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Postby DrRussellJayHendel » Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:56 pm

Sorry for not posting in a while but I have been swamped with work. I want to continue the reconstruction of the old postings. However not all threads were "completed" I want to bring back the old threads that we never finished.

Today I am doing the symbolism thread. I will present definitions criteria and examples. Then we can continue to discuss intelligently some of the old postings issues.

DEFINITIONRav Hirsch gives a concise definition of symbolism.
A symbol is an
item or
whose purpose is to remind the user of another item or act.

Rav Hirsch gives several examples.

1) The Bible explicitly states that one observes the Sabbath in order to remember that God created the world and took us out of Egypt. In other words the Bible identifies the purpose of Sabbath observance as remembering another item or act and hence it is a symbol. The Bible explicitly (in Ex. 31) calls the Sabbath a symbol (Oth).

2) At the end of BO the Bible explicitly calls Tefillin an Oth, a symbol. The Bible explicitly connects the wearing of Tefillin with the commemoration of the Exodus, another item or act and consequently Tefillin fulfills our definition of oth.

3) The Bible (Gen. 17) explicitly calls circumcision an Oth, a symbol. The Bible doesn't however further elaborate on what other act or item one should be thinking of when viewing the circumcision.

4) The Bible (End of Shlach) explains that the Tzizith are worn in order to remember all the commandments so that we shall do them. Rav Hirsch points out: although the Bible does not explicitly call Tzitzith a symbol the Bible does explicitly identify its purpose as remembering other activities. Hence we are justified in calling Tzitzith a symbol.


Once we know that something is a symbol how do we interpret it. After all we might agree that something is symbolic but disagree on its interpretation. Rav Hirsch gives 4 criteria for interpreting a symbol. These criteria raise symbolic interpretation to a status of something objective. The four criteria are

1) The Bible explicitly declares the association. For example the Bible explicitly tells us that we observe the Sabbath to commemorate the creation.

2) Biblical Hebrew reflects commonality of root between the symbol and symbolized. For example the word Shin Kuph Daleth means both almond and quickly. Hence Jeremiah's almond vision symbolized a hasty arrival of the prophecy.

3) The form or function of the symbol corresponds to the symbolized item or activity which the symbol is suppose to remind you of. For example the Isian statement that the wolf will live with the lamb is symbolically interpreted in terms of the functions of the lamb and wolf. The major attribute of the wolf is that it is a hierarchical attacking animal. The major attribute of the lamb is that it is a social animal of herds. Consequently the Isian vision symbolizes that the aggressor nations will peacefully coexist with the social, herd nations.

We will continue this thread in future weeks. We wish to go step by step. Meanwhile if you have comments or questions please ask.

Note an excellent summary of Rav Hirsch’s essays can be found in my article Genesis 1 Speaks about the creation of the prophecy not the creation of the world found at url

Russell Jay Hendel PHD ASA
Posts: 38
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:05 pm

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