Torah Study Notes 5-19-12

May 19, 2012

page 866
26:18 Blessings and curses. These are the curses. This is all metaphorical and very poetic. …I will smite you sevenfold for your sins… But what is the metaphor? AF: God has shown that he is capable of plagues so these are credible threats. PG: Many of these phrases are also found in the prophets. God can build and destroy. Prayer is filled with both blessings and warnings. But what gives rise to these punishments? Failure to believe in one God? There is an over-arching theme here – it is social injustice. You are causing the disorganization of society by failing to adhere to the law and maintain a social and civil society. The tendency is to think of these passages as supernatural and accordingly to be ignored. This is not primitive nonsense – the reason for laws is the maintenance of a just society. This is a reminder of the consequence of ignoring laws – social failure and anarchy. The orthodox view in most biblical faiths is one of crime and punishment – taking the text on the surface. Remember that God disappears from the Torah with Elijah – the still small voice story. The exception is in the Book of Job which is likely pre-Elijah. In the final story of the Bible – the Book of Esther – there is no mention of God. Finally, we must each take personal responsibility – not only for our actions but also for the well-being of others. DC: The Orthodox go to their Rebbe for answers. This is the abdication of personal responsibility. PG: We give up our freedom in some areas in order to be free to be free in other areas. AF: Does this mean that everyone has to obey or all will be punished? PG: This is the debate between God and Abraham in Sodom and Gomorrah. The fact is that a small group can cause the destruction of everyone – unless we are alert to taking responsibility even for those who violate the law. This is designed to be liturgical – call and response – instructive. The original intent of individual authors here is not important. It is the editor or redactor who has brilliantly assembled these writing in such a way as to establish a blueprint for a just government. LL: I am constantly amazed at the profound insights into human nature that these redactors have displayed. They know that poetry is the best teacher; that lessons must be embedded in metaphor in order to be lasting.

26:27 Very graphic curses. Consider the bumper sticker “I am spending my children’s inheritance.” AF: The writer is putting a repugnant description into the mind of the reader – it is hyperbolic language that will be remembered.
26:31 Even your connection to God will be severed. See Note 30 and reference to translation by Hoffmann.
26:34 “The sound of the driven leaf shall put them to flight.” What is being described is a society that has ignored the rules of social justice. That includes economic and ecological justice. Here the injunction as to the seventh year has been ignored – to let the land rest. This is the disconnection from the land that arises from conquest. See: As The Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/100065.As_a_Driven_Leaf
26:39 Note that the patriarch’s are recited in reverse order so that ultimately the promise is the promise of the land. There are two significant portions of Torah that should be recited every day -The Song of the Sea and Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. The former is a memory of Exodus and the latter a reminder that we are all one brief step from obliteration. We are daily told to “be careful out there.” You are autonomous and responsible for yourself. Consider the parable of Kafka’s gatekeeper – the gate is always open and never closes until the traveler dies. See: http://www.kafka-online.info/before-the-law.html
Note that the people accept Moses authority to speak to God but all of the Prophets are challenged on that point. Now we have had 3200 years without receipt of a direct message from God. The writers of this text were well aware of the gap in their own time. What did they – and what do we – make of that? We cannot expect supernatural intervention. We must live within the pragmatic boundaries of a just society. There must be a benefit to being “good” beyond just doing what God has told us.

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2 Comments

  1. Really enjoy your notes LL, THANK YOU. Inspired to read “As a driven leaf.”

    Reply
  2. llewis1124

     /  May 22, 2012

    You will enjoy it Bob. It is well written and a very dramatic story. Thank you for your comment – sometime I feel there is no one out there.

    Reply

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