Torah Study Notes 12-29-12

A NOTE TO READERS: HAPPY NEW YEAR!
December 29, 2012
p. 323
Fratricidal relations are the norm on the book of Genesis. The principal purpose of the ending is to bring these problems to an end. Consider the blessing “May you be like Ephraim and Manasseh.” http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/520258/jewish/Why-do-we-bless-our-sons-to-be-like-Ephraim-and-Manasseh.htm
2:1 This is written toward the end of the Kingdoms – Nebuchadnezzar is knocking on the door. Two things are being established: that there has been sufficient loyalty to Torah to sustain David on the throne but the continuation of the line is dependent on the continuation of that loyalty. This is an example of the ethical will – passing on the hopes and dreams of the parent to the next generation.
2: 5 Here Solomon is instructed by David to take revenge against Joab for the deaths of Abner and Amasa. Abner was a principle general in Saul’s army. But these murders were arguably done on behalf of David to promote his kingship and here he is asking Solomon take action while he has done nothing about this for his forty year reign. Note that Joab had also killed David’s son Absalom as an exercise in realpolitik when Absalom had seized the throne in a coup. So this appears to be a very Machiavellian proposal. Is it designed to insure Solomon’s place on the throne? David is a very complex figure – a singer and a warrior. Was he trying to cover up the past? Or was this related to his instruction from the first paragraph to do justice. That language was somewhat platitudinous on the surface but here we see that justice is not always mercy – it is sometimes brutal judgment. Torah is asymptotic – it cannot be “kept” only approached and considered. All rabbinic literature recognizes this in pointing out the ways that one can be forgiven for not keeping Shabbat. Or not keeping Jewish Law. Doi: I bought a new stove and in the instructions I found it had a Shabbat Function. PG: Consider a Shabbat elevator that stops at every floor. It would be considered work to push a button. The intent is to create an otherworldly experience – not to adapt to the modern world. Haredi means one who trembles before God – and is arguably a violation of Jewish law and practice. If you lead a separate life you are not trying to bring about the redemption of the world. Note: last night the sermon was about the Women and the Wall. Netanyahu has sent the issue to a committee.
2:7 “Be kind to the family of Barzillai…” LL: “You know what to do with Shim’I” sounds like a statement from The Sopranos. PG: Recognize that the rules of Torah cannot be absolute. We cannot take the Kantian view of categorical imperatives. See: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/
Consider Plato’s/ Socrates dialogue with Euthero. Are the acts of the Gods moral because the Gods do it? Where does morality reside? http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-dilemmas/
This issue is simplified by monotheism – there is no distinction between an act of god and the ethical – they are the same. The question is how we make moral and ethical decision. Here the answer is, as a first step, to live a life of safety and security. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_ethics
LL/

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Some Members Talk About God

HOW SOME MEMBERS OF VASSAR TEMPLE VIEW GOD – Compiled from notes taken by Lou Lewis and Joel Kelson
After morning services on December 8th, 2012 a group of Temple members gathered for a discussion about their personal beliefs in God. This gathering was engendered by an article and survey by Rabbi Mark Shapiro that appeared in a summer issue of the magazine Reform Judaism. Marian Schwartz led the discussion and read Rabbi Shapiro’s preamble to the survey of his own congregation. He concluded that statistics on faith are problematic – but the survey did stimulate good discussion. Reform Judaism magazine will be compiling and publishing the results of a reader survey. See the text of the Survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/thegodsurvey
Present at the discussion were: MS = Marian Schwartz, AF = Alan Fink, SF = Susan Fink, DC = Doi Cohen, ML = Muriel Lampell, RS = Ralph Schwartz, AK = Alan Kaflowitz, JK = Joel Kelson, LL =Lou Lewis, EL = Elaine Lipschutz and “Rabbi” is Rabbi Golomb.
First question: Science explains everything; therefore God is superfluous? JK : This is the notion of the universe as clockwork and doesn’t explain randomness. LL: Science to date has not explained everything. AF: But why are there the laws of physics, etc? RR: Those laws have evolved – quantum mechanics from Newtonian physics. RR: Science is a perception of the universe that keeps changing. SF: Art is a separate realm than science. We are animated by creativity and the unknown. Science does not explain Rothko or Mozart. DC: We create God to explain what we do not understand.
Second Question: We would understand why there is suffering if we could see the complete story. True or false? AF: Evil may be a manifestation of free will. There are things that just happen. LL: This question is actually answered by Darwin’s theory of evolution. There can be no evolution without death and birth. DC: See the children’s version of the Book of Job. Her nine year old granddaughter said “He must have done something bad or he wouldn’t have been punished.” I told her that I had been sick – did that mean I was being punished? She said, ”Yes, you did something wrong.” SF: You cannot eradicate evil or bad things in life. God is not directly involved in the details of our lives. The idea of God is a force for doing good for others. ML: I think that all people need something to hang onto to give them strength – that gives you the ability to get through it all. RS: There are no atheists in a foxhole or in the cancer ward.
Third Question: When did you feel closest to God? Or most distant from God? RR: The grandeur of creation is sublime and engenders a feeling of closeness to God. MS: That was the most common response to the survey. SF: The presence of family and community is part of the feeling that I have of God’s presence. LL: Read Karen Armstrong on the golden rule, compassion, love and community. This is a different view than the traditional anthropomorphic view of the divine. ML: That feeling of community is something that I felt today during services. Worship creates a feeling of community. AF: I remember, as a five year old, attending an Orthodox ceremony with my grandfather – it was another world that sunk in on me. SF: I practice tai chi – I feel like I am in synagogue by focusing, having intentionality, energy, a spark. MS: The notion of a special place seems important – you have to create a space for God to enter. That was probably why Shabbat was created. AK: As a teenager, I went on a religious retreat once with Temple Beth El and expressed my view that I couldn’t believe in something I couldn’t see. When I got home I found that my pet rabbit had died. Somehow I connected the events and felt I may have been punished for my disbelief.
Fourth Question: If you could ask God any question what would it be? AF: Did you have parents? LL: That response raises a cosmological question about the origins of the universe. Wittgenstein said that the core of many of our theological and philosophical problems is the way we pose questions, which are frequently nonsensical. RS: I see God as someone with a great sense of humor. Rabbi – that’s why you image God as George Burns. AF: How can he have knowledge or experience? DC: We created God. RR: Perhaps the image of God as a white-bearded old man is not something we should be teaching our children. AF: Why is the Torah so convoluted? There are five books and fifty books of commentary. MS: This is what we do as Jews. We need to be God wrestlers. EL: We are asking why when we should be asking how. How do we get the strength to deal with life and its vicissitudes? Like the Holocaust. What did it take to survive? AK: Because they could not take away your thoughts or your faith.
Rabbi Golomb: we encounter God philosophically – like the problem of good and evil – and experientially. There are things we can say and things we must be shown. God eludes articulation. The Torah is elliptical and so is our worship. Our words are never sufficient. The critical question is: what do we feel? That feeling can come about in a variety of ways. The question is the authenticity of the experience. Rabbi Golomb then passed out the following quotations from a variety of well known thinkers:
Note to readers – the handout from Rabbi is a PDF and I have been unable to “paste” it into this text. I will try again on Monday.

Torah Study Notes 12-22-12

December 22, 2012
p. 302 The Haftarah of Ezekiel
37:15 ML: Were their synagogues in Babylonia? PG: Yes. See Lee Levine on The Ancient Synagogue: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_I._Levine which covers the existence of synagogues during the Babylonian exile. See Review at: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=4084 The first evidence of the Byzantine style is a synagogue. Dura Europos in Northwestern Syria. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dura-Europos
Ezekial seems to have been a bit of a showman – tossing sticks in the air to draw a crown and attributing the magic to God. There is an element of the union of the two states of Israel and Judah by joining the two sticks. But at the time the tribe of Ephraim is the stand-in for Israel – which had been destroyed by the Assyrians. Ephraim is “lost” or scattered but can be fund. This is one hundred fifty years after the destruction of Israel – the Northern Kingdom – by the Assyrians. Assyria had over-run the Northern Kingdom about 720 BCE but could not seize Jerusalem and withdrew. Those who fled south were identified as northerners living in Judah.
37:20 “I will gather them from all around and bring them back to their soil.” Ezekiel’s priestly family had been taken to Babylonia in 597 BCE. See Michael Fishbane’s book on biblical interpretation within the Bible itself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Fishbane This is not only a prayer for unity but also a recounting of the sins of the people. Eventually they returned from exile and did reoccupy the land. Torah is writings from roughly 900 to 300 BCE – the breakup of the Davidian kingdom through the period of exile. Some of the prophetic readings are pre-Davidian – like Amos, Hosea, first Isaiah. Samuel and Kings is the Deuteronomic history. LL: Consider the availability of Canaanite and pre-Canaanite artifacts which suggest the gradual erosion of those cultures rather than total military destruction. PG: The first complete Torah scroll is thought to have dated from the time of Ezra – about 500 BCE. Imagine the culture clash that was likely to have occurred when the exiles returned from Persia and told those who had remained that the exiles were now in charge. The Persian/Hebrew Torah included the Book of Joshua. But that book was deemed too militaristic for the Babylonians who wanted to discourage any return to the land. Zion is emphasized in the Deuteronomic history but it is Sinai – where the law is portable – that becomes important in the remainder of the Torah. LL: Is their any reason to believe that a civilization of laws could not have developed from a polytheistic root? Consider India and Hinduism. PG: I think that monotheisim was an important part of the development of the polis and civilization. It contains the notion that God is the giver of laws and they are not arbitrary. The danger of monotheism is that righteousness can become self-righteousness. There is a wonderful Midrash that contends that at the base of Sinai each person saw God as if in a mirror – themselves. PG: There is no question that religion has been a placating influence in the world. CL: Not so much during the Middle Ages when the Catholic Church was very strong but all of the kings and their relations were very warlike. PG: There was a demographic aspect to this. Pope Urban’s call for the Crusades was basically a reaction to a large population increase in Europe “let’s get the kids out of the house before they do more damage here.”

Five Statements About Gun Violence

1. Firearms are dangerous. The exclusive purpose of a loaded gun is to do damage. While probative reasons can be brought forward regarding the possession of firearms, it remains irrefutable that all they can do is mar, hurt, destroy or kill.

2. The principal beneficiary of limiting restrictions on firearms is not gun owners or collectors, but rather gun manufacturers and dealers. Short of an absolute ban on non-police or military possession of firearms, people who wish to own a gun will do so, and collectors can amass their collection. Anything, however, that makes the possession of certain guns, or guns in general, more difficult simply restrains the market for a manufacturer or dealer. They have the most to lose from such restrictions.

3. The most efficient way to facilitate gun sales is to promote paranoia. All marketing is based on developing or maintaining a need. When an item is a clear (even if marginal) benefit, the task might be straightforward. In the case of items whose disabilities are at least as strong as their benefits, the marketing usually has to be indirect. Cigarettes and beer are (or had been) promoted because they might increase one’s attractiveness or social desirability; gambling, because, as New York Lottery reminds us, “Hey, you never know.” The argument for guns boils down to “they are out to get you.”

This line of argument can be very successful. As the old joke goes, “Just because you are paranoid, that doesn’t mean they are not out to get you.” It is nonetheless in the interest of gun marketers to massage our natural fears regarding loss and injury as much as possible.

4. Few are guilty, but everyone is responsible. Make no mistake about it. Although a single disturbed individual took it upon himself to kill his mother and then to fire multiple times into first and second grade classrooms, everyone of us has some measure of responsibility for the tragedy. A tiny amount of that responsibility is what each of us could have done to prevent it from happening. Much larger, however, is what we do now.

Responsibility does not fall evenly on everyone. I would suggest that the first burden falls on those who feel that current gun control regulations are sufficient or should even be loosened. It is incumbent upon them to show that the deaths of twenty six and seven-year-olds justifies the status quo. If no compelling and empirically sound argument is forthcoming (keep in mind statement 3 above), then they are also have the responsibility to join with the rest of us in thinking about serious changes to the availability of firearms.

* * *

5. The tragic shooting in Newtown, CT, occurred in a week in which the Torah portion was the episode in the book of Genesis in which Joseph is pulled out of the royal prison in order to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Rabbinic commentators note that the meaning of the dreams were hardly difficult to discern. They suggest that Pharaoh’s counselors should have had no problem doing so. What was difficult, however, was coming up with a plan to do something about it.

I am quite confident that absolutely nobody is defending the terrible misuse of firearms that happened on that tragic Friday morning, or even the numerous similar, if less horrific, incidents that show up periodically in local and national news. The strongest defenders of gun ownership will often argue that there are already thousands of gun regulations on the books, but that many of them are poorly conceived or erratically enforced. On these points, I believe they are correct. Some regulations are very ineffective in getting firearms out of the hands of those most likely to misuse them.

The debate must then be not on regulation versus no regulation, but rather on what has the best chance of working. On this point, pointing to faults and problems, and not working toward solutions is simply irresponsible. We all know the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams; we all must be like Joseph, and work to ameliorate death and loss.

Rabbi Paul Golomb
December 16, 2012

Torah Study Notes 12-15-12

NOTE TO READERS: FOR SOME MYSTERIOUS REASON I MISDATED LAST WEEKS TORAH STUDY NOTES. THAT HAS NOW BEEN CORRECTED.

 

December 15, 2012

p. 284

The prophetic reading for Chanukah is at the back of the book. We are not doing that today. Because of the vagaries of the Jewish calendar this Haftarah portion today does not usually come during the holiday.  The Torah portion deals with the dreams of Joseph.

3:15 “…it was a dream” the content of the dream appears in the Book of Kings. But this is also the connection to the Torah portion. The dream of Solomon was God’s appearance before him and the promise that he would be the wisest of kings and build a temple. This is almost a Freudian analysis of dreams – an effort to connect them to reality. Leaving out the magical element of pharaohs’ dreams – it makes sense that he would be anxious about the possibility of bad times – famine, pestilence etc.

3:16  Two prostitutes present themselves.  Note that by virtue of being prostitutes this accounts for the absence of men or other family in the household.

3:22  LL: This story is very polished and complete. Does it have antecedents? PG: It is polished but they had plenty of time to polish it. There were likely a body of David and Solomon stories – folk literature – to pick from.

3:26 Note the connection of the “churning with compassion” language with the Torah portion of Joseph encountering Benjamin. RR: Note also the legal framework for the story – appearance before a judge, the giving of testimony, a test by ordeal, a decision, etc. CL: In Chinese history there is a shift during the Zhou dynasty from the telling of myths to the telling of tales featuring legendary super-heroes – and then to a more naturalistic history – flawed humans – in the Han dynasty. PG: There are analogies to this shift from super-hero to humanistic history in the ancient middle east as well. Scripture is a form of anthropology in miniature.  We see that in the differences in recounting ages as we move through the Torah. We move from Abraham – who does extraordinary things – to the more realistic, moderate tales of Isaac and Jacob and Joseph. There are constant dyads: Solomon as compared to David, Jacob and Esau,  Elisha as compared to the other prophets, etc. We see a legendary past moving into a natural present. See Gary Rendsburgh’s work on the Bible as literature. http://jewishstudies.rutgers.edu/faculty/core-faculty-information/gary-a-rendsburg

PG:  Allegorical antecedents are often created in order to stem perceived cultural disintegration – an effort to restore founding principles, at least as seen by the constructor of the tale. The creation of the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob literature – as well as Joseph – is created after the unification of the north and south of Israel. It shows  a commonality – the people to be one people. This was around the year circa 900 BCE. Consider the battle over the past sixty years about the efficacy of the New Deal. Should we follow a Keynesian model or Reaganomics. The argument for today is centered around how you frame the 1930s.  Note also the Jewish references in Cat Ballou or Mel Brooks Blazing Saddles where an Indian meeting a wagon train speaks Yiddish.

Mishnaic texts also have a story of two people holding onto a shawl who appear before a court claiming they each found it. The court declares that the shawl should be cut in half. Or that one pay the value of half to the other in order to keep it. LL: This is like a law school problem. Change one fact and see how that happens to impact the outcome. Here the baby becomes a shawl. And a different solution is acceptable.

Solomon is shown to be worthy of being King because of his wisdom. David was king because of his military prowess. Again, we see a social evolution – perhaps a movement to law and order and what we might term civilization.

LL/

 

Torah Study Notes 12-8-12

December 8, 2012
Haftarah from The Book of Amos. The Torah analog is the story of Joseph and his brothers. We are here introduced to the prophet Amos who is believed to have authored his “book” about 750 BCE. Some scholars think it was written all at once. His Cassandra-like predictions are remembered because they came true. See the book “This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly” by economist Ken Rogoff – a cousin of Paul Golomb. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Rogoff
p. 263
2:6 Thus says the eternal… Amos uses the rhetorical device of attacking Israel’s neighbors verbally – and then attacking Israel itself. The connection to the Torah portion is “,,,they sell the innocent for silver…” which recalls the sale of Joseph to the Egyptians.
2::9 The Amorites were a region within the kingdom of the Canaanites. ML: What exactly is he trying to say? See footnote 8. PG: When times are good we feel somewhat smug and take credit for things that we did not do. See Daniel Kahnman’s Book “Thinking Fast and Slow.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking,_Fast_and_Slow on two modes of thought. The critique that both Islam and Christianity make against ancient Israel is the constant back-sliding of the Israelites. The lesson to the Jews is that faith does not come easily – grasping a new idea can be problematic. Wittgenstein said “We never remember when we had pain.” CL: The period 800/600 BCE is much debated by historians – both Egyptian and Greek cultures were fallow in terms of the creation of art.. PG: That is intriguing. Richard Eliot Friedman talks about the 600 year leaps in the development of religious thought. LL: Talib in his book “The Black Swan” said that, statistically, if something bad can happen it will. So if you prophesy bad times you will eventually be right 100% of the time.
2:12 Amos sees the Assyrians massing on the border of Israel. DC: This reminds me of the right wing religious types today who say we will be punished for violation of God’s law. PG: The critiques today comes from both extremes – the left points to social injustice and the right to personal immorality. The basis for the reduction in crime over the past decades is attributable to the “baby bust.” The percentage of people in their teens and early twenties went down so crime went down. LL: That bodes ill for China since they are having a boom of male babies – and young men are responsible for most crimes.
3:1 People of Israel… The chosen people have a greater responsibility. This last section is quite significant. But why does the Haftarah end where it ends? Because that is what the writer really want you to hear. The greater obligation of the Jews is the central message here.
3:3 This is emphasizing the law of cause and effect. When you see an effect one posits a cause. There has been much written (Aristotle and Hume) about cause. Hume argued that we are too facile in making connections between perceived effect and cause. Remember the toilet flushing scene in “All of Me” where the swami associates the flush with the ringing phone. Emmanuel Kant argued that cause and effect is in our minds – not external. The connection is something we create. LL: Isn’t that how we create God? We see things we cannot understand by making/assuming a causal connection. PG: This notion applies to metaphysics as well as observed reality.
3:6 This is the crux of the lesson. Cause and effect here is attributed to God. The moral and metaphysical are connected as well. DC: Amos is somewhat self serving here in saying that God speaks only through his prophets. PG: Later, Amos, who is from Jerusalem, is challenged on this point by the priests in the north. That is when he says “I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet.” He is referring to the guild of prophets – those recognized by society as such. Amos is a person who is impelled to speak – the spirit has moved him. The classic political perception of those in power is that things are good – or getting better. To the challenger they a bad and getting worse. LLant: Could we ever live in a utopia and, if so, for how long. PG: Both Micah and Isaiah talk about the end of days when every man shall sit beneath his fig tree and practice war no more. This is a Buddhist concept but they talk about the obliteration of the self. The result is abandonment of the world and being “no place” – which is a literal translation of “utopia.” The Hindu sees life as a wheel – where everything happens in cycles.
Later: After morning services – a discussion of personal beliefs in God as engendered by an article and survey by Rabbi Mark Shapiro that appeared in a summer issue of the magazine Reformed Judaism. Miriam Schwartz read his preamble to the survey of his own congregation. He concluded that statistics on faith are problematic – but the survey did stimulate good discussion. Reform Judaism magazine will be compiling and publishing the results of a reader survey.
First question: Science explains everything therefore God is superfluous? LL: Science to date has not explained everything. AF: But why are there the laws of physics, etc? RR: Science itself has evolved – quantum mechanics from Newtonian physics. RR: Science is a perception of the universe that keeps changing. Susan F: Art is a separate realm than science. We are animated by creativity and the unknown.
Second Question: We would understand why there is suffering if we could see the complete story? True or false. AF: Evil may be a manifestation of free will. There are things that just happen. LL: This question is actually answered by Darwin’s theory of evolution. There can be no evolution without death and birth. DC: See the children’s version of the Book of Job. Her nine year old granddaughter said “He must have done something bad or he wouldn’t have been punished.” SF: You cannot eradicate evil or bad things in life. God is not directly involved in our lives. ML: I think that all people need something to hang onto to give them strength – that gives you the ability to get through it all. RS: There are no atheists in a foxhole.
Third Question: When did you feel closest to God? Or most distant from God? RR: The grandeur of creation is sublime. MS: That was the most common response to the survey. SF: The presence of community is part of the feeling that I have of God’s presence. LL: Read Karen Armstrong on the golden rule, compassion, love and community. This is a different view than the traditional anthropomorhic view of the divine. ML: That feeling of community is something that I felt today during services. Worship creates a feeling of community. AF: I remember, as a five year old, attending an Orthodox ceremony with my grandfather – it was another world that sunk in on me. SF: I practice tai chi – I feel like I am in synagogue by focusing, having intentionality, energy, a spark. MS: The notion of a special place seems important – you have to create a space for God to enter. That was probably why Shabbat was created. AK: I went on a religious retreat once with Temple Beth El and expressed my view that I couldn’t believe in something I couldn’t see. When I got home I found that my pet rabbit had died. Somehow I connected the events.
Forth Question: If you could ask God any question what would it be? AF: Did you have parents? LL: That is a cosmological question about the origins of the universe. RS: I see God as someone with a great sense of humor. AF: How can he have knowledge or experience? DC: We created God. AF: Why is the Torah so convoluted? MS: We need to be God wrestlers. EL: We are asking why when we should be asking how. How do we get the strength to deal with life and its vicissitudes. Like the Holocaust. What did it take to survive. AK: Because they could not take away your thoughts or your faith.
LL/

Torah Study Notes 12-1-12

December 1, 2012
NOTE TO READERS. TODAY’S HAFTARAH READING IS FROM PLAUT’S HAFTARAH COMMENTARY – A SEPARATE VOLUME PUBLISHED AS A COMPANION TO PLAUT’S MAIN VOLUME.
Prophetic readings are not universal between Ashkenazi and Sephardic congregations. Sometime it is a question of where to begin and end but in others it is a completely different reading. The Ashkenazi typically read a portion of Hosea covering Israel and Edom whereas the Sephardim read Obadiah. This is from Obadiah and we start with p. 83 in the Plaut Haftarah Commentary – created as a companion to the original Haftarah commentary. Obadiah is twenty-one verses. These verses are suspected to be the only survivors of what was likely a longer text. Obadiah means “servant of God” and may just be descriptive.
1:1 This is the vision of Obadiah… do battle against Edom. This is part of the retranslation of the OT in 1962 – The translator has used italics instead of quotation marks. The use of “her” as an identifier for Edom is a correct translation from the Hebrew. Note: It is likely that Jerusalem has already fallen to Nebuchadnezzar at the time this was written. Edom had joined Babylonia and was rewarded by given possession of the Erevat (sp?). This was seen by many factions as a betrayal.
1:5 Note the irony in the notion that thieves and gleaners will leave something behind. PG: A note about etymology: most villages were intensely local and vocabulary differed – sometimes markedly. Hence the use of the word “thief” and “robber” which likely did not have their modern connotations in the criminal law,
1:10 Why is Edom singled out for this vociferous attack? We only have this one chapter – it is possible that there were a series of execrations on other nations. This one was preserved. LLant: This seems to be a variation on the usual prophetic scheme of warnings and comfort. PG: This is more in the theme of squabbling brothers. One nation against another for breaking the rules. CL: This has a modern resonance for the Middle East and sounds like the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. PG: Except that the Edomiites did occupy the land in much the same way the ancient Israelites did. At times we need to step back and strip away the myth. There was a close historical relationship – intermarriage with an Edomite was acceptable. Note that the relationship between Christianity and Judaism is similar in that they have a common origin. Sometime this commonality can be more of a problem than a solution. Eventually, the Christians were viewed as oppressive by the Sephardic congregations. The problems arose after the Muslims lost control of Spain. LL: What was the motive of the translators here – was it to make the text intelligible to the modern reader? PG: The King James translators used a word for word approach but some words do not appear in the Hebrew…. Such as “dry land.” Similarly the Septuagint was a word for word translation. The King James was also interested in diction – the Hebrew does not say “three score and ten” from the 90th Psalm. It says 70 years. They wanted the language to appear ancient and noble. Another method is phrase to phrase – which focuses on intent. That is the practice of the new JPS. This means less poetry. A third method was used by Rosenzweig and Buber – they eliminated the notion of fixing the language to fit grammatical syntax. This is reflected in the Fox translation – it’s like “brutalist” poetry – ee cummings instead of Robert Frost. Sarna argued that all of Torah is poetry and Buber and Rosenzweig agreed with that. Note that the translation group that translated the prophets was a younger group than the Torah translators. Note also that there are only 3,000 words in Hebraic scripture.
LL/

Torah Study Notes 11-17-12

November 17, 2012
p. 191
PG: Malachi “my messenger” is the last of the prophets. Perhaps it was just not necessary to have prophets after him. The three chapters we have may be only part of much more extensive writing by him. The prophets were preserved because they were right and touched a resonant moral nerve. The Haftarah is a commentary on the weekly Torah reading when there is a distinctive Shabbat. There is no necessary continuity from one Shabbat to the next. The prophetic message is that the fate of the people is wholly dependent on their relationship with God. Once that message was internalized there was no longer a necessity for prophets. This is why there was great controversy over Jesus in the 1st C. Others have come forward as prophets over succeeding centuries – both in the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. The Mormon’s are a good example of the latter. The first important step is the recording and retention of their ideas. But the ideas must have “legs” – long term appeal. Many writers and thinkers have been forgotten – like Eden Phillpots a prolific and popular turn of the century author. Some prophets are not read at all – like Malcolm.
The related Torah portion is the birth of Jacob and Esau and culminate with Isaac’s blessings. Note that the Torah reading suggests no wickedness on the part of Esau.
1:1 I have loved Jacob but hated Esau. We are talking about two peoples: Israel and Edom – a war has been going on for a couple of centuries – a border dispute over the section of land between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Elat. The area contained ore mines. Apparently the Edomiites supported Babylonia and were awarded lands as a result.
1:6 When the prophet speaks he is channeling God – hence the direct quotes. AF: Who is the greater sinner: the person who brings an unfit animal or the priest who accepts it? PG: There is collusion here and the result is a degradation of faith. The people are divided – emotionally, philosophically and theologically. LL: Can the Torah portion and this portion read together have a lesson? Perhaps had Jacob not been duplicitous there would not later be a nation divided? Jacob after all stole his brother’s birthright. PG: It is difficult to say. There might be worse problems in the long run. The question presented is : what is Malachi saying to us? CL: There is a literary parallelism here between the story of Jacob and the use of animal skins and the use of animals with blemished skins here.
1:10 I take no pleasure in you and will not accept an offering from your hands. PG: This is in continuity with previous prophets. The question is what is due God?