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The Living and the Dead in the March of Redemption — Editing and Meaning in "Mekhilta De- Rabi Yishmael" — An Interpretation of the First Parashah of "Massekhet Beshalaḥ" / החיים והמתים בתהלוכת הגאולה — עריכה ומשמעות במכילתא דר' ישמעאל — פירוש לפרשה ראשונה של 'מסכת בשלח'
נעם זהר and Noam Zohar
Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought / מחקרי ירושלים במחשבת ישראל
כרך ד', חוברת ג/ד (תמוז תשמ"ה), pp. 223-236
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23363266
Page Count: 14
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The proposed interpretation makes two suppositions: (1) the several paragraphs of the Mekhilta ought to be read in mutual context, despite its nature as a "secondary text", a running commentary on Exodus; and (2) the first natural boundary for such contextual interpretation is the parashah. The method employed is first to substantiate the first supposition by means of textual analysis, and only then to follow the links thus established in discerning the interrelated meanings of the parashah. The said textual analysis involves the division of the parashah into its various sections, the two chief ones being (1) the commentaries upon the portation of Joseph's bones (786 — 8017, Horowitz's edition) and (2) the commentaries on "God went before them" (81 — 8216, ibid.). The editorial relationships between these two sections — and the other, shorter sections as well — are established both by linguistic and literary analysis of each section (tracing the editors "fingerprints") and by detailed comparison with parallel texts (Mishnah and Tosefta Sotah, Sifrei Bemidbar, etc.) The underlying message of this Parashah, as brought out herein, involves a total repainting of the Israelites' march in the desert. From a functional march which derives its significance from the goal to be reached (— the promised land), it becomes an end in itself, a march of redemption, basking in God's close presence. Those who have lived to participate are joined by the virtuous dead, who are thus rewarded for their righteous lives. For people living in times of humiliation and Exile, this message transformed the Exodus story from a tantalizing tale of miraculous success into an eternal model of God's love and justice, a God who rewards every righteous Jew and Gentile alike.
Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought / מחקרי ירושלים במחשבת ישראל © 1984 Mandel Institute for Jewish Studies / המכון למדעי היהדות ע"ש מנדל