Torah Study Notes 9-15-2012

September 14, 2012
P, 1375
29:28 The distinction between the actor’s intent and his action. Ones thoughts are a matter for God. This verse represents a kind of transformation in how the text addresses the reader. Some commentators suggest it may have been a footnote that became embodied in the text. Action may reframe our views of the past. CL: Our efforts to understand the human condition and our motivations are part of who we are. It is built in to us as mammals to consider motivation. PG: A rock comes through the window. We want to know how that happened. Was it accidental or intentional? The issue now is justice. The person has to pay for the window or if intentional there will be an additional penalty. This sentence suggests that the Torah will be the basis for social organization that incorporates a system of justice. This passage reminds us that we cannot play God by pretending to enter the mind of another person. See the new film “The Master” which has a theme of human limitations. The framework for the system is critical – for Islamists the perfect society is that during the ten year rule of Muhammad after he returned from the Hegira.
30:1 A pious hope in the years 550 to 500 where the writers are seeking to return to their land from Babylonia. This would have also been important to the Zionists. But for 1800 years the Jews were waiting for a divine act that would signal the return to the land. In 1900 98% of religious Jews were opposed Zionism – it was not seen as God’s plan. The Orthodox are deeply concerned about the implications of history. Those who opposed Zionism were concerned that Jews would be perceived as not loyal to their country in Europe. But what did it mean when the Messiah came? Was that a new beginning or an end of days? AF: This also talks about the Diaspora – which it is suggested by some thinkers became the basis for the survival of the Jews. SF: How does this apply to us here and now? This is more than a geographic issue. PG: This is about the process of thinking and what motivates us. CL: Several cultures did survive. The Greek culture continues to influence us. PG: Also Iran and Egypt are struggling with modern Islam and their pre-existing cultures. Dumont is saying that the Jews were saved by not having a geographic nation that could be destroyed. (LL: This is also true with terrorist groups like Al Quida.) PG: The identity of the Jews is sustained by community – whether in Israel or here. SF: In Kabalistic and Mussar ( practices it is understood that “the return” is about building relationships with other people and hence establishing a community. PG: See:  “Imagined Communities” by Benedict Anderson.( Buber insists that we are sustained by real communities – not imagined ones. That is why he became a Zionist. Judaism is more than theology. AF: For most people their community is really their families. PG: Family can represent a genuine community but we don’t use that term in discussing family. Family is more encapsulated – smaller – than community. LL: There are many communities – take the Red Sox Nation for example. In a modern society we belong to many communities. PG: Yes and virtually all of them are imagined. PG: A people has to move from tribalism to states and then to nations. In this country we had tribal violence as well – between two English speaking peoples in the American Revolution. And later between the North and South in the Civil War. (See Daniel J. Elazar’s excellent essay on the influence of the Diaspora on Jewish political thought at:
30:6 What does the word “delight” mean here?? PG It is something different than the delight of human beings. LL: There are several places in the Torah where the reaction of God is mentioned – even how God “feels.” I find this anthropomorphism interesting because it suggests the goals of the redactors.

Leave a comment


  1. ibritter

     /  September 15, 2012

    So are we to be judged by action alone? If we’re not to pretend to enter the mind of the actor, and consider their motivation, it seems we give up a critical aspect by which to consider the actions.
    It seems like these study notes are covering very different subjects as the topic of community also comes into play. I find a bit difficult to follow, which is what I get by not being in the room, however, interesting non-the-less. Thank you again Lew!

  2. This is a difficult passage Bob. If we were to read it literally it does appear that we are not permitted to consider motivations – that we judge based on acts alone. However,we all seek explanatons for actions – ranging from “cause and effect” to intent. Obviously, intent is an important aspect of modern criminology. Ultimately however we can only speculate on an actors intent based on circumstantial evidence – and hope we get it right. PG suggest that this is a fundamental step – the distinction betwen act and actor’s intent – in creating a just society.


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: