Torah Study Notes 8-24-13

August 24, 2013
p. 1368 Haftarah Isaiah
This passage is connected to Deuteronomy: Moses challenge to the people for not keeping the Commandments. Isaiah tells them that God’s anger will abate. “Nations will walk toward your light,,,”
60:1 Armies are on the march – it is a time of global upheaval – all within a few hundred miles. God said “let there be light” which was the first act of creation. This new light gives a sense of starting all over again. The suggestion is that the Israelites have now returned to their land from Babylon. Note that the word “goyim” is here translated as “nation” which is a 19th C. concept. The word probably indicates “unbelievers.” Or non-Israelites.
60:4 Israel was a crossroads of ancient commerce. But there is a deeper connection suggested between good and goods; between moral and material. LL: Hasn’t this been a damaging concept throughout history – the idea that wealth indicates holiness? PG: It is true that there has been reductive logic applied to these connections. This is what Job dealt with – the notion that if you do good you will do well. Job reminds us that this axiom cannot be reversed. His comforters tell him that his terrible situation must be the result of his sin. But Job denies that he has sinned. The entire concept of sin denotes a common decision as to what sin is. Our thinking is dominated by Greek logic which eliminates the middle and makes the only outcome either/or. SF: The preponderance of Jewish wisdom – per Maimonides – is moving toward the middle. He is asking for a balance. PG: Maimonides appreciated Aristotle’s idea that to every right there are two wrong – the extremes. SF: Wealth need not be material – it could be the accumulation of virtue. LL: Strangely enough this theme of how people will react under stress is the theme of the wonderful comedy film “Trading Places” with Eddie Purphy. The wealthy Duke brothers place a $1 bet on the outcome. They are essentially playing the role of God and Satan in The Book of Job.
“I got plenty of nothing, and nothing is plenty for me.” Maimonides focused on the community and the focus of the community. Maimonides thought this could be achieved via a strong leader. AF: Commerce functions regardless of the intention of the actors to do good. LL: But corporations that also do good can do better. What about Paul Newman’s enterprises? Ben & Jerry use this notion to sell ice cream.
60:8 This is a description of the exile and return. This may also reference “to bring your children from afar” the lost tribes who were lost at the time of the Assyrian invasion.
60:11 LL: This is cheerleading and there is no suggestion of humility here. PG: That is true. It may be a wistful desire to return to the time of Solomon’s Temple. The exiles are standing in the middle of the ruins. AF: What did Prophets do for a living? Were they paid to sermonize? PG: Some of them were priests and supported as such. Amos was a successful landowner. We know little or nothing about Isaiah. This Haftarah is an amalgam of writings that have been assigned his name. There were professional prophets who made a living via donations if they were successful. Like Oracles or Fortune Tellers.

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