Torah Study Notes 8-25-12

August 25, 2012
p. 1298
18:9 Moses tells the people not to pay attention to soothsayers, etc. This is preparatory to telling them about prophets and how to tell which one is real.
18: 15 How to tell who is a true prophet. They who foretell accurately what will happen. We need such individuals in any society. But see the story of Thais as well as the film “Simon and the Desert” by Luis Bunuel. How do we know which oracle is true – or just a voice in one’s head. LL: We have futurologists in our society and they perform a useful function – but they are not linked to any deity. PG: Talking about the future is always a jump from perceptual reality. Where does such information come from? Perhaps induction from the past. Where does perspicacity come from – an evaluative system. Eventually you have to come to the ghost in the machine and decide what you want to call it – “the unknown” or “the spiritual.” EL: How long do we wait before determining if a prophecy will come true? DC: Today we do not use priests or prophets in Judaism. PG: The Age of Prophecy is over. It is no longer necessary. The meta rules are in place – not just the list of 612 Rules. There is no law saying that one must be compassionate. That is a meta-rule and there are many others. RR: Is it significant that this was compiled in the exilic and post exilic period? PG: Yes, in the sense that they were warned before. There is a prophet in Pogo who is unerringly correct because he always relies on the past. CL: Once printing was invented and the Protestant Reformation occurred there was a growth of belief in a direct physical contact with God. Christianity is very varied and is constantly throwing up new prophets – many of them false.
19:1 Set aside three cities – so that any male killer may have a place to flee to. The example of the ax handle. PG: The cities of refuge are also mentioned in the Book of Numbers. RR: Deuteronomy seems to have a lot of loose ends. Did the cities of refuge still exist after the return from exile? PG: We don’t know if they ever really existed. The notion of jail is fundamentally that one can be rehabilitated and forgiven. But society really is not amenable to that.
19:8 When you receive all the land and obey my instructions you can add three more cities to the total to the cities of refuge – which are six in the book of Numbers.
PG: The first thing a prophet does is establish his bona fides by establishing his relationship to God. If they urge the worship of other Gods – something patently immoral – they are not a real prophet. The listener knows what truth is. The prophet is helping you find a truth that may be repressed.
19:11 The role of the blood avenger and moving one’s neighbors landmarks. Who determines guilt? There were judges – elders of the town- but in this instance it is not the state that is executing the miscreant it is the blood avengers. There appears to be no administrative bureaucracy. The Rabbinic literature addresses issues such as capital punishment by making it very, very difficult. Also, once the penal system was fully developed the felon could be incarcerated for life – execution without the axe. The law of Torah is Lex Talionis. The Rabbi’s deal with this by designing compensation for the injured party or their kin. In order to be executed premeditation must be found. The word “rocsach” in Hebrew is used for both murder and execution. The Rabbi’s: To determine that an execution is just the murder must acknowledge that he knew it was wrong and have two witnesses. But there is a lesser punishment – including incarceration where those high standards are not met.
Next Saturday: Lillian Weigert’s wedding in Massachusetts.

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