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.
8And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.
9And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD's law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt.

10Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.

11And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee,
12That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD's.
13And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.
14And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage:
15And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.
16And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt.



So we have eating matzah for seven days in order for it to be "a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes" in order for when your son asks you what it's all about you can explain. And then we have redemption of the firstborn which is also given as "a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes" for the same co-generational exposure and explanation.

C'mon now, how do these verses imply leather boxes instead of simply figurative phrases describing a mnemonic device?

14 comments:

Bruce said...

Well, there are pretty serious logistical problems with putting your firstborn and a bunch of matzah on your arm and forehead.

Rich Perkins said...

Is this the only mention of these pesukim that are used to refer to teffillin in the torah?

I don't have the exact quotes, but there are places in the torah where it says you should wear it on our hearts. Obviously, that is referring to God wanting us to keep something on the forefront of our minds and that we should show pride in our heritage/mitzvot. I agree that using a similar explanation here would make more sense.

Rich

Orthoprax said...

Rich,

No, there are two other mentions. The other two are the more well known actually, by Deut. 6:8 and Deut. 11:18. All four of these verses naturally are related to the four parshiot that go on the parchment in a proper set of tefillin.

The 11:18 is also where the "wearing on the heart" notion is located:

"Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes."

Rich Perkins said...

Since there are two other mentions of this in other places, it really does seem to be intellectually dishonest to assume that these 2 mentions and the other 2 should be interpreted differently.

Either they both refer to teffilin (which is clearly unlikely in this case) or they both refer to the idea of remembering the good God did for us as a more abstract idea.

Frum Heretic said...

From David Weiss Halivni's "Revelation Restored": The Rashbam, in his commentary on the Pentateuch, when addressing [these verses on Ex 13:9 & Deut 6:8], interprets the scriptures metaphorically. That is to say, according to the Rashbam's own opinion, there is no explicit instruction in the the written Torah concerning the wearing of leather containers holding inscribed parchments. The Rashbam, who certainly wore phylacteries, accepted, I am sure, the dictum of the Mishnah [Sanhedrin 11:3], that if an elder should say, "'There is no obligation to wear phylacteries', he is not culpable because it transgresses the (explicit) words of the Law". The Rashbam's interpretation of scriptures does not necessarily belie this dictum. The commentary follows the contours of the text; the halakha expresses the will of God. The will of God is sometimes suggested by means other than peshat.

e-kvetcher said...

Just be glad we didn't take the phrase about "circumcising your heart" literally. On the other hand, if you're a surgeon...

Anonymous said...

See Ibn Ezra ad locum, where he somewhat successfully makes a case for a literal reading.

As for what to wear on the arm, for that even the rabbinic tradition agrees that one needs Mesorah. (A bit self-validating, don't you think?)

Anonymous said...

See Ibn Ezra ad locum, where he somewhat successfully makes a case for a literal reading.

As for what to wear on the arm, for that even the rabbinic tradition agrees that one needs Mesorah. (A bit self-validating, don't you think?)

Anonymous said...

See Ibn Ezra ad locum, where he somewhat successfully makes a case for a literal reading.

As for what to wear on the arm, for that even the rabbinic tradition agrees that one needs Mesorah. (A bit self-validating, don't you think?)

Anonymous said...

See Ibn Ezra ad locum, where he somewhat successfully makes a case for a literal reading.

As for what to wear on the arm, for that even the rabbinic tradition agrees that one needs Mesorah. (A bit self-validating, don't you think?)

Anonymous said...

See Ibn Ezra ad locum, where he somewhat successfully makes a case for a literal reading.

As for what to wear on the arm, for that even the rabbinic tradition agrees that one needs Mesorah. (A bit self-validating, don't you think?)

Anonymous said...

The rabbinic tradition doesn't agree that one needs Mesorah to know about tefilin, it INSISTS. And uses this as a means of demonstrating the absolute necessity of the existance Torah Shel Ball Peh and its authority in understanding Tanach.

I recently read a book about the historical conflict between East and West, and in it the author commentated that the Catholic Church forbade the translation of the Bible into the venacular out of fear that the masses would read it and, "misinterpret the Bible as saying exactly what it says." Heaven forbid we ever decide for ourselves which parts of Tanach are literal and which are not, reather than relying on the meforshim...

G*3

Holy Hyrax said...

Bruce

It's not that hard

Mark said...

OP

I've been pointing this out to people for a while now. And the two verses in Deuteronomy are equally hard to understand literally. The reason being that unlike the traditional understanding, these two places are not to be understood as separate fragments talking about that particular paragraph. If read in context, which is how the text implies it should be read, it's saying that we should tie these words to our heads and arms, these words being the whole speech of Moses from the beginning. Meaning his general exhortation, which would make it very hard to put all that writing on your body. The same applies to the traditional understanding of the commandment to "say this words as you lie down and wake up" because again it's talking about the whole speech. And it doesn't just say when you wake up and go to sleep, it says to say these words when you're home, when you're on the road etc. which obviously implies a general advice to always keep Moses' words in mind.