Torah Study Notes 11-3-12

NOTICE TO READERS OF THESE TORAH STUDYPOSTS: The text submitted here is unedited. Corrections and comments are welcome. Generally, the initials shown are an attempt to credit the individual who made a particular point or responded to it. “PG” is Rabbi Paul Golomb. Page references are to Plaut. It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the text but these notes will be more inteligible if read in conjunction with the cited passages.

 November 3, 2012

p. 149
Second Kings: 4:1 “Now a creditor is coming to take away my two sons to be his slaves.” A commentary about justice. It is taking a diffuse event –Sodom and Gomorrah in the Torah portion – and trying to make sense of it. Here it is personalized into an account of a woman’s anguish and questions about the death of her husband. She cries out to Elisha.
4:5 A miracle of oil. Just as justice in Sodom derives from a supernatural force – so does it act here. The first step is going around to all of the neighbors. She is able to call upon her community for support. The destruction of Sodom was brought about via inhospitality. Here that is turned on its head. The community is generous for the sake of an individual. The phrase “the man of God” refers to a member of a band of spiritualists who engaged in ecstatic practices. We use the word “prophet” but that is a problematic word in referring to this group. Amos said “I am neither a prophet or the son of a prophet.” These figures appear throughout. SN: What is the significance of the non-public aspect of this event?PG:  That is unclear. LL: Perhaps there was a social stigma attached to publically asking for and expecting assistance.
4:8 Special treatment for a man of God. One of the ways these special people were identified may have been as to how their hair was cut – a tonsorial. Elisha was called to “orders” by Elijah – of whom we know virtually nothing. He does not wear the tonsorial but was recognized as having prophetic ability. See footnote 9. This echoes the Torah portion where Abraham runs out of his tent and offers strangers a meal. It is unknown which of the accounts came first and so which drew upon the other. See Michael Fishbane at the University of Chicago – who writes on biblical interpretation within scripture:
4:11 An exact reference or adaptation to the story of Sarah. The boy born to the otherwise barren woman “dies” and she seeks out the man of God who predicted that she would have a son. Note that here it is the husband who sees limitations to divinity and the wife who is the believer – just the opposite of Sarah and Abraham.
4:23 The Mishna tells us that Ghazi is one of the people who will find no place in the afterlife. His conduct is questionable.
4:31 The boy sneezes and opens his eyes. The life force of Elisha is imparted to the child. Also, appears to be ancient CPR. Ghazi says that the child has not awakened – not that he is dead. What is the significance of sneezing seven times? The expulsion of the demon or whatever was choking off the life of the child. Again, one can ask the question: why is this woman favored whereas the sons of other mothers will die. This is the ambiguity, the uncertainty, of life.
Remember that God has disappeared as an active presence after the “still small voice.” See Jack Miles book God: a Biography: ” See also Friedman The Hidden Face of God.

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