Torah Study Notes 4-14-12

April 14, 2012
p. 1467: Haftarah – Second Samuel
The reading sequence is different in Israel for about eight weeks this time of year. We could accommodate by splitting the torah portions but instead we will read Haftarah. AF: Isn’t this lack of conformity a problem for Judaism? PG: No. There is no requirement for conformity in Judaism. LL: The vigor of Judaism is the discussion of different ideas and approaches. PG: Anyone who calls for conformity is trying to exercise power so that everyone does it their way. Note that the Gaonate fixed the calendar.
The introduction to this psalm is an introduction to the seventh day of Passover. Note the identification as a David psalm. Note the sense of dread and the hyperbolic sense of danger. Compare to the 22nd Psalm “Lord why have you abandoned me?” SF: Is this David expressing his own fears? PG: There were three significant battles that the Israelite’s faced as they wandered: Egypt, the Amalachites and Sivan and Ok. In the confrontation with Egypt they do nothing but escape – the defeat is via divine intervention; the Amalachite conflict is similar. Sivan and Ok had to be fought in order to cross the Jordon – without divine intervention. There may be an intentional evolution toward self-reliance – until God virtually disappears in the story of Joseph.
The poet is creating a fearsome vision – ala Odin or Zeus. This is a depiction of a God in human form – the concretization of God as a commander. The modern tendency is to avoid any images of God. The ancients were accepting of imagery but did not want it to be a fixed image. CL: There was a noted Chinese emperor from about 1000 AD who like to sign the works of his courtiers that he approved of. You can imagine the same sort of thing going on with these psalms. PG: Recent archeological finds confirm the existence of David. But consider the epic of Gilgamesh – which has also been confirmed archeologically. The written account of Gilgamesh is about 1200 years later than the actual events. These Psalms may also have been created well after the existence of David. The rabbinic tradition is to ascribe unknown psalms to David.
Who is the psalmist/author’s enemy? It appears that the demons he struggles with may be those within him. “They advanced on me in my time of calamity, but the Eternal was my support.” David was a complicated, often conflicted, individual. Saul, his predecessor appears to have had severe psychological problems. David succeeds because he can, at least partially, confront his demons. He is aided by his poetry – his psalms – which reach out to God. AF: Could he have been on drugs? PG: Hallucinogens were available throughout ancient times.
“…with the crooked you are cunning…” PG: This all does not ring true if you are familiar with the life of David. This language suggests that personal weaknesses are not your fault – ultimately justice will reign. The difficulties of daily existence and the uncertainties of life may have made this more eagerly acceptable to the ancient hearers. AF: Isn’t David glorifying himself by describing his special relationship with God? PG: If you assume that this was written by David in the first place. It’s a bit more complicated than that. LL: There is a change in tone here. Some of this may have been added by another author who wanted to exalt David. The beginning is much more personal and anguished.

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