Torah Study Notes 10-20-12

October 20, 2012
p. 85
54:1 Noach – LL: Clearly the function of woman in this society is to have children. PG: The society is pro-natal. In Victorian society a sense of prudery was developed to thwart population growth. This is also metaphorical – Israel is the “barren woman.” The use of the word “widow” is problematic for translation. It is closer to “barren” than without a husband. See footnote indicating “abandonment.”
54:5 A continuation of the metaphor – where Israel is now “the wife.” Here punishment occurs when God withdraws His presence because of the sins of the people. Going into exile is only a “moment.” Note the poetry and parallel structure of line 5. This is the use of different words saying the same thing. Adonoi and Elohim are here used interchangeably. See the book “God and the Big Bang” which considers the nature of time and the role of the observer as connected to the six days of creation. Is it acceptable that God has partially destroyed his own creation by use of the flood? Rashi questioned why we need the account of creation at all. PG: Torah is about the relationship between Israel and God. Any relationship starts with the act of creation. But once we posit god as a creator we automatically assume the possibility of destruction. Compare with Zoroastrianism where there is God the creator and God the destroyer. In Buddhism a balance is sought. Judaism accepts that creation/destruction is the reality of a single entity. LL: This is more analogous to a farmer who sees that his field is stricken with ergot. He wants to remove the tainted crop and keep the healthy part. PG: Like the process of maturation in the individual – a society matures and internalizes rules of conduct. Also, in these times flood was the perfect metaphor for total destruction.
54:9 Never again. The language of the prophet to the people is meaningful at the time but it is also relevant a thousand years later. LL: But this doesn’t seem to be a promise that was kept in light of the Shoah. PG: See: Evil in Modern Thought by Susan Neiman    which considers the Lisbon earthquake and the Holocaust. Evil is seen in the latter but not the former. CL: The natural event may not be evil but the response or lack of response on the part of government can be construed as evil. Voltaire was arguing, during the Enlightenment, that Man is not all bad.

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