Page 166 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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158
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
a n d Jo n a th an . T h e sou rce f rom which he took these verses is
th e Book o f J a s h a r , which is close in sp ir it to Ugaritic poe try .
This book goes back to th e P a tr ia rch a l p e r io d an d it was c rea ted
am o n g the H eb rew tribes th a t dw elt in th e vicinity o f U g a r i t
an d were in f lu en ced by its langu ag e a n d cu ltu re .
T h e idea th a t the Book o f J a s h a r is very anc ien t, d a t in g back
to the P a tr ia rch s , was no t fo re ign to th e Sages an d th e i r tea ch ­
ings; the A ram a ic tran s la tion o f th e Book o f J a s h a r is called
“S ifra d ’O ra i ta ,” m e an in g the Book o f th e T o ra h . T h e T a lm u d
(cAbodah Zarah
25a) asks: “W hich is th e Book of J a sh a r? Said
R. Hiyya b. Abba in the n am e o f R. Jo h a n a n : I t is th e book
o f A b rah am , Isaac a n d Jacob , who a re d e s ig n a ted as
yesharim
(u p r ig h t) .”
Obviously this is a m id rash ic in te rp re ta t io n an d it can n o t
serve as the basis fo r scientific theo ry . Still, m id ra sh o f ten po in ts
us in the d irec tion o f the r ig h t exp lan a tion . In bo th Jo s h u a
an d II Samuel it is s tressed th a t the song was com po sed b e fo re
the even ts to which it was linked . In bo th cases it is in c lud ed
as a q uo ta tion from a n o th e r source . T h e para lle l to Ugaritic
ind icates th a t th e re is a basis fo r the view o f R. Hiyya th a t th e
Book o f J a s h a r is from the Pa tr ia rcha l p e r iod . It is a collection
o f w ar songs an d he ro ic accoun ts from this p e r io d , d e a ling with
the wars th a t p re c ed ed the go ing down in to Egypt. T h e s e songs
re ta in ed th e ir popu la r ity am o n g th e peop le , an d a u th o r s in co r ­
p o ra ted verses from this an c ien t po e try a t su itab le times when
they de sc r ibed la te r events.
A SUPPRESSED BOOK
“When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say: Advance,
() Lord! May Your enemies be scattered, and may Your foes
flee before You! Return, O Lord, You who are Israel’s myriads
o f thousands!” (Num. 10:35-36)
A lready o u r anc ien ts felt th a t th e r e was no connec tion b e ­
tween these two verses an d th e d e sc r ip tion o f th e travels o f
the Israe lites in th e w ilderness as d e sc r ibed in verses 33-34.
T h ey th e r e fo r e m a rk ed o f f th e verses with special signs — in ­
ve r ted
nuns.
V a rious rabb in ic s ta tem en ts ind ica te th a t they a re
no t h e re in th e i r o rig ina l place. In
Midrash Mishle
it is said:
“It was a se p a ra te book an d was h id d e n away.”