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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Duplications and Redundancies

Of particular concern to the Rabbis were two challenges to the omnisignificant view: duplications and contradictions. How could an omnisignificant text tolerate either of these departures from the precision posited of it? If every letter were weighed, how could Scripture seemingly contradict itself, repeat itself, or deal with matters that seemed not terribly significant to the Rabbis? We will examine their methods for dealing with duplications, which probably concerned them as much as contradictions, if only because, from their point of view, there were so many of them.

Generally speaking, redundancies and duplications are interpreted as they may be applied to actual cases, so as to draw distinctions between apparently similar, identical, or contradictory passages. While the Babylonian Talmud states this principle only for legal texts (as in b. Bek. 6 b), it clearly also applies, though with different methods, to nonlegal passages. This method of dealing with redundancies expanded to include all sorts of interpretation, and became typical of the traditional approach to most of the problems outlined above. As the medieval tosafists (commentators on the Talmud during the 12 th– 14 th centuries) noted, only when these methods fail should one fall back on the plain sense (see Tosafot Sot. 3 a, s.v. lo).

Examples of the Rabbis dealing with duplicate passages are numerous in the interpretive material from the 2nd century onward. One example is found in the various Torah passages regarding the law of a “Hebrew slave.” The Mekhilta on Exod. chs 21–22 includes a section on the laws pertaining to a “Hebrew slave” in Exod. 21.4–7 , which must be coordinated with another passage relating to slavery in Lev. 25.39–46 , and, ultimately, to Deut. 15.12–18 . It does so by distinguishing between the application of each of these passages.

You say that Scripture here deals with one sold into servitude by the court for stealing, telling us that such a one must serve not only the one who bought him but also the latter's son after him. Perhaps however it deals only with one who sells himself? When it says: “And if thy brother be waxen poor with thee and sell himself unto thee” (Lev. 25.39 ), behold the one selling himself is here spoken of. Why then should Scripture say here: “If thou buy a Hebrew slave?” It must therefore deal with one sold into slavery by the court for stealing, telling that such a one must serve not only the one who bought him but also the latter's son after him. (Mekhilta, ed. Lauterbach, vol. III p. 3)

Since the Exodus passage does not specify the cause of the sale into slavery while the Leviticus passage does, the Rabbis might have simply harmonized the two. The essential difficulty, that Exod. 21.2 specifies a six‐year term of servitude, while Lev. 25.40 mandates a variable term, depending on when in the jubilee cycle the sale took place, could perhaps have been reconciled in some way; for example, the six‐year term could have been required, while serving until the jubilee would have applied to a case in which the slave wanted to continue with his master, as, indeed, the Mekhilta itself does suggest in the case of an Israelite sold by the court. No new category would have had to be created. But by creating a new distinction, the Rabbis accounted not only for the overlap between the two passages but the very existence of two separate passages ostensibly dealing with but one topic: the Hebrew slave.

Finally, there is the third passage, Deut. 15.12–18 , which specifies a term of six years, with the slave going out in the seventh loaded down with gifts. Sifre Deut. 119 deals explicitly with the relationship of this passage to the two categories of Hebrew slave already established, and to the Hebrew maidservant of Exod. 21.7–12 .

When you set him free, do not let him go empty‐handed. Furnish him out of the flock, threshing floor, and vat.…Perhaps we only furnish the one who goes out in six years (Exod. 21.2 ); whence [do we know that this applies also] to the one who departs in the jubilee (Lev. 25.40 ) or with the death of the master (referring to Exod. 21.2–6 ) and the Hebrew maidservant with her displaying signs of puberty (Exod. 21.7–12 )? Scripture says: “You shall set free” (Deut. 15.12 ), “when you shall set free” (Deut. 15.13 ), “when you shall set him free” (ibid.)—[thus applying to all three cases].

This passage thus harmonizes and distinguishes among the various Torah texts referring to Hebrew servitude. These texts display differing emphases and phraseology, and thus offer opportunities for both means of exegesis.

What then do the Rabbis do when the repetition or repetitions are identical? Such a problem is posed by the threefold appearance of the prohibition of seething a kid in its mother's milk in Exod. 23.19, 34.26 , and Deut. 14.21 .

Why is this law stated in three places? To correspond to the three covenants which the Holy One, blessed be He, made with Israel: One at Horeb (Exod. 24.7–8 ),one in the plains of Moab (Deut. 29.11 ), and one on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal (Deut. 28.69 ).…

R. Jonathan says: Why is this law stated in three places? Once to apply to domestic animals, once to apply to wild animals, and once to apply to fowl.

Abba Ḥanin states in the name of R. Eliezer: Why is this law stated in three places? Once to apply to large cattle, once to apply to goats, and once to apply to sheep.

R. Simeon ben Eleazar says: Why is this law stated in three places? Once to apply to large cattle, once to apply to small cattle, and once to apply to wild animals.

R. Simeon ben Yoḥai says: Why is this law stated in three places? One is a prohibition against eating it, one is a prohibition against deriving any benefit from it, and one is a prohibition against the mere cooking of it.

Here the threefold mention is interpreted by means of standard matrices involving three classes, either of animals or of prohibited actions (eating, drinking, or deriving benefit). In the nature of things, as we might expect, not all of these matrices are equally compelling. In rabbinic literature, the animal world is regularly divided into domestic animals, wild animals, and fowl, and domestic animals in turn are subdivided into large and small cattle, so that R. Simeon ben Eleazar's division into large and small cattle, and wild animals, while somewhat unusual, is certainly in line with convention (though Abba Ḥanin's statement dividing animals into large and small cattle, and then subdividing small cattle into goats and sheep, does seem simply to be an effort to use the three repetitions). Thus, rabbinic exegesis combines the attempt to relate scriptural texts with rabbinic categories (which are often based on Scripture in any case; e.g., Gen. 2.20 for domestic animals, wild animals, and fowl) with the modification of those categories to fit a particular distribution of verses. This can often result in an elaborate series of arguments designed to demonstrate that each verse, though seemingly redundant, is intended to counter a particular hypothetical argument.

Though it is not explicitly stated, these examples illustrate the use of a principle attributed to R. Ishmael, an authority of the first half of the 2nd century and colleague of R. Akiva: “Every passage that is said and repeated is repeated only for the sake of the new information [contained] in it.” This principle underwent an interesting and characteristic metamorphosis in the course of time. Originally it seems to have been intended as a “cap” on expositions: In the case of the duplicate passages, only the differences, or more precisely the pluses in the duplicate passage, are expounded, not the repetitions themselves, which by definition contain no new information. Thus, in the case of the duplicate lists of animals forbidden to be eaten in Lev. 11.1–28 and Deut. 14.3–21 , the Babylonian Talmud first cites a view which explains the repetitive mention of the camel (in Deut. 14.7 as opposed to Lev. 11.4 ) as an animal which is forbidden to be eaten as coming to include as forbidden the offspring of a camel which resembles a clean animal. Later in the discussion, the following teaching is quoted:

Why is [the list of clean and unclean animals] repeated? Because of the shesu'ah [according to rabbinic interpretation, an animal with two backs and two spinal columns, which is mentioned only in the Deuteronomic passage]. Why with regard to birds? Because of the ra'ah [a bird mentioned only in Deut. 14.13 ].—Then, perhaps, [the repetition of] “camel,” “camel” [in both books] comes for the same purpose [that is, the camel “comes along for the ride” in order to provide a context for the two additions, and not for any other purpose]?—Nevertheless, whenever we can derive [a lesson from the biblical text], we do so (b. Bek. 6b).

The ideal here is to derive a lesson from every repetition. Every part of it is subject to interpretation, if only we can interpret it. If we cannot, a lacuna exists, which may be filled later or in messianic times, in accord with R. Yoḥanan's fervent wish as expressed in b. Menaḥot 45 a: “This passage will be interpreted by Elijah in the future [in the messianic era].” Maimonides (1135–1204), on the other hand, rejected such amplifications; he seems to have been of the opinion that post‐talmudic authorities could not multiply “counts” on their own, but only when they had already been made by a talmudic source.

This is not to say that the Rabbis did not have other methods of dealing with such problems. But for all their ingenuity, a not insignificant amount of Scripture escaped theirtreatment, at least as we may judge from the surviving compilations of late antiquity. We may understand the well‐known rabbinic story of b. Menaḥot 29 b in this light.

R. Judah said in the name of Rav:

When Moses ascended on high he found the Holy One, blessed be He, engaged in affixing coronets [small strokes on the tops of certain letters in a Torah scroll] to the letters. Said Moses: “LORD of the Universe, who prevents You [from giving the Torah without these coronets]?” He answered: “There will arise a man at the end of many generations, Akiva ben Joseph by name, who will expound heaps and heaps of laws upon each stroke.” “LORD of the Universe, let me see him.” He said: “Turn around.” Moses went and sat down behind eight rows [of R. Akiva's disciples and listened to his expositions of the Torah]. He was not able to follow the arguments and was depressed, but when they came to a certain subject and the disciples said to the master, “How do you know it?” and [R. Akiva] replied: “It is a law given to Moses at Sinai,” he was comforted. He then returned to the Holy One, blessed be He, and said, “LORD of the Universe, You have such a man and you give the Torah through me?” He replied: “Be silent, for such is My decree.” Moses then said, “LORD of the Universe, You have shown me his Torah [teaching], show me his reward.” “Turn around,” said He. Moses turned around and saw them weighing out [R. Akiva's] flesh in the market stalls [after his martyrdom in the Hadrianic persecutions]. “LORD of the Universe! Such Torah, and such a reward!” He replied: “Be silent, for such is My decree.”

We have no legal expositions based on the coronets of the letters of the Torah in the name of R. Judah or Rav, or, indeed, any earlier or later authorities. Unless we posit a tremendous (“heaps and heaps”) amount of lost interpretation, we must assume that this story refers to those parts of the Torah which still lacked a definitive rabbinic exposition.

Argument by Analogy and the Ribbuy (“Extension”)The argument by analogy is characteristic of rabbinic interpretation as a whole. For example, the common biblical Hebrew phrase 'ish 'ish, “a man, a man,” i.e., “every man,” “each man,” by extension “every person,” is often interpreted as including classes of people other than males. This is because the phrase is considered redundant, since 'ish alone may mean the same. From that phrase the Rabbis derive, in various contexts, the applicability of the relevant rule to women, children, proselytes, their wives, non‐Jews, or, in some cases, people of indeterminate sex or hermaphrodites. The fact that all of these are derived by analogy does not mean that there is a uniformity of choice, though. The form the analogy takes depends on the context. Thus, the prohibition of incest (Lev. 20.2 ) includes non‐Jews:

“And say (to'mar) to the Children of Israel,” “and speak (tedaber) to the Children of Israel,” “say ('emor) to the Children of Israel,” “speak (daber) to the Children of Israel,” “instruct (tzav) the Children of Israel,” “and you shall instruct (tetzaveh) the Children of Israel”—R. Yose says: “The Torah speaks in the human language in many expressions, and all must be expounded (lehidaresh): ‘Israel’—this refers to Israel (i.e., male Jews); ‘sojourner’ (ger)—this refers to the proselyte (ger); “the proselyte”—this includes the wives of proselytes; ‘in Israel’—this includes women and slaves. If so, why does [Scripture] say ‘'ish 'ish’? To include non‐Jews” (Sifra Kodoshim 10 :1–2, ed. Weiss 91 b).

Nevertheless, 'ish is always taken to exclude minors, even when some other means is employed to bring them within the applicability of the rule in question. Thus, in regard to the skin diseases commonly rendered as “leprosy” in Lev. 13.44 , we find the following:'ish, “a man”—From where [do we know this] to include a woman or a minor? Scripture

states: “tzaru‘a,” “one suffering from a skin disease,” whether a man or a woman or a minor. If so, why is 'ish stated? For a matter [stated] below: a man unbinds his hair and undoes his clothes but a woman does not unbind her hair or undo her clothes (Sifra Tzri'a 12 :1, ed. Weiss, 67 d).

Minors are included by means of an interpretation of the word tzaru'a, despite the exclusion signalled by 'ish. Note also that the definite article, which in Hebrew is registered by a one‐letter prefix, may also be used as a hook on which to hang an analogical interpretation. The word ha‐ger, “the sojourner,” or rather the “ha‐” prefix, is taken to include the wives of proselytes, while the word be‐Yisrael, “in Israel” is taken to include women and slaves. Ordinarily, the category of “women” is included by the repetition of the word 'ish, as in the expression 'ish 'ish noted above. Here there is only one 'ish, and, instead, women are included in this way.

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