The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Immanuel of Rome’s Parshanut Ha-Parah

In this talk, I examine Immanuel of Rome’s disparate interpretations of the red heifer (Parah Adumah) to draw conclusions about his exegetical methodology. The case of the red heifer is unique because Immanuel addresses it both in his larger commentary on Numbers as well as in an independent exegetical collection which he calls Biurim. Immanuel calls his biur a novelty (hidush), juxtaposing it against at different reading of the episode proposed by another Roman Jewish scholar. As such, the red heifer is a good case study to evaluate Immanuel`s exegetical methodologies. In addition to providing an opportunity for reflection on the human condition, the ceremony of the red heifer offers a cathartic opportunity for an individual to repent. This seemingly original approach must be considered in light of Christian readings of the red heifer. As such, the talk will also reflect on the impact of penitential preaching in Italy in the vernacular to ascertain whether medieval Jews were affected by Franciscan sermons delivered in public venues.