Friday, September 10, 2021

  • Friday, September 10, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon, an Arab news site popular in Egypt and Syria, has an article explaining a Quranic verse:
The example of those who were burdened with the Torah, but then did not carry it, is like an ass carrying books —evil is the example of the people which deny the signs of God, and God does not guide the wrongdoing people. [Qurʾān 62:5]
The article explains that just as a donkey carries books yet does not understand what they contain, so the Jews are burdened with a Torah they do not understand. Only Muslims do.

So far, this is just another example of how one can find examples of antisemitism in every day Arabic language media.

But the person explaining the verse does not understand it as well a the author of the Quran did. 

The Quran's stories often come not only from the Torah itself but from rabbinic sources as well. Its author was quite familiar with Rabbinic stories from the Midrash and Talmud.

This particular verse seems to refer to a famous midrash, the first part of which is familiar to every Jewish schoolchild. When God wanted to give the Torah, he first went to the other nations and offered it to them. They would ask, "What is in it?" and God would answer "Thou shat not kill" or steal or commit adultery, and the nations would decline, saying that one of these sins are part of their national culture. When God came to Israel, however, they didn't ask what was in it, but accepted it wholeheartedly.

The second part of the midrash says, "It is similar to a man who sent his donkey and his dog to the granary, where fifteen seʾah [of grain] were loaded atop the donkey and three seʾah on the dog. The donkey walked and the dog lolled his tongue [in exhaustion.] He cast aside one seʾah and placed it atop the donkey and then did the same with the second and then the third. This is how Israel accepted the Torah, together with its commentaries and its minutiae. Even those seven commandments that the Noahides could not abide and cast aside, Israel came and accepted. "

So the rabbis themselves compared the Jews to a donkey, as a compliment! The Quran took this story and turned it into an insult to Jews - an insult not only for a Muslim audience but for a literate Jewish audience as well!

This paper notes also that a later Quranic verse seems to compare Jews more directly to the tongue-lolling dog of this midrash. (It shows that the verse that the midrash is commenting on is one of the "proofs" Muslims give that Mohammed is alluded to in the Torah.)

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