Torah Study Notes 10-13-12

October 13, 2012
What is Haftarah? Generally readings from the Prophets. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haftarah The latter prophets are Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel. There are a total of twelve, the oldest being Amos. All of the rest of Hebrew Scripture was included in the canon sometime after the advent of the Christian era. Two thousand years ago Jews did not go to the synagogue to pray. There were separate Houses of Prayer. Sometime after the destruction of the Second Temple the tradition of prayer in the synogogue developed. Before that one went to the Temple to hear readings and to assemble and to hear preaching. The Babylonian Jewish practice was to create a fixed cycle for Torah readings and to do an entire reading in the course of a year. There was always a section of prophets read – this is the Haftarah. In Luke there is an account of Jesus being invited to read Torah and then to select a Haftarah reading. He selected a portion from Isaiah. The Torah reading was fixed based on where they were in the cycle. Today’s portion is read with Genesis. The tradition of annual cycle is now almost universally used. Torah was sometime read on market days – Mondays and Thursday – but only a portion of the full readings.
42:5 Second Isaiah. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Isaiah
“Thus says the Eternal God…” This is the role of the Prophets – to speak the words of God. Note that the first four verses do not appear here. One has to refer to the Tanach for the full text. This was written about 540 BC – just prior to their return to the land and the collapse of the Babylonian empire. The return to the land is the focus of the prophet. Note that this section begins with creation – which is the same as the Torah portion that is read at this time. The listener would make that association immediately. There is also a commentary here on the Torah reading in the reference to Light to the Nations – redolent of “let there be light.” Isaiah has seen the alliance of the Persians and the Medes and understands that this signaled the downfall of Mesopotamia. He also recognized that the Persians would not see the Jews as a threat and would allow them to return. Note that some scholars believe there was a third Isaiah who authored the latter verses.
42:8 It appears that the Prophet – in the midst of his speaking – breaks out into song. This is very psalm- like. The word “Eternal” here is obscure. Although it is usually Adonoi the vocalization may have suggested the forbidden/ineffable name of God – Yehweh. Moses likely used the same vocalization. There must have been a standard pronunciation. This may also have been a portal to God’s name. When you name something you confine or limit it – hence one should not name God.
42:13 The Eternal goes out like a warrior… I cry out like a woman in labor… The Woman’s Commentary does not yet cover Haftarah. Here God is smoothing the path to the land.
42:18 The Babylonian exile – per this prophet – came about because of the fault of the people – their idolatry. Note the half-tone word in line 24 of the Hebrew. This is called “Krita ‘ tive” where a word is written one way but is to be vocalized another way. See also verse 20 half tone. The texts were known by hearing them – accordingly the writer is signaling that the words are to be pronounced in the traditional manner.
43:1 This would have been resonant to the exiles but also to Jews living along the Rhine in 1100 CE. Recall that we are reading this text as a reflection on creation but now the focus is on return from exile – a new birth and beginning.
Next week: Noah

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