Re: Explanations
Thu, 26 Jun 1997 14:10:23 -0400

Maximillian <> wrote:
>1. I am reading the Old testament on my own for the first time (I am an
>American living in Moscow) and wanted to know if you could recommend a
>good Bible with understandable notes explaining the meaning of each book
>and chapter for it feels as if too much meaning is being lost.

I would recommend you look into the Artscroll or Judaica Tanach series.
Both contain extensive English commentaries which will significantly
increase your understanding of the Tanach. These series are quite long
with generally a separate book (sometimes more than one book) per
Biblical book. Artscroll also publishes an excellent one volume
translation of the Bible but the commentary is very minimal.

>2. In the Psalms I have found many references to Unicorns, and even
>Leviathans-- what is the influence, background or Jewish take on these
>Mythical animals?

Each reference has to be dealt with individually. This is particularly
true since there is always a risk that the translation you are using is

>3. In Psalm 103, #5 David says "thy youth is renewed like the eagles."
>What is he speaking of? Do eagles rejuvinate?

The commentaries say that eagles get new feathers every year.

>4. In Psalm 106, verse 37 there is talk of sacrificing of children.
>Is it meant that Jews at one point sacrificed their children as part
>of a heathen ritual?

Basically, yes. There were Jews who participated in the idolatrous
practices of the nations surrounding them, even to the degree of
sacrificing their children (such as in the idolatry of Molech). This sin
resulted in severe punishment for the Jewish people as the Psalm states.
Why does this verse bother you?

>5. What does "selah" mean-- I found it in different Psalms?

The primary meaning of selah is 'forever'. (Talmud Eruvin 54a, Metsudas
Tzion Tehillim 3:3). It seems to have additional meanings as well. The
Artscroll Tehillim (the little one) cites (regarding 3:3) R' Hirsch as
stating that "Selah is a notation at the close of a thought, directing
one to reflect on it's enduring significance. Some say that selah also
served as a musical instruction (cited by Even Ezra on 3:3). Even Ezra
states that selah means 'so it is' or 'true'.

Eliezer C. Abrahamson
Talmud Torah - Basic Jewish Education
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