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.”

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