Torah Study Notes 7-14-12

July 14, 2012
PG: Chapter 28 through the end of this portion is going to be very repetitious. This is like a theme from the music of Phillip Glass where the left hand is always playing the same thing but there are extraordinary changes – dissonant harmonies. Consider the paintings of Jackson Pollack or Monet’s Water Lilies. We are no longer dealing with narratives or the personalities that tend to make an interesting story.
p. 1081
28:12 This is a burnt offering with a pleasing odor – as if God has a nose. The phrase is likely a colloquialism referring to acceptance or finding favor. Into the 19th C. the moral and the beautiful were deemed to be intertwined. Only in the 19th C. there is a change and refined individuals can be evil in literature. Theodore Adorno ( said that poetry died in the ovens of Auschwitz. Our ability to make esthetic judgments was, he argues, destroyed. ML: Why is this kind of sacrifice so important in the early stages of Judaism? PG: The relationship to the gods was always in the context of sacrifice and offering. Now it is in the context of prayer – the expression of words. LL: In an agrarian society it makes sense that the offering would be food – a central component of that society.PG: The prophets – who came later – subversively challenged the notion of sacrifice as propitiation – the gods were dangerous and needed to be placated. Sacrifice was a way of seeking protection. The essential narrative of the wilderness is the movement from Pharaoh as god to a new God. Finally there is an Israel that never knew Pharaoh. These changes do not happen quickly. This God is more interested in conduct than punishment. Consider the Norway massacre – was this just the act of a crazy person or did it arise out of a dark dank corner of Norwegian culture? Hegel and Marx want to argue that the opposing poles of a dialectic move toward a resolution. That is the tension between individual responsibility and leadership. Jeremiah and Micah harp on this: “love justice, show mercy, and walk humbly before God.” If everyone did that there would be no need for kings. Note again that God disappears from this narrative with the still small voice of Elijah. ML: But how do you explain religious radicalism – particularly in Islam? PG: This has not been a successful or victorious civilization since the 1500’s. By the 1800s the entire Muslim world was subjected to foreign domination. LL: It depends on how victory is defined. One can win by outnumbering the opposition. PG: It takes a tremendous effort to be Haredi in Israel and elsewhere. In a family of 7 only four at most might remain in the culture. As a percentage of Israeli Jews there has been little change in their presence since the founding of Israel. Living a counter-culture life is very difficult. DC: Belonging to a Temple is difficult – in a sense we are not part of mainstream culture. Outside of the Haredi all of modern Judaism is a reform – ranging from Reformed to neo-orthodox. They are all adaption strategies. See Rabbi’s posted essay “Real Jews.” To be a Jew is to live in the real world whereas the Haredi must withdraw from the real world. AF: What is the difference between fanatical religiosity and an addiction? They seem very similar to me. PG: There are organizations that assist Haredi dropouts. There is rarely bitterness and recrimination. The Haredi family cuts them out – they cannot be accommodated. See the film “A Price Above Rubies” with Renee Zellweger. ( which addresses this subject.
28:3 The specifics of the offering. AF: I thought that the priests ate the sacrifice. PG: Yes, some of the sacrifices – that were not totally consumed – were shared among the priests and their families. Once the Temple was destroyed the practice of sacrifice atrophied and prayer became the standard method to reach out to God. There may have been a similar transformation starting after the destruction of the first Temple but after a few generations the people were restored to the land. Also, the priesthood remained in high regard after the destruction of the first temple. Prior to the destruction of the second temple there was the Maccabean Revolt and a general dissatisfaction with the priesthood on the part of a significant swath of the Jewish population. Note the synagogue at Masada that was erected while the second Temple was still in existence. AF: Were early Christians actually all Jews? PG: There was a diverse group of people who believed in one god. It wasn’t until 370 that the Christian world became defined as separate from a Jewish world. There were divisions early on – primarily between Jews who had become Hellenized and those who were more orthodox.
28:7 More detail on the offering. LL: Consider the kosher market that used to be in Poughkeepsie on the corner of North Perry and Main St. ML: That was the Hecht Market – Miriam Segal’s grandfather.
28:9 Moving from sacrifice to liturgy involves the creation of a service. Consider Amos – from the early 700s who rails against the merchants who are punctilious about keeping the Sabbath but cheat their customers the next day. A few hundred years later Jeremiah rails against the merchants who are doing business on the Sabbath – and the same with Nehemiah a few hundred years after that. These are sociological snapshots – changing views of what it meant to work on Shabbat. In the time of Jeremiah merchants no longer considered buying and selling to be work in the sense of laboring in the fields. In the early 3d C the Mishnah lists the activities that are defined as work. But if you are not doing one of the specified items it isn’t work. Even the proscribed items can be acceptable where required for your health and well being – and are done publically so as to indicate that you know you are technically violating the law but there is some kind of emergency.

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1 Comment

  1. ibritter

     /  July 14, 2012

    Maybe a “Price Above Rubies” would be good for film night…
    I’d be interested in more on the subject of the priests consumption of the sacrifice. Did they view it as compensation? What is the justification for them sharing it with non-priests (family and friends)? If others were starving how is it moral for the sacrifice not to be given as charity. Wouldn’t that be more “Godly?”


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