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370-121-MS: Judaism, Christianity & Islam (Sasson): Jewish Public Library Resources

This guide contains the resources you will need to use for the Judaism, Christianity & Islam course. These are very specialized resources for interpretive scriptural research, so we've also included information to help you get the most out of each resourc

The Jewish Public Library

The Jewish Public Library in Cote-des-Neiges is a excellent resource for Jewish commentary on the scripture that you will be researching. During the semester, you will meet with Eddie Paul, a librarian at the JPL, who will explain the various sources at your disposal and will show you how to use them. This includes explanations on how to access and use databases that specialize in Jewish studies, such at Rambi, the Index to Jewish Periodicals, and Jewish Studies Source, as well as introducing you to important print commentaries on the Jewish Bible and showing you how to use those commentaries in your research.

Below is a link to the JPL website and some brief descriptions of just a few of the resources at the JPL that will be of use to you in your research.

Rashi (Soloman ben Isaac), 1040-1105

"Rashi" is an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki. A medieval French Rabbi who authored comprehensive commentaries on the Talmud and the Tanakh (Jewish Bible, including the Torah, the Nevi'm, and the K'tuvim). He was a prolific commentator and was known for being able to produce 5 pages of commentary on a single word in a single passage.

Ramban (Nachmanides), 1194-1270

"Ramban" is an acronym for Rabbi Moses ben Nachman.

Ramban provided alternative critiques to Rashi’s commentaries, and was generally known for resisting the inflluence of Greek and Arab philosophy on Jewish commentary.

Midrash Rabbah

Midrash is the body of exegesis of Torah texts along with homiletic stories as taught by Chazal (Rabbinical Jewish sages of the post-Temple era) that provide an intrinsic analysis to passages in the Tanakh. It provides a method of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simple distillation of religious, legal, or moral teachings. It fills in gaps left in the biblical narrative regarding events and personalities that are only hinted at.

The purpose of midrash was to resolve problems in the interpretation of difficult passages of the text of the Hebrew Bible, using Rabbinic principles of hermeneutics and philology to align them with the religious and ethical values of religious teachers.

The Midrash Rabbah refers to part of or the collective whole of aggadic midrashim on the books of the Tanach, generally having the term "Rabbah" (meaning "great,“) as part of their name.

The Midrash does not give absolutes. It instead produces a conversation of different interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, with a goal of discover. Parts of the Midrash even include important recorded arguments among rabbi.

To use the Midrash Rabbah for your research, you will need to familiarize yourself with its two indexes: the general index and the scriptural index, both in volume X of the series.

The general index

The general index is more like the kind of index you might be used to. It takes works, names, terms, and themes and tells you where these are addressed in the Midrash.

The scriptural index

Sample of  the

On the left side of each column of the Scriptural Index, you will find a Roman numeral and a Arabic number. The Roman numeral corresponds to the Biblical chapter. The Arabic number is the specific verse in that chapter.

On the right side of each column, you will an abbreviation of the title of the particular Midrash that references the chapter and verse in question, along with the page number where you will find the commentary.

This will not necessarily give you an interpretation of the verse. It will only give you an idea of when it is referenced. Therefore, it is also necessary to use the General Index to help you track themes in the Midrash.

One last thing that you need to understand in order to get the most out of the Midrash is that early and late medieval commentators used several methods to elucidate meaning(s) from the text. Typically, interpretations are built according to how selected words in the text can be understood in different ways. A typical commentary would suggest that a word as it is used in one part of the Bible will elucidate the meaning of a passage in another part of the Bible. Therefore, it it very necessary to see the connections between Biblical passages according to the words that are used. The Midrash indexes, along with a Biblical concordance (a book or database that tracks every time a work appears in the Bible), will allow you to see these connections.

The Torah Anthology = Me'am Lo'ez

Originally written in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) by Rabbi Yaakov Culi in 1730, the Me'am Lo'ez, or Torah Anthology, is a widely-studied commentary of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible.

Spanning 19 volumes, the commentary systematically goes through each of the five books of the Pentateuch, with each book spanning several volumes. Each chapter in each volume includes the range of chapter and verse numbers being commented on, so it is fairly simple to locate what you need when looking up a specific passage.

Ibn Ezra

Ibn Ezra  is the common abbreviated name for Abraham ben Me'ir Ibn Ezra (1089/1092 – 1164/1167). Based in Northern Spain, Ibn Ezra was as one of the most distinguished Jewish biblical commentators and philosophers of the Middle Ages. He is best known for his extended, line-for-line commentary on the Pentateuch.

Note that each volume of the series represents one of the five books of the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. 

Additional Resources

The following list are additional resources that can be found in the Jewish Public Library collections. They can also be useful for your research.

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