Commentary

Type: Commentary

Ba'al Ha-Turim to the Torah:

Title

This title identifies its author by his best-known work, the 'Arba'ah Turim ("four columns"), a well-respected code of Jewish law.

In its first printed version it was entitled "Rimzei [the allusions of] Ba'al ha-Turim," which gives a clearer idea of the work's character, designed to present hints and allusions to themes cleverly hidden in word-plays, numerology, masoretic rules, etc.

Author

Rabbi Jacob ben Asher was the son of Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel (the "Rosh"), a prominent German rabbi and member of the Tosafot school who moved late in life to Spain, where he adopted many of the Spanish approaches to Jewish tradition, especially the tendency towards systematic codification.

Dates

c. 1270 - c. 1343

Place

Toledo, Spain

Description

These snippets about the words of the Torah do not really add up to an exegetical interpretation of the meaning of the text, but rather are playful homiletical tricks designed to show how religious themes were, as it were, hidden in the Biblical text. Towards this end, Rabbi Jacob makes use of several popular hermeneutical methods, particularly that of numerology (gimatria), the drawing of associations between words whose numerical values are equivalent (based on the premise that every Hebrew letter has a numerical value). Rabbi Jacob also derives thematic lessons from the lists compiled in the Masorah of instances where certain words or grammatical forms appear in the Bible.

Although the work described above is the one that is standardly published as the "Ba'al ha-Turim's commentary on the Torah," in its original form it was only intended to serve as a playful introduction to a more conventional exegetical commentary (referred to as "the Long Commentarty").


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