Torah Study Notes 7-28-12

July 28, 2012
p. 1166
Deuteronomy is presented to us as one long speech by Moses. The “I” is generally Moses but at times he is quoting God. He recaps the travels through the wilderness. There is little here that is taken from elsewhere in the Torah. Consider Exodus 19 where God is speaking to Moses and then Moses speaks to the Israelites – presumably what God said but with slight differences. In putting something in your own words you are inevitably putting yourself into the message. You become an editor or a “translator.” There is also a theological element: whatever Moses understands is only a portion of what God can reveal. The very act of communication is always partial to the listener. Did the Deuteronomist know all of this? Even if he did he has treated the material with humility rather than arrogance. ML: Was all of this derived from an oral tradition? PG: Generally, but there is a core of actual experience – this is true of every writer. Whoever is putting pen to the paper in the Torah is confident that they are recording the will of God – it is not created from their own experiential reality.
46: Passing through the lands of Esau. SN: This is redolent of the beginning of Exodus with the conflict between Jacob and Esau. Clearly a sense of mistrust still persists. PG: A useful observation. The difference is between pre and post exilic writings. The text here requires the respect of the territory of Esau. This is a change from the book of Numbers where the Israelites want to cross the land but it is not permitted. The unspoken part of this is that the Edomiites must respect your territory – which they did not do during the Babylonian invasion. The Edomiites took Israeli land at that time. Post-exilic Esau therefore becomes more of a villain. AF: Does this suggest that the descendents of Esau have their own covenant with God? PG: No, Only that their integrity will be preserved. God at this point is only working with one family. God has started with all of humanity with Adam and Eve. That didn’t work. Similarly, all the descendents of Noah. That didn’t work either. Now he is focused on one family. Buber puts it nicely: the history of the Jews is the history of humanity. LL with a smile: Has God’s plan worked the third time? SN: It’s looking apocalyptic. PG: These experiments take a long time.
Note that the organizers of this text are evoking a legendary past – just as we do in tales of dragons. Batman wears a cape. No one wears capes any more. We use the past not to return to the past but to give guidance to the future. This is like a fugue where the voices are ever changing. CL: During the Renaissance there was a great revival of interest in the Old Testament. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is in accordance with your suggestion as to the importance of the Garden of Eden and the story of Noah. LL: The Sistine Chapel is constructed on the basis of God’s instruction for the building of the Temple of Solomon. See:
AF: I lived in Morocco for a year and a half and was very impressed with the way the Koran was taught. There were story tellers who evoked great passion in the listeners. PG: The Koran today is taught chiefly in madrassa’s where the students – generally young men – memorize the text. In some Arab cultures they are permitted to ask questions – much as we are doing today.
8: Do not harass the Moabites… PG: There is a problem here with the chronology. The reference is to the taking of the land as if had already occurred. Note that this is indented to indicate a “flash forward” as an editing technique. This description of how other tribes came to possess their lands reinforces and justifies the claim of the Isrealites. LL: Is there an undercurrent of guilt here – much the way we feel guilt over the displacement of the American Indians? PG: This context again is post-exilic and reflects the loss and recovery of the land by the returning Israelites. One’s ability to settle peaceably on a land requires a pact with God. The Edomites and the Horites might not understand that but the Israelites better. The issue is not a matter of guilt – it is a matter of humility; that possession only occurs via the grace of God. Why did they lose the land in the first place? Because they became arrogant and self-righteous. Then the Babylonians did the same thing.
13: Cross the wadi Zered! Of all the adults who crossed the Red Sea only Moses, Caleb and Joshua remain.
16: There are two way s of understanding “warriors”: anyone over the age of twenty and also as a contentious group. There are repetitions here – likely to emphasize the importance of what is repeated. PG: This has the nature of song – where there is always a chorus. Note the underlying theme: Israel is not intended to possess the world. One can sense in the story of David the notion of a hegemonic power but it is quickly dashed. By the time of post-exile there is no suggestion of hegemony – rather it is survival in a sea of humanity. This is critical in the early Christian era where there was a suggestion of a new covenant and the growth of hegemonic thinking as the new faith became identified with Rome. This thinking was rejected by Israel. The emphasis of Judaism is on people-hood rather than universality as in Catholicism.

Leave a comment


  1. No apologies needed. You do great Lou. I don’t make the sessions and your notes give me some sense of Torah study every week which i appreciate!

  2. By the way, “with a smile” was a nice touch.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: