The Masoretic Text of the Pentateuch, color-coded according to its narrative layers as delineated by the Supplementary Hypothesis of Tzemaḥ Yoreh

The Jordan River valley (credit: Staselnik, license: CC BY-SA)


Last night, I finished a year long project begun after Simḥat Torah in 2018, presenting the Masoretic Hebrew text of the parashot (weekly Torah readings) with English translation in a range of colors according to the way the narrative layers are parsed through the Supplementary hypothesis as read by Dr. Tzemah Yoreh, published in his Kernel to Canon series of books (2013-2017) and on his website, the Sources of Biblical Narrative. The version of the Masoretic text used is Dr. Seth Avi Kadish’s Miqra al pi ha-mesorah published at Hebrew Wikisource.

This is the first time the Masoretic text has been presented through the lens of the Supplementary hypothesis by parashah and in HTML, rather than by chapter in PDF format. My hope is that I have made Dr. Yoreh’s work more accessible to weekly readers of the Torah portion.

This is also, as far as I know, the first time that an adaptation of the English translation of Dr. Everett Fox has been set side-by-side with the Masoretic text.[ref]This translation is under the copyright of Schocken Books. I have adapted Dr. Fox’s translation as a Jewish educator in order to make each weekly Torah reading available for non-commercial, scholarly research purposes, and with a clear transformative use by which I exercise my Fair Use right (17 U.S. Code §107 – Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use). I hope that my work is received by Dr. Fox and the copyright steward with pleasure rather than disdain or anger, ḥas v’shalom.[/ref] I have limited myself to amending Dr. Fox’s translation by re-Hebraizing divine names, personal names, place names, names for specific sacred objects in the Sanctuary, and for certain specific and complicated terms. For example, I use “fertile-earth” where Fox uses “soil” for adamah and I often indicate “domesticated animals” for behemot where Fox translates as “animals” or “beasts.” Where I have made changes, I have indicated them in a footer below the parashah. (For an unmodified digital edition of Dr. Fox’s translation set side-by-side with the Masoretic text, please visit Sefaria.)

All the readings are now available in HTML on the Open Siddur Project’s website.

Working on this project, every week for the last year is the realization of a long-held dream I’ve had to see more clearly, through color, the multi-dimensionality of the text of the Torah as a creative achievement of numerous readers and scribes over the course of several hundred years during the first millennium BCE. In doing so I want to make clear how this activity constitutes an expression of honoring this text as a sacred text with the following explanation. I believe very strongly that the degree of our alienation may be measured by the distance we feel from our essential creative selves. There are many different concepts of divinity, but for me, it is this essential creative self that feels accessible while retaining its own mystery. I can know it in myself and I can recognize it in others without a philosophical or theological apparatus and without too much of an intellectual process to lean on. I know that we are creative and I understand the imperative to “walk in the way of the Creator” as empowering our nascent creative self, so long as we remain considerate of the needs of the other living creatures sharing our habitat.[ref]Perhaps this essential creative self corresponds to an esoteric Jewish concept of the soul called the Neshamah?[/ref] And so I want to recognize this creative self, in order to be less alienated from myself and others, and to fully remind myself of what wisdom and wonder we can reveal, and what revelation our cultures can foster, through our creative acts. To look at sacred text, or to behold what is sacred, I think, is inextricably linked to a kind of humility cultivated through observation, which begins with a question of attribution: who (or what) made this? and then, how did this come to be? in what context? and why?

I am almost 45 years old now, and since my early 20s I’ve known that the faculty of curiosity cannot be taken for granted. Curiosity is eroded by fears and also practicalities that shape and condition our responses. We have only so much time and energy. It can be easy to mistake adherence for reverence, or to take a mistaken pride in going to battle against irreverence. Community and culture provide a bastion against personal vulnerability. The products of cultural creativity provide a container for identity. The products of cultural creativity attract their own reverence as containers for a proud identity. Meanwhile, the actual content and values expressed in those products may be ignored, inherent contradictions erased through conflations, the tumult of voices heard in collective collaborations nearly entirely hushed. And so I am grateful to be part of a lineage within rabbinic Judaism that feels ever called to know itself through a scholastic effort of attributing text, one which values the diverse voices in sacred text as having been produced through creative and lovingkind spirits. We breathe life into the words of these voices through our honest study, and we do them justice when we recognize our own voices as born by creative spirits, and demand of our own voices the lovingkindness born of those who observe and love the wonder of this world through the mind and impression of others and other lifeforms.

Shgiyot mi yavin, ministarot naqeni (Psalms 19:13)






About Aharon N. Varady

Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, the Yiddish Forverts, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes. He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words. If you find his work helpful to your own or you'd simply like to support him, please consider donating via his Patreon account.

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