Torah Study Notes 12-1-12

December 1, 2012
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.

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