Ezra and Nehemiah Reading the Torah

Ezra Reads the Law to the People – Gustave Dore

One of the earliest examples of midrashic exegesis was in the manner it which Lev. 23-40-42 was interpreted by the book of Ezra. The interpretation proposed here was rejected by Jewish tradition which saw Lev. 23-40 as referring to the taking of the lulav and etrog, not to the building of the sukkah.

8-13 On the second day, 83 the heads of the clans of all the people and the priests and Levites gathered to Ezra the scribe to study the words of the Teaching. 84 14 They found written in the Teaching that the Lord had commanded Moses that the Israelites must dwell in booths during the festival of the seventh month, 85 15 and that they must
announce and proclaim throughout all their towns and Jerusalem as follows, “Go out to the mountains and bring leafy branches of olive trees, pine trees, myrtles, palms and [other] leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.” 86 16 So the people went out and brought them, and made themselves booths on their roofs, in their courtyards, in the courtyards of the House of God, in the square of the Water Gate and in the square of the Ephraim Gate. 17 The whole community that returned from the captivity made booths and dwelt in the booths—the Israelites had not done so from the days of Joshua son of Nun to that day—and there was very great rejoicing. 18 He read from the scroll of the Teaching of God each day, from the first to the last day. They celebrated the festival seven days, and there was a solemn gathering on the eighth, as prescribed. 87

83. The day after the public Torah reading and covenant renewal ceremony.

84. Hebrew, “Torah.”

85. The festival of Sukkot.

86. Cf. Lev. 23-40-42 of which this is clearly an interpretation.

87. Lev. 23-33-36.