Ecclesiastes argues that it is impossible to distinguish between good and evil, and that one must enjoy the sweet light, but always remember not only the days of darkness that will come, but also the fact that God will ultimately judge all mortals in light of the choices they made in their lifetime.
Yakov Z. Meyer
Rain serves as a metaphor for the Torah: Indeed, although its words stem from a single source, they appear in endless variety. The relationship between the diversity of words in the Torah and its single divine source is comparable to the relationship between the diversified botanical world and its one, nourishing source of water: rainfall.
The sages depict Reuben and Hosea’s penitence as a process whose reward is to be found beyond any visible horizon. Repentance cannot erase the sin nor can it change the sinner’s life. In fact, it can sometimes even have negative repercussions for the sinner.
The approach expressed in Esdras is also the one advocated by Rabbi Eliezer, who sees the Ten Tribes’ exile as a cyclical event that will soon end, just as the night always ends with daybreak.
According to Rabbi Akiva, one must interpret a verse as it stands – without ‘external’ references, even if that means that one must bend its syntax. On the other hand, Rabbi Ishmael maintains that the singling out of oxen and donkeys is an indication that this sort of lexicon can be applied universally to other instances.
While the Mishnah presents an idyllic picture, the Tosefta presents a judicial system that is a reflection of the one operating in Yavneh after the Temple’s destruction.
Moses’ address to the nation in Deuteronomy is transformed from a demand to walk the path of righteousness to a lecture on the gap between revealed reality and its hidden meaning.
The verse from this week’s Torah portion is not rejected because its use of the pronoun ‘them’ removes any doubt that Rabbi Gamliel’s reading is metaphorical or allegorical.
Rabbi Josiah interprets this verse in an almost literal sense: We should allow God to enter our inner space. By uttering his name, we are recruiting him to guide us in our actions and help us triumph over our evil side.
Rabbi Yohanan, son of Nuri, said: 'I had complained about Rabbi Akiva and he was punished with a flogging. Yet I know that he loved me all the more each time he was beaten, as it is written, "Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee. Reprove a wise man, and he will love thee."'