Twisting words: does Halakhah really circumvent scripture?


Amit Gvaryahu. 2017. “Twisting words: does Halakhah really circumvent scripture?” Journal of Jewish Studies, 68, Pp. 260-283.


abstract A foundational text in the study of Tannaitic Midrash and Halakhah, Sifre Deuteronomy 122 is a list of places where Halakhah ʿ qpt scripture. This word, ʿ qpt, has long been understood to mean ‘circumvent’, ‘bypass’ or ‘belie’, and the pericope has been read as a list of places where ‘Halakhah} circumvents scripture’, and thus a testament to the power of the accepted tradition to override the words of the Torah. Based on documentary and linguistic evidence, this article questions the interpretation of the word ʿ qpt and suggests that it means not ‘circumvent’ but rather ‘multiply’. As it does so, it also suggests a new meaning for the list, as a declaration of the limits of the Midrashic method of the Tannaitic school of Rabbi Ishmael, committed both to accepted traditions and to its more restrictive and systematic method of reading scripture.