Midrash Sinim: Hasidic Legend and Commentary on the Torah

Overview

Hidden meanings abound in every letter and every word of the Torah. In Midrash Sinim: Hasidic Legend and Commentary on the Torah, author Yong Zhao offers thoughtful commentaries on Jewish beliefs and traditions, including the Torah and the Kabbalah. He answers the following questions in his commentaries as well:

• God had respect for Abel and his offering, but not Cain and his offering. Why?
• Ham saw the nakedness of his father, Noah, but why ...

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Midrash Sinim: Hasidic Legend and Commentary on the Torah

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Overview

Hidden meanings abound in every letter and every word of the Torah. In Midrash Sinim: Hasidic Legend and Commentary on the Torah, author Yong Zhao offers thoughtful commentaries on Jewish beliefs and traditions, including the Torah and the Kabbalah. He answers the following questions in his commentaries as well:

• God had respect for Abel and his offering, but not Cain and his offering. Why?
• Ham saw the nakedness of his father, Noah, but why did Noah curse Ham’s son Canaan and his offspring rather than Ham himself?
• How can we understand that the Tree of Life was actually an atonement tree?
• How can we deduce from ancient Chinese characters that Adam’s fi rst prayer was for Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was actually an apricot tree?
• How can we understand that Exodus was an epoch-making event for not only the Jews but also other nations?

While many other works on the Scriptures exist solely to relay content to readers, Midrash Sinim: Hasidic Legend and Commentary on the Torah unveils complexities of numerical mysteries, unfolds controversial questions, provides creative legends, and deciphers eternal puzzles. Zhao explores mysterious components of the Torah using a straightforward approach that can inspire you to grasp Torah symbols with a critical eye.

Midrash Sinim
provides gripping historical, sociological, archeological, and theoretical components of the Torah, through which the profundity of Torah and Jewish traditions shines with even greater brilliance.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781491703557
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/22/2013
  • Pages: 162
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Midrash Sinim

HASIDIC LEGEND AND COMMENTARY ON THE TORAH


By Yong Zhao

iUniverse LLC

Copyright © 2013 Yong Zhao
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4917-0356-4



CHAPTER 1

Genesis Codes


1. Two Phases, three steps

To be myths, or to be history: is that the question?

In the book of Genesis, the origins of the heaven, the earth, and human beings are accounted through two sections: chapter 1 is the first section, and the next two chapters are the second section. There are obvious distinctions between the two sections in the aspects of content, structure, and writing style. Is the Torah really flawed? Is it reliably? Perspectives are divided, and the debate is fierce.

Critics insist that the Torah was written by ancient Hebrews with their imagination and thoughts. The stories about the creation, Eden, and the Flood are merely fairy tales like the Atrahasis epic and the Gilgamesh epic. Also, the stories of Joseph, Moses, and the events of Exodus, lacking enough historical evidence, are great literary works written by anonymous authors—something like works of Homer, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy. Of these criticisms, the Graf-Wellhausen documentary hypothesis is the most representative: it states that four texts (J, P, E, and D) came into being by authors' creating and redacting for different purposes, and were finally pieced together by one author. That is why the Torah seemingly lacks continuity, unity, and authenticity.

Advocates believe that Moses was the unique author of the torah, and they defend the reliability and inerrancy of Scriptures. They regard chapter 2 and chapter 3 as the supplement to chapter 1. In their view, the LORD's creation is outlined in chapter 1 and detailed in chapter 2 and chapter 3. Robert Alter argues that these narrative imperfections just highlights the Torah author's writing skill, aiming at "providing readers with a wider cognition of the creation, human, and the LORD." Further, he explains that movie-montage art (putting two similar plots into a dynamic supplemented footage shot) or cubism painting skills (concatenating or overlaying the front and profile of a face) were adopted in the Torah to "place two contradictory descriptions of the same event in sequence."

To be myths, or to be history? That is not the question.

The Torah is true history indeed, and the first three chapters of Genesis precisely record and vividly demonstrate the LORD's creation. With regard to the repetition, contradiction and fragment of the Torah narrative, an innovative interpretation can explain them. It is illustrated as following below:

From the viewpoint of science, all things can be divided into two kinds: inorganic matter and organic matter. Stars, the heavens, and the earth belong to inorganic matter, which are lifeless; plants, animals, and human beings belong to organic matter, which are alive and have lives. The LORD created inorganic matter and organic matter in sequence as the Torah records. The creation process comprises two phases. In phase 1, the LORD created inorganic matter, and created organic matter in His book. In phase 2, He created organic matter on the earth.

Here we need to make clear what it means by "the LORD creating organic matter in His book."

My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance, and in Thy book they were all written—even the days that were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (Psa. 139:15-16)

This scripture indicates that everyone has simultaneously two forms: a visible form and an invisible form. The visible form means "the flesh, image, and the shape", which occupy a physical space; hence is visible. Invisible form means "unformed substance" or "unformed frame," which is nonphysical and without flesh, image and shape. Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance, and in Thy book they were all written—even the days that were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. This "unformed substance" (invisible form) is visible to the LORD and can be written (be drawn) in His book.

So, "the LORD created Adam in His book" means the LORD drew Adam's invisible form (unformed substance, unformed frame) in His book. Not only human beings but plants and animals have visible forms and invisible forms as well. All organic matter has simultaneously a visible form and an invisible form, whereas inorganic matter has no invisible form.

Therefore, "the LORD created organic matter in His book" means "the LORD wrote (or drew) their unformed substances (frames) in His book".

• In phase 1 on the third day, the LORD drew the invisible forms of plants in His book. In phase 2, He created their visible forms in the Garden of Eden.

• In phase 1 on the fifth day, the LORD drew the invisible forms of fishes and birds in His book. In phase 2, He created their visible forms in the Garden of Eden.

• In phase 1 on the sixth day, the LORD drew the invisible forms of living creatures and men and women in His book. In phase 2, He created their visible forms in the Garden of Eden.


From the interpretation above, we realize that the LORD took different ways and steps to create inorganic and organic matter respectively. Stars, the heavens, and the earth are lifeless and have only one form; thus, they were created in one phase. In other words, the LORD created them in one step (For He spoke, and it was; He commanded, and it stood—Psa. 33:9), which is just like the literal meaning. The organics that have lives were created in "two phases containing three steps". It can be illustrated with the process of housing construction, which is divided into two fundamental phases:


Phase 1: Design

The first thing to do is to complete a design scheme; this means that the builder should take into consideration every aspect—from outlook to details of corridors, staircases, doors, and windows. Also he should produce an elaborated design, which is specific to millimeter scale, of the structure of these details. After completing the design, the builder should make a set of construction drawings as well. Generally speaking, both the design and the construction drawings are of great quantity instead of just one piece. For example, the number of design drawings of the Empire State Building is up in the thousands.


Phase 2: Construction

After having carried out rigorous investigation and research of the site and making preparations for the building materials, the builders begin to build the house step by step according to the construction drawings. First, he digs out a foundation deep to load-bearing soil. Then he constructs a steel frame. After that, he casts concrete to finish the basis of the building. This process of constructing a steel frame and then casting concrete will be repeated on each layer until finishing the construction.

Similarly, the creation of organics was divided into two phases.

The first phase contained two steps: step 1 is "to proclaim the creation plan", and step 2 is "to produce the design drawing—to design and draw the blueprint in His book". The second phase contained one step, "to put the blueprint into effect". These phases and steps are illustrated below:

The first three chapters of Genesis detail these phases and steps of the LORD's creation in sequence.

Chapter 1 accounts for the first phase, describing the plan and the blueprints of the LORD's creation. Chapter 2 and chapter 3 record the second phase, describing how the LORD put the blueprints into effect and made the creatures on the earth.

Now let's demonstrate in detail the whole process of the LORD's creation. The process of creating human beings goes like this:

• First phase: Planned and designed

(1) Step 1: Proclaimed the plan

And the LORD said: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." (Gen. 1:26)


This verse indicates that the LORD first proclaimed the plan about the creation of human beings.

(2) Step 2: Drew the blueprint

And G-d created man in his own image, in the image of G-d created he him; male and female created he them. (Gen. 1:27)


This verse indicates that after He proclaimed it, the LORD then wrote the plan (drew the blueprint) in His book. The unformed frames of male and female were created and therefore appeared in His book, and yet their flesh of male and female was not shaped.


• Second phase: Shaped

(3) Step 3: Put the design into effect (made the formed substance)

Then the LORD G-d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Gen. 2:7)

And the LORD G-d caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the place with flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the LORD G-d had taken from the man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. (Gen. 2:21-22)


The above verses of Scripture represent that after the first phase of creation, the LORD shaped the first man and the first woman.

The process of creating plants goes as follows:

• First phase: Planned and designed

(1) Step 1: Proclaimed the plan

And G-d said: "Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth." And it was so. (Gen. 1:11)


First, the LORD proclaimed the plan about the creation of plants.

(2) Step 2: Drew the blueprint

And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind; and G-d saw that it was good. (Gen. 1:12)


Then the LORD drew the blueprint about plants in His book on the basis of the plan proclaimed. In this step, the unformed substances of plants were created and therefore appeared in the LORD's book.


• Second phase: Shaped

Step 3: Put the design into effect (made the formed substance)

And out of the ground made the LORD G-d to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen. 2:9)


Finally, in the third step, the LORD put the blueprint into effect and created the plants.

The process of creating animals goes as follows:

• First phase: Planned and designed

(1) The plan about creation of fishes and birds

And G-d said: "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let fowl fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven." (Gen. 1:20)


First, the LORD proclaimed the plan and design about the creation of fishes and birds.

(2) So G-d created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And G-d saw that it was good. (Gen. 1:21)

Then the LORD drew the blueprint in His book. In other words, the unformed substances of fishes and birds were created and therefore appeared in the LORD's book.

(2) The plan about creation of cattle, creeping things, and beasts

(1) And G-d said: "Let the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after its kind." And it was so. (Gen. 1:24)


First, the LORD proclaimed the plan and design about the creation of cattle, creeping things, and beasts.

(2) And G-d made the beast of the earth after its kind, and the cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the ground after its kind; and G-d saw that it was good. (Gen. 1:25)


Then the LORD drew the blueprint in His book. Therefore the unformed substances of cattle, creeping things, and beasts were created and appeared in the LORD's book.


• Second phase: Shaped

And out of the ground the LORD G-d formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto the man to see what he would call them; and whatsoever the man would call every living creature, that was to be the name thereof. (Gen. 2:19)


At last, the LORD put the design into effect and made the formed substances of animals.


2. Classic Questions and Explanations

(1) When were the angels created?

As for this question, there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people's eyes. Jochanan said it was on the second day, because it is written, Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters; Who maketh the clouds his chariot; Who walketh upon the wings of the wind. (Psa. 104:3) Channina put that it was on the fifth day because the Torah states, Above him stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. (Isa. 6:2).

Before the couple fell, they walked with the LORD. At that time, no angels were needed. After they ate the forbidden fruit and were driven out of the Garden of Eden, angels were created, who acted as the LORD's servants and messengers to exercise His decree and accomplish His mission.


(2) When were Adam and Eve created?

On which day was Adam created? And on which day was Eve created?

Traditionally, Adam and Eva were supposedly created on the sixth day (Friday). Now we are certain that the LORD created human beings in the way of "two phases containing three steps". In the first phase, He proclaimed the plan and conducted the design on the sixth day, whereas in the second phase, He put the blueprint into effect on the first day, after the Sabbath. In other words, the records of Genesis 2 happened on the first day after the Sabbath. Therefore, Adam's flesh was created on the eighth day of creation, which was Sunday.

When was Eve created? The answer is on Friday (to be detailed in chapter 5: Paradise Lost).

The sequence of the creation of everything is shown as follows:


(3) The heavens and the earth: which was created first?

The school of Shammai says first the heavens were created and then the earth; as it is written, In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1). The school of Hillel says first the earth was created and then the heavens; as it is written, In the day that G-d made earth and heaven. (Gen. 2:4)

Said the sages of Hillel to the sages of Shammai, "According to your interpretation, would one build a loft before one builds the house? For it is written, It is he that buildeth his chambers in the heavens, and hath founded his vault upon the earth". (Amos 9:6) Said the sages of Shammai to the sages of Hillel, "According to your interpretation, would one make the footstool and then make the chair? For it is written, Thus saith Jehovah, Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool" (Isa. 66:1)

The truth is like this:

In the first phase of creation, light and the heavens were created prior to dry land (the earth). The Torah states, In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1).

In the second phase of creation, the situation is different:

(1) Although the celestial bodies were created, they were not named by the LORD yet.


In the Torah, a thing's name is significant and can determine its essence and nature, even its existence. Without a name, it is far from a real and complete being.

After Adam was created and became a living soul, the LORD named the celestial bodies to Adam's face. That is to say, Adam became a living soul before the celestial bodies became real and complete beings. Adam belonged to the earth while the celestial bodies to the heavens.

(2) First the LORD made Adam's flesh, and then He gave him life. Adam's flesh belonged to the earth while his spirit and life belonged to the heavens.

(3) The creation of Adam was previous to that of the angels. Adam belonged to the earth, while the angels to the heavens.


Therefore, the Torah states, These are the generations of the heaven and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD G-d made earth and heaven. (Gen. 2:4)
(Continues...)


Excerpted from Midrash Sinim by Yong Zhao. Copyright © 2013 Yong Zhao. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface....................     ix     

Chapter 1 Genesis Codes....................     1     

Chapter 2 Numbers and Mathematics in the Torah....................     14     

Chapter 3 Scripture Commentary....................     128     

Chapter 4 One Hundred Years of Glory....................     44     

Chapter 5 Paradise Lost....................     52     

Chapter 6 Sin and Punishment....................     62     

Chapter 7 Scripture Commentary....................     272     

Chapter 8 For Thee Have I Seen Righteous Before Me....................     92     

Chapter 9 Judah, the Real Mighty Leader....................     111     

Chapter 10 Now Therefore Go, Moses!....................     121     

Chapter 11 Chinese Characters and Genesis....................     131     


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