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Parshat Vaera

-Ibn Ezra believes that the Torah was not entirely written by Moshe

Here are some thoughts that are only tangentially related to the parsha. I wanted to talk about revisionist history, or rather how people make radical claims and then try to temper them by attributing the claims to earlier authorities. For example, some proponents of biblical literalism or literary criticism of the Torah cite R. Avraham Ibn Ezra as an authority who led the way. This is patently wrong and an affront to the memory of Ibn Ezra.

In Parshat Vaera (Exodus 6:3) G-d says to Moshe, "I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as E-l Sh-ddai but by my name Ad-nay I did not make myself known to them." The commentators ask that we do, in fact, find G-d called Ad-nay while speaking to the forefathers (eg. Gen. 15:7, 28:13). The verse in our parsha seems to be incorrect. Ibn Ezra quotes a R. Yeshuah (evidently a Karaite) who suggested that the references to Ad-nay in Genesis were added in by Moshe but were not really said at the time of the occurence. To this, Ibn Ezra writes "R. Yeshuah did not speak correctly because how could Moshe write this if G-d did not say it..." Rather, Ibn Ezra suggests that the forefathers knew G-d with the name Ad-nay as a name but not as an attribute. Other commentators offer different interpretations. But Ibn Ezra explicitly disagrees with the suggestion that Moshe added on his own to the Torah.

In his First Introduction to the Torah, Ibn Ezra writes:

G-d forbid, G-d forbid that one should mix in with the Sadducees [i.e. Karaites], who say that [the rabbis'] copying (explanation) contradicts the Scripture and grammar. Rather, our early [sages] were correct, all their words true...

In his Second Introduction to the Torah, he writes in poetic form:

G-d forbid that I sin to my Creator
To assert my words
Against those who were greater and more respected in their wisdom and deeds
From all the generations of wise men in later generations.
For all who imply that they sinned steals his soul.
And whoever ejects their words has blood-guilt on his head.
He will separate himself from the community in exile
And descend into Hell.

In his Commentary to Genesis 36:31, Ibn Ezra writes:

Yitzchaki [not Rashi] wrote in his book that this passage was written in the time of Jehoshaphat and explained the generations as he wished. This is why his name is Yitzchak because whoever hears this will laugh [yitzachak] at him... G-d forbid, G-d forbid that the matter should be as he said about the time of Jehoshaphat. His book should be burned.

Ibn Ezra had a clear conservative trend that is frequently forgotten by those who wish to justify their radical claims by attributing them to him. There are others, like Ralbag, who are similarly maligned and it is a real pity.

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Contributor(s): Gil Student
Last revised: 1/15/02
© Aishdas 2002