Torah Study Notes 11-19-11

NOTICE TO READERS OF THESE TORAH STUDYPOSTS: The text submitted here is unedited. Corrections and comments are welcome. Generally, the initials shown are an attempt to credit the individual who made a particular point or responded to it. “PG” is Rabbi Paul Golomb. Page references are to Plaut. It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the text but these notes will be more inteligible if read in conjunction with the cited passages.

November 19, 2011

p. 160

S. Newman: Last week we did not give enough attention to the important role of woman in the story. PG: Not intentional, note that the rule of primogeniture is constantly violated. Leitmotifs are setting up dialectics wherein both positions can be argued for and defended. We are balancing on a tightrope but should never be afraid. Here Sarah has died and Isaac has no wife. Note that Isaac does not go out to find his own wife. Remember that marriage is a real estate proposition at this time. AF: How long did people live on average at this time? PG: “105, no make that 104.”   Isaac Asimov got it right. Take one fact and obliterate it and leave everything else to operate naturally so that there is verisimilitude. Hence, time travel or legend. SN: Suddenly we are in the ostensible mode of historical description but they are still carrying all that prior mythology with them.

50: PG: Rebecca is far and away the most interesting woman in Genesis. AF: The proposed delay may have been for the purpose of due diligence – to check out the assets of the other family. PG: In a wedding ceremony the exchange of rings is a residual of an ancient engagement ceremony. Note also that Rebecca is being married within the family line which would be reassuring to her parents.

56: She goes off with her own entourage – including her nurse. When a veil is put down in the wedding ceremony the groom says this to the bride. DC: What is the urgency here? Why does Eleazer insist that they leave immediately with Rebecca? PG: The answer is in game theory. Consider the Prisoner’s Dilemma wherein prisoners are separated and each given three options. Here there is the possibility of more gifts or the loss of everything. This insistence on immediate departure is a negotiating technique. They maintain face by letting Rebecca give the final answer.

Some of this is very dream=like – e.g. the images of someone who is young and then much older. AF: The language at the end of 61 suggests that the slave took possession of Rebecca as property. PG: It does seem redundant of the prior phrase. The word “took” in Hebrew has the same implication.

62:  PG: When a story is retold always look for the differences. LL: This may suggest that the redactor drew upon different traditions or simply the errors of memory. PG: See chapter 16 where Hagar first flees the household and has an encounter with God. Note that Isaac starts at Hagar’s well and winds up at this mother’s tent in Abraham’s community. Isaac splits off from Abraham after the “akidah” – the sacrifice. He reappears in the household of Ishmael.  He returns after three years and Rebecca appears. The Hebrew word here describing Rebecca’s descent from her camel is “tipol” which means “to fall.” Did she fall off her camel? Did she swoon? Or is this idiomatic? Note that is doesn’t say that Rebecca loves Isaac. The love of a woman for her husband appears in the Torah only where Mihal is described as loving David. The converse, the husband loving his wife, appears many times.

25: Why is there this description of Abraham taking a third wife and their progeny? Probably to explain an ethnic connection with communities in the east. They are identified as descendents of Abraham. Israel’s connections are much more eastern than western. These additional children do not share in the covenant. Ishmael also winds up to the east.

25:7 Abraham lived for 175 years! Ephron is a Hittite! AF: Is Isaac aware that God has blessed him? Not at this point – we will hear about his interaction with God. The selection of these numbers may not be accidental. There is a numeric quality that is common throughout using squares and prime numbers.

LL: I have been thinking about what SN said earlier re “carrying the mythology.” It seems to me that with Abraham we are starting afresh. There is no clear reference back to Noah or Adam and Eve. PG: There are thematic references throughout starting with the various conflicts between brothers such as Cane and Abel, Jacob and Esau, etc. Those themes or leitmotif’s are what hold the entire Torah together.

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