Social Links Search User Login Menu

"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


Navigate the Excerpts Browser

Before accessing the excerpts, please review a word about copyright.

Are you more of an "I'll dive right in and figure it out" person, or a "Show Me How This Thing Works" person?  If the former, go right ahead and try the excerpts browers on the right side of this page and/or scroll through the excerpts that start below the following information -- although we still suggest reading the information first.  If you are the latter, click here for a video demonstrating the Excerpts Browser. Either way (or both), enjoy! 

This page is recommended for searches limited to specific Torah books, weekly portions (parshiot), chapters, verses, and/or sources (authors). For keyword and/or for exact phrase (including verse and source) searches of the entire excerpts database, we recommend using the Search Engine page.  For broadest results, use both pages and alternative search strategies. 

This page displays the full text of all or "sorted" (filtered) excerpts in the database.  Use the "Torah Verses" and/or "Excerpt Sources" browsers at the right to locate the excerpts associated with your desired Torah book, portion, chapter. verse, or author.  Or, simply scroll through the excerpts, using the "boxes" at the bottom of any page displaying excerpts to "jump" ahead or back. 

Also note that immediately below the chapter, verse, and keyword of each excerpt is a highlighted line comprised of multiple links.  Clicking on any of the links will limit (filter) the excerpts display to the selected category.  

Transcription of excerpts is incomplete.  For current status, please see "Transcribed Sources" on the Search Engine page.  To assist with completion, please see "Contributors" page. 

GENESIS — 1:27 female

Professor [Richard Elliott] Friedman [in "Who Wrote the Bible?”] suggests that different authors of the Bible, from different socio-political and economic circumstances, may reflect different statuses for women by their inclusion or exclusion of material or in their attitude towards this material. Giving this line of thinking, one could demonstrate that the “most feminist” position of the recognized authors of the Bible seem to be P rather than J or E. In [this and next verse], a recognized P document, for example, … male and female are created contemporaneously and from the same image of G-d. Similarly, G-d blesses both of them and commands both of them to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth.… Unlike J’s creation account in Genesis 2:18 – 24, which makes the woman a secondary creation made not directly from the Divine but rather from the side of man, P’s account presents a woman which is the equal of man in their creation, origin, and purpose. P’s creation is totally interrelated and interdependent upon one another. P’s influential opinion seems to be important since it is repeated again in Genesis 5:2 almost word for word. .… P presents a view where women are more equal to men than in the J or the E Biblical world.

GENESIS — 1:28 fruitful

Procreation according to the Hebrew Bible is a Divine imperative incumbent upon both man and woman, as is evident from the text of [this and preceding verse] and restated in Genesis 5:1 –2. … In the rabbinic period, the Mishnah, in tractate Yevamot 6:6, however states: “No man may abstain from keeping the law, ‘Be fruitful and multiply,’ unless he already has children… The duty to ‘Be fruitful and multiply” is incumbent upon the man and not the woman. Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka says: (But) of both of them it is written, ‘And G-d blessed them and G-d said unto them, be fruitful and multiply.’” Despite Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka’s objection (and against a “simple” reading of the biblical text), the law was subsequently codified according to the majority opinion and only men are obligated concerning procreation in (rabbinic) Jewish law! Sefer HaHinuch #291; Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 1.13 This rather radical step, i.e., to state that women are not legally obligated to procreate, was probably necessitated by prevailing social and historical circumstances. The rabbis in other periods instituted laws which, although they diverge from the biblical letter, were nonetheless intended to reflect the spirit of the Holy Writ. BT Temurah 14b, Menachot 99a-b So one finds that the biblical law (Deuteronomy 15:1 – 6) concerning the remission of monetary debts during the seventh year was contravened by the early rabbinic prosbul instituted by Hillel, Mishnah Sheviit 10:3-4 as well as the famous medieval taqana which prohibited polygamy among European Jews from the early 11th century onward. The Responsa of Rabbi Meir ben Baruch of Rothenburg (Prague, 1895), response #866. Though according to Rabbi Joseph Caro in his Shulchan Aruch, Eben HaEzer 1:10, this taqana was in force only until 1240. So, too, the rabbinic rationale for obligating only the man in procreation and removing the obligation from woman is probably rooted in the ethical and social conditions extent in the Hellenistic period.

GENESIS — 1:31 very

The basic Jewish economic ethics argument can be summarized by the following approximation: What is apparently “evil” can be an instrument of “good” and what is apparently “good” can be an instrument for “evil.” This is demonstrated both in the area generally referred to as “Business Ethics” and also in “Philanthropy.” We begin with a Midrashic text which investigates the biblical formulation in [this verse] (G-d’s words after the creation of Man/Woman): [This verse]. The phrase “very good” is unique in the Creation narrative since after the other creations the text just states: “it (was) good” (ki tov). In the early rabbinic Midrash on Genesis called, Genesis Rabbah 9.5, the rabbis, using the interpretive message of word-play, interpreted the Hebrew word m’od (“very”) by a similar sounding Hebrew word mot (“death”) and stated: “In the teaching of Rabbi Meir they found written: ‘… and, behold, it was very good.’ and behold, death is good.” This type of rabbinic interpretation of unique phraseology and word-play is common in rabbinic texts and reveals an underlying method for ethical investigation of good and evil. The unusual formulation after the creation of the human being is that it was “very good” [this verse] and was seen by the rabbis as an area to express ideas which they held were basic to their concepts of good and evil. This argument approaches a “meta-ethical” argument [Such as those raised by Socrates in the Crito and the Euthyphro, for example] because the rabbis saw the Divine “very good” stamp of approval upon human creation as marking something beyond the “good” which was associated with all other creations. Also, the concept of “very good” distinguished the existence of something which was distinct from “good.” This distinction led the rabbis to speculate as to what was just “good” and what it was which characterized “very good.” In the continuing Midrash interpretation of [this verse] in Genesis Rabbah 9:7 it states the following: “(Rabbi) Nachman in the name of Rabbi Samuel (stated that [if it were written] ‘behold, it was very good’ [it would only mean] the good inclination.” ‘And, behold, it was very good’ is the evil inclination. And is it possible that the evil inclination ‘is very good?’ Yes, for if it were not for the evil inclination, a man would not build a house, and he would not marry and he would not have children, nor would he engage in business. Thus Solomon said [in Ecclesiastes 4:41]: ‘Again, I considered all labor and all excelling in work, that it is a man’s rivalry with his neighbor.’” The “and” here is used by the rabbis to indicate an additional part of man which was “very good” (tov m’od). Again, the rabbis are playing on the word m’od. This time they apparently assigned the meaning “power” as in the rabbinic translation of mo’d in Deuteronomy 6.5. Mishnah Berachot 9:5; Sifrei on Deuteronomy 32:5 Making the rabbinic translation of [this verse] and: “… And a behold, it [had] a power (m’od) (for) good.” Meaning that the created human being contained a power which could be used for good, but which was essentially an evil characteristic. It is not engaging in business which is evil according to this view, but rather a specific characteristic of business which can be inherently detrimental and human relations, in general, and in business in particular. Specifically, the text provides an insight into this evil characteristic evident in some types of business relationships. This relationship is characterized by competitive rivalry (described in the Ecclesiastes proof text) which, while promoting excellence, creates friction and contention among neighbors. Will Herberg, commenting on this Midrash, states the following: “No matter where we look or how far back we go, we find man engaged in great enterprises and we find him motivated by the passionate urge to self-aggrandizement that we have learned to deal with as the ‘evil impulse’ (yetzer ha-ra). So impelled, he creates technology, brings forth institutions, establishes civilizations and engages in all that is characteristic of social life.” W. Herberg, Judaism and Modern Man (New York: Atheneum, 1970) pp. 212-213. According to Herberg, the characteristic of self-aggrandizement is the evil power which can be used for creative or destructive purposes within society. Self-aggrandizement or in other words, total egoism, was seen by Herberg as the root of the problem of evil in the world in general, but also the necessary motivator for good. This attitude places the individual at the absolute center of his/her existence and converts the world and others in society into objects which serve and revolve around them. Natural resources, children and neighbors are only objects which serve the needs of this individual. It is no wonder that the rabbis saw the control of the individual’s yetzer ha-ra as the solution to the problem of economic and social justice. It is clear from other rabbinic texts that a “work ethic” was stressed by the rabbis and even could be vehicle for holiness. Abot D’Rabbi Nathan, 9:1 (22b). It is also clear that the engaging in business, and work, in general, were seen by the rabbis as neither inherently good nor evil, but vehicles for doing good or evil with methods which could be either good or evil. BT Berachot 17a, Shabbat 31a.

GENESIS — 3:6 ate

They do not die, as G-d had stated in Genesis 2:17. It appears that G-d was deceiving the two. This is alluded to in the biblical text in the words: “…and the woman saw that it was good…” (that she did not die after eating the fruit). Even more important is that according to this account the serpent is actually telling the truth and is punished for telling them what they did not need to know!

GENESIS — 3:13 duped

In comparing rabbinic literature’s view of the lying and deception of Genesis different textual and ethical perspectives emerge. In the case of [this verse], the rabbis recognized that it was the serpent who deceived Eve and Adam, but the serpent is seen as only a precursor to the models of deception which the human being inherently contains. In fact, there is some evidence that the Rabbis wished to link the serpent and Adam In the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sotah 9b, Sanhedrin 29a, Sifrei-Deuteronomy, edition L. Finkelstein, (New York: JTSA, 1969) 323.33, p 374, the serpent is called “haqadmoni” and in Sifra-Leviticus 5.17, Numbers Rabbah 10.2 and Genesis Rabbah 20.11 is also called “haqadmoni.” to explain how a serpent could deceive human beings. In one rabbinic source this point is developed into the idea that one can only deceive someone who [is] similar to you. Midrash HaGadol 1.87 The view that deception exists and is a recognizable part of human behavior is apparent in most of the rabbinic interpretations of the deceptions of Genesis. Concerning the Genesis 12, 20 and 26 “she is my sister” cycle, the rabbis harmonized elements for each section in order to remove disturbing elements of the deception of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in these accounts. In Genesis 12, for example, [] in their commentary on this event in Genesis Rabbah 40 – 41 the onus of the crime is put up on Pharaoh rather than the deceptions of Abraham and Sarah and Nachmanides in his commentary of Genesis 12.10 recognizes the deception of Abraham, he refers to Abraham’s sin not as deception but as a “lack of faith.” In general, the rabbis try to vindicate the Patriarchs from the clear deceptions apparent in the MT version of the text, but they do not always do so in the case of the Matriarchs. In addition, because they recognize that the MT text does contain these clear deceptions by the Patriarchs, certain rabbinic sources have developed this character flaw into an apparent ethical norm for justifiable lies and deceptions. The ethical norm is one which condones lying and deception in certain circumstances. Although this norm is not agreed upon by all rabbinic sources it seems to exist in different historical periods and in different segments of rabbinic argumentation from the early Mishnah through the late Talmudic period.

GENESIS — 3:16 urge

The punishment for all those involved in the affair is listed in chapter 3 of Genesis. In the case of the woman, in addition to pain from childbearing, a new twist is added to this history of men and woman as she is punished with the words: [this verse]. The Hebrew word: teshuqa (desire) is associated with an over-powering human desire or appetite, as can be seen from its use in Genesis Chapter 4:6-7. Concerning Cain’s anger and depression following his brother’s successful offering, G-d states: “Why are you angry and why has your face fallen? If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; its teshuqa (desire) is for you, but you shall rule over it.” The Hebrew word teshuqa does have some sexual overtones, as can be seen from its use in the biblical work, Song of Songs 7.10, but in Genesis it apparently means only “strong desire/passion creek”.

GENESIS — 9:5 reckoning

The citation of the Ten Commandments and their authority by ancient figures with varying forms and additions also caused later rabbinic and Christian biblical commentators to find new and more extensive meanings for the Decalogue. One example of this is the “appended” interpretation of the Sixth Commandment to prohibit suicide. Suicide is an issue in the ethical thought of philosophers and theologians throughout the ages. Immanuel Kant sums up his argumentation on the subject in the following fashion: “But suicide is not inadmissible and abominable because G-d has forbidden it; G-d has forbidden it because it is abominable in that it degrades man’s inner worth below that of the animal creation. Moral philosophers must, therefore, first and foremost show that suicide is abominable.” The question is, where exactly does G-d forbid suicide in the Bible? The Bible records examples of “apparent” suicides of important, paradigmatic figures without explicit condemnation. [Among examples cited by author: Saul, Samson, Zimri – AJL] The distinction between suicide and martyrdom is elaborated by medieval biblical commentators and Theologians alike regarding some of the suicides but this distinction is apparently post-biblical. In Judaism: Midrash Genesis Rabbah 34:19; Midrash Lamentations Rabbati 1:53. In the law corpuses of the Pentateuch, suicide is not explicitly forbidden. It appears that the whole question of suicide was not an issue in the biblical period which required specific legislation or prohibition. While probably not normative, it certainly was not criminal. The need for the prohibition of suicide appears to be a reaction to attitudes encountered in the post-Hebrew Bible/Greco-Roman society [It may represent either an ideological or a practical polemic against suicides which occurred during the Greco-Roman period. The rabbis specifically may have been reacting to the practical circumstances of suicides which occurred during and after the Destruction of the Second Temple or the Bar Kokhba rebellion, for example. The fact that earlier suicides were not clearly condemned or specific prohibitions raised may indicate that it only became an issue as a result of the philosophical issues associated with it during the Greco-Roman period.] which in some cases encourage suicide as normative. In Plato’s Phaedo 61b-62d suicide is clearly unlawful. Unfortunately, Socrates’ own “apparent” suicide left room for later Greco-Roman speculation as to the nature of unlawful suicide. Diogenes Laertius, already in the fourth century BCE recounted some Stoic doctrines concerning the permissibility of suicide in various circumstances. Diogenes Laertius 7.130; Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, ed. J. von Arnim III.757. Seneca, and the later Stoic thinkers took this doctrine of rational suicide and transformed it from permissibility to “near” obligation. So we find in his Epistula Morales 104:21: “If you want to get rid of vice, you must retire from places where there are examples of vice. Cross over to the better people. Live with the Catos, with Laelius and Tubero. If you like to live with Greeks, join Socrates and Zeno. Socrates will teach you to die if necessity arrives, Zeno before it arises.” The “rational” suicide and the development of the normative nature of suicide in Greco–Roman society perhaps motivated a reinvestigation of the Bible for ethical justification in condemning them. In rabbinic sources, the biblical prohibition is derived from a specific reading of the Hebrew in [this verse]: “But for your life-blood will I require a reckoning” The rabbinic interpretation of Genesis Rabbah states: “A person is not to harm himself. There is a tradition concerning the scriptural verse, “For your life-blood too (Hebrew: ach) I will require a reckoning.’ Rabbi Eleazer taught the following interpretation, ‘From you I will require a reckoning for your own life-blood.” [interpreting the Hebrew word: ach] Unfortunately, the same interpretation could not easily be used by those who based themselves upon the Greek Septuagint reading of this passage. In the Septuagint, the phrasing and syntax is read differently, giving us the following translation of [this verse]: ”For your blood of your lives will I require at the hand of all wild beasts…”. In other rabbinic and Christian sources, however, apparently a rather clever reading of the Sixth Commandment provided the authority for the ban on suicide. It appears that they may have read the words: Lo Tirtzah (“Thou shall not murder”) in the following manner: The T in Tirtzah is dotted for one or two grammatical reasons: a) T can be dotted when it is the first letter of a word or syllable—as is this case here—or b) to indicate the absence of a letter (dropped for a number of different reasons). Using the dotting as a sign of the absence of a letter, the biblical commentator argued that this word reflects the Hebrew reflexive construction of the same person and number (which required only the addition of another T or better the “missing”/”dropped” letter T). Accordingly, these biblical interpreters read the Sixth Commandment as: Lo TiT’ratzeah, “Thou shall not murder oneself.” Thus, according to the rabbis, suicide is a biblical prohibition and no less one of the Ten Commandments. [Another interpretation of this appears to be derived from the “unique” but ancient reading preserved in Onqelos Targum to Exodus 20:13. There it states: “Do not kill any person” implying that the prohibition extends to all persons (even apparently oneself. See: The Targum Onqelos to Exodus, trans. with appartus and notes by B. Grossfeld, (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1988) pp. 56-57 especially note #8 on p. 57.]

Torah Verses

Excerpt Sources

Complete List of Source Books
Back To Top