Rabbinic Studies Blogs

I posted last week asking if anyone knew of good blogs covering rabbinic studies and literature. Jay Barnes posted with a reference to Balashon, but said that he too was having a tough time finding very many such blogs. I have found one other that I have added to my blogroll (personal one, not on this site, to update that takes effort and I am lazy!): Hagahot. I have not read enough of either to give you a review (both are anonymous, so far as I can tell), but here is a bit about these two sites, in their own words.

Balashon, by “DLC”:

I’m a native English speaker, but live in Israel and love the Hebrew language. On this site I investigate Hebrew – Biblical, Talmudic, Medieval and Modern – including slang; related languages like Aramaic, Arabic, Akkadian and Yiddish; and how foreign languages like Greek, Latin and English have entered Hebrew – and how Hebrew has affected those languages as well. I discuss the meanings of words, with a focus on etymology. I’m not a professional linguist, and will be using this blog to explore my own questions, and I welcome yours as we

This blog focuses upon issues of language, often modern Hebrew. For example, the most recent post is interesting.

The first initial in the acrostic PaRDeS is peshat (or pshat) – פשט. The definition of peshat is – “the plain, simple meaning”. Of course, what defines the peshat of a text or a subject is debatable. Nechama Leibowitz is quoted here as saying: “”If I say it, it’s peshat. If you say it, it’s derash.”

The word peshat comes from the root פשט, for which Klein gives a number of meanings: “to spread, to strip off; to make a dash, make a raid; to stretch out; to make plain, explain.” The verb להתפשט therefore means “to undress”. From this root we get the adjective pashut פשוט. Rut Almagor-Ramon explains here that pashut originally meant “straight” as in a shofar pashut שופר פשוט – a “straight shofar”. She explains that only in the Middle Ages did the word take on its more popular meaning today – “simple”.

The Arabic cognate to פשט is basat. From here we get two familiar expressions in Hebrew slang:

a) basta – A market stand. Stahl writes that the original meaning was produce “spread out” on display for purchase. We also have the expression sagar et habasta – סגר את הבאסטה, which literally means “to close the stand” but has the sense of “to end a continuous activity”.

b) mabsut – satisfied, pleased. Stahl writes that when a person is happy his “heart expands”. In English we also see a connection between relaxed and happy.

Hagahot, by “Manuscriptboy”:

My main field of interest is medieval Jewish religious literature. Mostly Halakhah, definitely not philosophy, but other specific topics are negotiable. Lately I’ve been looking at some of the topics that dominate the Jewish blogosphere. While I am intrigued by contemporary developments, I am not usually passionate about them. So don’t look here for my take on the Zoo Torah scandal or political developments in the State of Israel or Yeshiva University, or wherever else some find the focal point of their existence.

This site does have a number of good links to rabbinica and is certainly worth perusing. S/he offers reviews and points to other blogs of interest. (Apparently the individual works in a library.) Definitely a great blog here.

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