בראשית

Another year, another commentator.

This year, as we begin to read the Torah once again, I will be studying the text along with the interpretation of Avraham Ibn Ezra (c. 1089-1167), a noted grammarian and a scholar who prefers to argue according to the dictates of logic (as opposed to Rashi, who draws heavily on midrashic interpretations).  As with each year that I have worked on this project, it will take a while to get a feel for what drives Ibn Ezra, what he likes to focus on and what he ignores.  But there is no doubt that grammar will be an overarching concern as I read through the Torah with a new perspective this year.  Here is how Ibn Ezra interprets the word אלהים in the first verse of the Torah, a word for God seemingly in the plural:

Once we know the [root] word אלוה, we know that this word [אלהים] is plural.  And the reason for this – is the way of language, as every language has a way of speaking with reverence…In Arabic, it is fittingly honourable for a great man, like a king, to speak in the plural.  And in Hebrew, it is honourable to speak of a great one in the plural, like ‘masters’ and ‘lords’ (see Isaiah 19:4 and Exodus 22:10)

I look forward to a year of reading Judaism’s holiest text with a fine-tooth comb, improving my own grammar along the way.

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