Peshat and Derash: Plain and Applied Meaning in Rabbinic Exegesis

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In this paperback reprint (which includes a new Afterword, responding to critics), noted Rabbinic scholar David Weiss Halivni offers a new explanation for the willingness of the early Sages to attribute to scripture meanings nowhere suggested in the text itself. He posits a sharp discontinuity between what the sages considered a valid meaning and our own modern understanding of textual meaning. He argues that the original meaning of the very work peshat was actually context rather than literal meaning, thus explaining the Rabbis' expressions of respect for peshat in the face of their evident unconcern for literal meaning in the text.