Torah Study Notes 1-25-14

January 25th, 2014
p. 513
What we call the Ten Commandments are actually revelations – not commandments – because they are obvious. There is nothing there – except for one commandment – dealing with Shabbat – that the people didn’t know. How do we know these things? What you already know becomes transcendent when “revealed” as coming from God. The Israelites can’t handle it directly so ask Moses to act as an intercessor. This is a combination of well known tropes: who can face God and survive is a question posed by other ancient religions. Gods were powerful and dangerous. One obeys the commandments – follows the rules – as a source of protection against the hardships and difficulties of the world. This is justification by law or sacrament. Paul rebelled against this notion and argued that salvation comes not from law but from grace. Grace here means an acceptance of the oneness of God. Islam generally follows Christianity in this regard but adds the faithful community as a divine manifestation of grace. Protestantism broke that link with divine will and so turned to Hebrew Scripture. They even emulated Judaism by setting aside Sunday as a day of rest and worship – instead of Saturday. SF: The Constitution is derived from natural law which comes from God.
21:1 “When you acquire a Hebrew slave” … etc. Until recently the Israelites have been slaves in Egypt so it is important to them to have rules as to the conduct of slavery. See the work of Emmanuel Levinas. and
Levinas derives the primacy of his ethics from the experience of the encounter with the Other. For Lévinas, the irreducible relation, the epiphany, of the face-to-face, the encounter with another, is a privileged phenomenon in which the other person’s proximity and distance are both strongly felt. “The Other precisely reveals himself in his alterity not in a shock negating the I, but as the primordial phenomenon of gentleness.”[7] At the same time, the revelation of the face makes a demand, this demand is before one can express, or know one’s freedom, to affirm or deny.[8] One instantly recognizes the transcendence and heteronomy of the Other. Even murder fails as an attempt to take hold of this otherness.
Following Totality and Infinity, Levinas later argued that responsibility for the other is rooted within our subjective constitution. It should be noted that the first line of the preface of this book is “everyone will readily agree that it is of the highest importance to know whether we are not duped by morality.”[9] This idea appears in his of recurrence (chapter 4 in Otherwise Than Being), in which Levinas maintains that subjectivity is formed in and through our subjection to the other. Subjectivity, Levinas argued, is primordially ethical, not theoretical: that is to say, our responsibility for the other is not a derivative feature of our subjectivity, but instead, founds our subjective being-in-the-world by giving it a meaningful direction and orientation. Lévinas’s thesis “ethics as first philosophy”, then, means that the traditional philosophical pursuit of knowledge is secondary to a basic ethical duty to the other. To meet the Other is to have the idea of Infinity
Later, slavery is done away with as articulated in the rabbinic literature. Polygamy similarly disappears.
21:7 “When a parent sells a daughter as a slave…” The obligations of a master who marries a slave are food, clothing and conjugal rights.
21:12 “One who fatally strikes another person shall be put to death.” Modifications of the basic rule but death is the penalty.
21:18 Capital punishment is only extended to a loss of life. Injury calls for recompense. Nothing that is written here is absolutely needed in order to have a well organized society. LL: It could easily be argued that our society is based on the rule of law – not on religion. PG: Absolutely but where does the authority for the law derive? Look at what is going on in the Ukraine. LL: It is a Compact between those who are governed – an agreement – to “…form a more perfect union…”

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