Torah Study Notes 11-5-11

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 5, 2011

p. 99

Abraham has been told he would be father to a nation but so far he has no children. Sarah is barren.

16:1 This is akin to the story of Rachael and her sisters. She gave her handmaiden so that he husband would have a child. Has there been a change in human nature since that time? Yes. According to Prof. Pinker and his new book on the history of violence. The fundamental problem of epistemology is how we select what is important in the world around us. Here Sarah is engaged in what appears to be a selfless act – but then she feels diminished by Hagar. Compare the story of Samuel – who is adopted and raised in the house of Eli. See the footnote number 3 from the Assyrian culture.

16:5  Hagar leaves. But she has not yet had the baby. This presents a conundrum for Abraham.  The appearance of an angel is always a manifestation of God.

16:8 Call him Ishmael. A people apart. But what are the Jews? The Muslims don’t read this passage. Their knowledge of this story comes through the Koran. There was no Arabic translation of the bible until about the year 1100 CE. Note that there is nothing negative about the expression “wild ass” as it is used here. Here it implies “robust” and “free.” The blessing for Ishmael to Hagar is the same one given to Abraham. Ishmael means “God has listened.”

16:13  There are various translations of this passage. Note that Abram adopts the name given by God.

17:1 The covenant. You shall be the father of nations – an everlasting covenant. SF: What has Abraham done to deserve this blessing:? PG: He persisted. He was consistently faithful. See footnote on the extension of the name from Abram to Abraham.  Recall the story of Abraham passing Sarah off as his sister – twice.  The story is told again with Isaac and Rebecca.

17:9 Circumcision as a sign of the covenant. A covenant of blood. This was a widespread practice in the ancient near east. It was limited to priests and was what made one a priest. The radical reformer at the time of Christ decided to abandon circumcision – considered a very radical idea.

17:15  Now God tells Abraham that Sarai shall be known as Sarah and become the mother of a multitude. Is a multitude a good thing?  “If only you would let Ishmael live happily before you.” This is an example of theurgy – God’s giving credence to human desires.

Hazak, hazak, v’nithazek. Be strong, be strong and let us strengthen one another.

 LL/

 

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