Torah Study Notes 9-8-12

August 8, 2012


28:1  provides the context “If you obey the Eternal your God…

28:7  The blessings for the believers. PG: This is standard boilerplate – the rewards that flow from the notion of keeping the faith. But is this just campaign promises?  LL: The best prophets, we have learned, are those who look back. Here this is likely post-exilic. PG: This was likely promulgated two or three generations after the Babylonian captivity. Things are likely going poorly and the writer is looking back to better times – saying they can be restored if faith is regained. We have been given a body of work – instructions as to what needs to be done in order to have a prosperous society. Consider the time of Hezekiah when the Assyrians were knocking on the door and were rebuffed. How was that possible? AF: This brings up the issue of human nature – when times are good they tend to be less attentive to their faith. HF: How do we know when these parts were written? PG: It is theoretical. See “Etched in Stone” which focuses on the Ten Commandments and raises this same question. The author argues that it is virtually impossible to decide conclusively when any of this text was put to paper. You have to find an event, concept or neologisms that suggests a date. One can also argue from silence – the absence of mention of some important event or concept. We also look at writing style – with the assumption that an archaic style denotes an older date. But sometime writers adopt an archaic style which makes dating even more difficult. We find it logical to find the Deuteronomist text to have been written toward the end of the Davidic Kingdom of Judah. The narrative sets this with Moses speaking to the Israelites prior to living on the land. But much had transpired since that time and the writer/redactor is well aware of that. This text, it is believed, becomes widely distributed only after the return from exile. LL: This all suggests the importance of the written word at the time. It was so rare as to have an elevated status in society. PG: Note that there are instances in the text where God speaks to Moses and Moses speaks to the people but tells them something else. The Torah is a very sophisticated writing that starts with two different versions of creation. We are told, in effect, that truth is not the mapping of Torah in a literal way – it is an interactive process of exploration.

28:13  Do not turn to the worship of other gods. What does deviating to the right or left mean? It could have originally been an agrarian term about keeping the oxen in a straight path.

28:15 Now with the curses that arise from disobedience. This is a reiteration of the negative of the blessings that were given earlier.  LL: This is setting up a dangerous idea: that only the righteous and holy will succeed. There were strains of Protestants that equated earthly success with sanctity and the Satmar’s accused the rest of the Jews of loss of faith as a reason for for the Holocaust. AF: There is also a suggestion of the slave mentality here – do your job and you will be rewarded. PG: Keep in mind that at the time this is being promulgated the people were still very aware of the Babylonian experience and were seeking to rebuild. They needed a roadmap. LL: This suggests an elite, literate group that had access to other literature – perhaps a library – who decided that they were going to write a Constitution – almost like the Founding Brothers in the United States. PG: This raises the question as to who was writing and why. Some of them may have been Court writers – Leviticus privileges the priests and Deuteronomy privileges the King. The question was – would the monarchy be restored in the post – exilic period.

28:20  More curses. – in exquisite detail.  This is hyperbolic language but may also describe the situation of the Israelites at the time. The land was devastated – like a dust bowl.

28:25  Oy. But very poetic – almost a literary reflection of the ten plagues. PG: There are literary echoes here from other portions of the Torah. Particularly the descriptions of the suffering of those whose land was taken by the Israelites.

28:36 More of the same hyperbole. This continues through verse 68. We end with verse 69 because a Torah reading should never end with a curse.


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