Torah Study Notes 6-30-12

June 30, 2012
GT: When did the practice multiple wives end among the ancient Jews? PG: There is very little on this in the rabbinic literature. It is generally thought to be at the time of the Babylonian Captivity when they were stripped of their wealth and could no longer afford to have more than one wife. CL: Where does it say marriage is a union of one man and one woman? PG: It doesn’t. Isogesis: Pushing into the text what you want it to mean. As contrasted to exegesis. AF: The Victorian era continued through the 1950s in this country and there are remnants of that continuing today. PG: The Industrial Age resulted in tremendous population growth and poverty in cities. There was a concomitant rise of interest in birth control and at least publically an aversion to expressions of sexuality.
p. 1028
The narrative arc of Torah is coming out of Egypt, crossing the Sinai and coming into the land. With this Torah portion the forty years of wandering is coming to an end.
20:22 The death of Aaron on Mt. Hor. His position as High Priest is passed to his son Eleazar. The issue of priesthood being a matter of personal choice or genealogy has been a continuing debate played out in the Torah. The Levites are thought to be the former – becoming part of a group by choice. The Aaronites are strictly via genealogy. Chasidic houses are often passed to sons-in-law Schneerson is the son in law even though he has retained his fathers name. Neither Moses nor Aaron will be permitted to enter Israel because of the incident of striking the rock at Meribah. PG: Consider professional sports teams. There comes a time when it is no longer in the interest of the team to have a certain person in the game. These decisions are frequently not easy.
20:27 All the house of Israel bewailed Aaron for thirty days. Note that the moving of the vestments to Eleazar was not done publically but was nevertheless accepted by the people. Keep in mind that this is a polished literary text. One could conclude that Aaron was “functionally dead” once his vestments were removed. Notice that the discussion about Aaron’s burial on the mountain parallels that of Moses – except that only God is present at the latter. There are many questions posed by the text that can be utilized homiletically. Sometime it is perhaps better to “die” when the arc of one’s career is over. Consider Jimmy Dean, Elvis and Michael Jackson. Upon hearing of Dean’s death in a car crash Humphrey Bogart is reputed to have said “Good career move.” DeKooning lingered and when his obit was published in the Times everyone said “He was still alive?”
Skip to 21:21 Compare this to the previous. Here there is no intercession or assistance with the military victories – at least patently – from God. This is fundamental – the maturation of the people. They, at this point, are more than ex-slaves. See map on page 1034. The location of the battle with the Amorites is identified. It is notable that they entered the land from the east rather than the west as might be expected for a group coming from Egypt. There is also a likely misunderstanding of geography by the narrators.
21:4 The people complain, God sends serpents to bite them, and Moses make a caduceus so that they can recover by looking at it. There is a certain element of folk lore here. Stories so well known that they cannot be left out; like Washington and the cherry tree. It makes no difference to the author of the text if these things actually occurred.
21:10 We are given an itinerary. How does the author know? There is a book that existed at the time named The Book of the Wars – which is referenced by the writer. Most scholars today understand that the early pre-history of Israel, even at the time of the assembly of the Torah, was legendary and is virtually impossible to connect to hard information.
21:16 They sang a song giving thanks for a well. We no longer have material indicating the origins of this song – which apparently was well known at the time of this redaction. See p. 1032. Next week: The last real narrative in the Torah.

Leave a comment


  1. ibritter

     /  June 30, 2012

    I am intrigued by the mention of the “The Book of Wars.” Curious to know more. BR

  2. ibritter

     /  June 30, 2012

    Found this interesting post relative to “The Book of Gods Wars” –
    I find a corollary to the previous weeks post and the thoughts in particular that I commented on. BR

  3. HI Bob;

    I presume you found the ravkooktorah site after your first comment. I read the essay and found it very interesting. I wish I could make the Rabbi’s Talmud classes and learn more about this. LL


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