[b-hebrew] yorenu (teach US)

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Mon Jun 30 22:30:26 EDT 2008

> Your reading seems to be the standard one, in thinking that the point is 
> just to illustrate the unrepentant and defiant nature of the Israelites 
> (that's us!). And if that's all there is to it, you are right that 
> there's no need to translate R.b.b.Hana's yorenu as "teach us" rather 
> than "teach him" (as we agree to translate it in Isaiah). Nonetheless 
> Soncino saw fit to translate "teach us" -- why?

HH: The reason would be a word play. The original comment is made about 
a farmer and his farming.
So the Israelites could take the forms of the words and make it a 
statement about themselves, daring
God to teach them. This really would amount to a declaration of unbelief 
in the threats of divine
judgment that Isaiah was making.

> I find myself unsympathetic to the standard reading, because it seems to 
> me that the Talmudic context is to some extent describing the virtue of 
> "talking back" to tradition,  rather than demanding meek obeisance. In 
> the Sanhedrin context, the larger question concerns whether God or 
> humans get to decide the fate of the Mishnah's three bad kings with 
> regard to the world to come; and Rab has already described one of the 
> Israelite "answers" to "the prophet" as a "victorious answer". Therefore 
> I think "teach US" here emphasizes the positive side of the Israelite 
> resistance.

HH: I have not studied the Sanhedrin passage closely in its larger 
context, so I cannot
evaluate your comment.

> Your point that the Israelites might not like the manner of their 
> "instruction" is reflected in the immediately preceding statement of R. 
> Nahman, "Even with such fury let the Merciful rage against us, but that 
> He redeem us."

HH: Well, that seems a pious and admirable comment, but I was imagining 
a much less admirable
one for the allusion to Isa 28:26. I could be completely wrong.

Harold Holmyard

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