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November 28, 2005


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Jodi, thanks for posting this account of the Korah story. I am not sure how this matches up with the biblical account but it is fascinating. I suppose Adam will have something to say on this topic. I am really strapped for time this week (which is very frustrating so I will only be checking in intermitantly at Long Sunday.


Wikipedia nicely explains the Ginzberg's method this way:

"Legends of the Jews" is an original synthesis of a vast amount of aggadah from the Mishnah, the two Talmuds and Midrash. Ginzberg had an encyclopedic knowledge of all rabbinic literature, and his masterwork included a massive array of aggadot. However he did not create an anthology which showed these aggadot distinctly. Rather, he paraphrased them and rewrote them into one continuous narrative that covered five volumes, followed by two volumes of footnotes that give specific sources.

Aggadah, in part, attempts to fill in the gaps in biblical stories. It also attempts to harmonize what appear to be discordant accounts within Torah. Its premise is that Torah, being the word of God, is perfect; that is, no aspect of it is arbitrary. It is a traditional belief that the Oral Torah, that is rabbinic literature in both its halachic (legal) and midrashic aspects, was given to the Jews at the the same time as the Written Torah thereby substantiating its authority as binding for traditional Jews.


I should make clear that the second paragraph in the above comment is my effort to explain aggadah and not Wikipedia's.


Btw, Legends of the Jews may be read online here:



thanks, marc, for doing a much better job of explaining concisely and in much better fashion than I could over at the weblog. I had yet to run across Ginzberg, but figured by the nature of the piece on Korah that it was really good shit.


Actually, Doug, I just wanted to affirm your assumptions with a little more detail.

Fernando Munoz

The interesting part is that it was not Koreh the one who could not reason properly: it was Moses and his legality, for it had indeed loopholes of irrationality and absurd that were exploded and paraded about by the skillful Koreh. Nevertheless, in doing so, Koreh indulged in the ultimate liberal dumbness, that is to set up expectations of rationality and comprehensiveness on the political order that ultimately end up by destroying him when he explores them.

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