Torah Study Notes 6-18-11

NOTICE TO READERS: ON OCCASION THE WRITER WILLMISS A CLASS. IN AN EFFORT TO MAINTAIN SOME CONTINUITY IN THE NARRATIVE I WILL FILL IN WITH NOTES FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR. THIS IS SUCH AN ENTRY.

June 18, 2011

p. 983 The scouts go out to spy out the land. A number report in the negative but the report from Joshua and Caleb was very good.

14:8   The people choose to hear and dwell on the negative – they must be Jewish! Note that the Eternal appears in the tent of meeting to all of the Israelites.  But the word “presence” suggests something less than actuality. In any event the Eternal continues to speak only to Moses. AF: There are two practical aspects of this – fear of losing and fear of dying.  There is also the aspect of expectations. The people might have expected an Eden but now find out that they are again on their own to complete the promise.  Doi: This is a classical description of irrational faith. Caleb means “like a heart.” Joshua means “god is victorious.” And is the Hebrew for Jesus. AF: It could be argued that there were two political camps – Joshua and Caleb were from the religious camp. PG: Not necessarily. See the Book of Joshua – not in the Torah. Future battles do not involve God directly – no divine intervention – just belief in their own arms – and on cleverness. SF: Why do we as a people filter that way? Accepting the negative.

14:11  Moses makes an argument that plays upon the vanity of God and his pride in his power. What would the Egyptians think if the Israeli God permitted his people to perish?  This is a repetition of the scene and dialog at the Golden Calf incident. This is chiastic story-telling. AF: This could be viewed as a leadership training exercise. God wants Moses to step up and be more assertive.

14:20  None of those who spurned me shall see the land. Note the mention and exception of Caleb without mention of Joshua. The may be an artifact of the northern and southern traditions which were not adequately merged by the Redactor.

14:26  SF: I have a problem for modern Judaism from the implication of this text. Why do we have to wander for twenty years in our lives before we find faith?  Is the message that none of this is easy? That patience and struggle are essential elements to the acquisition of faith? PG: Consider the still small voice in the Elijah story – the challenge of the prophets of God in the Book of Kings. AF: Using a normal distribution curve based on 60 years – which is the suggested maximum survival age here – could tell us the typical mortality rate. Doi: the Friday night prayer book can be viewed as a series of exhortations to be optimistic and to have faith. SF: The thrust of later rabbinic literature is self-improvement as a path to God. PG: Note that records are kept and referred to only once the kingdom of Israel under David – before that the stories were not formally preserved. A writer in about 600 BCE has to evaluate a medley of stories and different traditions and address deeper questions in presenting them. The Redactor is asking “how did we get here?” when the Assyrians are knocking on the door. How did we achieve that exalted status and how have we descended from it.

14:36  Only Joshua and Caleb ultimately survive to enter the land. They proceed without the Ark of the Covenant or Moses and get clobbered at Hormeh. Note that the stories of the patriarchs and those of Solomon and David have many parallels. The glory days of Israel – David and Solomon – are recapitulated followed by descent and loss. The text is establishing a Distant Mirror ala Barbara Tuckman. Events are cast into a literary sphere so as to avoid immediate political confrontations.

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  1. ibritter

     /  June 30, 2012

    To the remark “That patience and struggle are essential elements to the acquisition of faith?” In a previous post by Lou he mentions a book “As a Driven Leaf” by Milton Steinberg. It is a great story that strongly relates to this topic. I draw a conclusion from the main character who tragically discovers through time and a great struggle that we come to better understand that the basis for everything, even axioms in science, is built on faith. A search for great truth ultimately leads back to faith. Unfortunately, as we say, it seems humans sometimes need to learn the hard way. Bob R.

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