Archive for January, 2010

The Importance of Metaphor as a Thought Process

When speaking about images and symbols, metaphors give verbal representation of the images, pictures and symbols that are latent in mytho-poetic literature. Like the symbol, the metaphor transfers meaning from one domain to another. By the same token, the metaphor does not lend itself to literal, statistical, or reductionist thinking. The metaphor’s purpose does not merely inform–it is the language of meaning. Philosopher Paul Ricoeur points out that metaphors have a “cunning distortion” that is much more subtle than ...

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A Remarkable Story About Napoleon’s Horse

Byline: Jan 29th, 3:30 PM

Let me tell you an anecdote about Napoleon Bonaparte’s narrow escape from the Suez. His adversary was not an army, but Mother Nature herself! At eight 8:00 AM, when the tide was low, Napoleon went to visit the legendary “Fountains of Moses.” After visiting the springs and speaking with some Arab sheiks, he started to return. Darkness had fallen; the tide was rapidly rising.

Local chiefs told him that it would be wise to camp along the ...

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A Midrashic Deconstruction of the Miracle at the Sea

There is a well-known Midrash that tells of God’s reluctance to perform the miracle until He saw Israel make a move itself to deal with the prodigious problem.

All the tribes of Israel were afraid to jump into the water. Each tribe competed with the other in vacillation and retreat from the joint destiny of the nation.  Finally Nahshon ben Aminadav, a prince of the tribe of Judah, fearlessly, he jumped in, and then the members of his tribe ...

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Did the Red Sea Really Split?

In the Hagadah, Jews everywhere chant the “Dyenu” (It would have been enough!) song. Let me give you one of my favorite stanzas that I translated for my students one year:

The Red Sea truly split in half

When Moses raised his mighty staff,

But if no sea had split in half, then dyenu!

This of course raises an interesting question: Did Moses’ mighty staff magically or supernaturally cause the sea to split as commonly portrayed in the movies? Or let us ask in ...

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Negotiating a Settlement with Pharaoh

Pharaoh asks: “Who are the ones that are going?” (Exod. 10:8).

Was he being serious?  For the first time Pharaoh tried to negotiate a deal before the threatened plague struck. Pharaoh shrewdly responds, “Your men may go and worship the Lord, for that is what you are asking” (Exod. 10:11).

Simply put, Pharaoh insists upon collateral. By holding the men’s families hostage, Pharaoh guarantees that the rest of the  nation would soon return to their workstations after finishing their “vacation.” Moreover, in ...

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