My Sources in Order

Where does my source material come from? With a novel adapted from history and known texts, the framework comes from outside. I use my imagination to make it blossom. I follow the belief that Torah is true, but not necessarily factual. But, for the purposes of my novel, I’m assuming that it is (more or less) factual. So here are the sources I use, in the order in which I apply them.

The Talmud students, Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874–1925), etching, 1915

Torah — If it’s in the Torah, then it’s canon. My novel expands the universe as outlined in our most sacred text. But that’s hardly sufficient. Many of the details simply aren’t there and I need to construct them. In other cases, there are outright contradictions. Sometimes the text is not in chronological order (an issue Rashi expounds upon at length). Or a straightforward description where the body of the story is (in this case, Exodus) might pull in more details elsewhere (in this case, Numbers).

Tanakh — This is the Bible in full. Or what some might call the Hebrew Bible. It includes Torah (the first 5 books), the Prophets, and the Writings. Sometimes a detail comes from outside of Torah and, if it doesn’t contradict Torah, I generally consider it canon.

Sages and Historic CommentatorsRashi is the one I use the most (because he comments at a very concrete practical level, which is most useful for my purpose in bringing the tales to life) but there are many others. A good place to find them is Sefaria. Highlight any line with your mouse as you read through the texts and you’ll get a menu leading you to commentaries and other materials relating to that text.

Midrash and Talmud — Sometimes I lean on these sources heavily (for example, Miriam’s Well is not in Tanakh at all but comes from Midrash (early stories as commentary on the Bible). Other times I must firmly dismiss it (for example, there is a sizable chunk of Talmud (an “intergenerational rabbinic conversation“) that calculates that a middle-aged Miriam married and had a child with a pre-pubescent Caleb; sometimes you have to leave the Rabbis to their imaginings and move along).

Jewish Commentary — This includes all sources of resources. Some quite old, some very modern. From all over the world. And from all sects of Judaism. I consider anything well researched and thought out, whether it be Orthodox or Liberal. Commentaries don’t have to come from Rabbis or scholars either. I am neither and my novel is Torah commentary.

Other Religious-Based Sources — I use a few sources from Christians and from Muslims. Or anyone else who adds to the discussion.

Secular Sources — I actually rely on these quite heavily, despite being listed last. The order of the listing is only to say what I consider as true first, when there are contradictions. The secular sources (some of which come from religious commentators speaking of secular subjects mentioned in Torah) fill in the gaps. Archeology, food history, ecology, astronomy, history, and all sorts of subjects like how to make bread.

1 Comment

  1. The Stations of the Exodus – Out of Egypt

    November 24, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    […] a couple of days, but it could be a couple of weeks. To figure out the range, I needed to look at my sources and map out where they need to be […]

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