Torah Study Notes 2-15-14

Torah Study Notes 2-15-14
p. 582
The Golden Calf Incident. This aliah is not read as an honor. It is a negative experience in the history of the Jewish people. Both Christians and Muslims have taken advantage of this episode as an explanation of why Judaism fails and is not the way to redemption. It is an intentional misreading of Torah – which is intended in part to describe the difficulties of attaining faith. The concept of Israel is theologically daunting to some elements of those faiths. LL: It is also difficult for some Jews. See the NY Times today wherein a number of religious Jews in academia voice their opposition to the notion of a Jewish State.
30:17 A description of what must be paid – the same amount for rich and poor alike. It is a small amount that the poor can actually pay. Note that the taking of a census is in itself a sin – but a necessary evil. It is likely associated with the cost of building the mishkan as described in the last two sections. When it comes to counting individuals it is important that each person is “worth” the same. Note also that the Tent of Meeting is the Tabernacle – not a separate place. But what is wrong with doing a count? It is necessary in order to have minion for a service after all. And even agrarian commerce requires counting.
30:17 Aaron and his sons get to wash before entering the mishkan. This is clearly a purification ceremony but also designates the Aaronites as having special favor. Also, water is a critical component of life in these arid areas. see p. 544.
30:22 Making the anointing oil. Again the sons of Aaron are giving precedence. Note that Moses could not be a priest because he was the anointer of priests. As to his sons becoming priests this was a contentious issue which the Aaronites won. This is clearly a retrojection – including the reference to expertise in the bending of aromatic oils; an expertise not immediately associated with an agrarian society. Note the use of the Hebrew word “hochmah” which suggests an expertise as a gift from God.
30:31 The sacred oil used for anointing. This is part of a process of sanctification – making a common thing special by associating it with praise and penalty. Shabbat is acknowledged by the lighting of candles followed by a blessing- or significantly a sacred oil – transforming the everyday into the sacred. This is the concept behind transubstantiation. See the work of Stephen Toulman on the philosophy of physics.
He starts with a text from ancient Mesopotamia which describes how something is built. It is the notion of divine intercession. But instructions, it is noted, will work without a prayer. LLant: What does the traditional hand motion mean that is associated with lighting the candles? PG: We are pushing away evil spirits – a practice from the Middle Ages. The mezuzah on the door is also activated by a prayer.
30:34 The ingredients to be used for the incense. Again, misuse results in being cut off from one’s kin. See the incense altar depicted on p. 544. Note that Jews should not refer to Israel as a “holy land” since one could not live there if it was “holy.” Here we are not given proportions for the creation of the incense.
31:1 Bezalel son of Uri – of the tribe of Judah is imbued with special skill to make certain furniture and others are identified to make vestments within the tabernacle.”I have granted skill to all who are skillful.,,”
31: 12 Keeping the Sabbath as holy. But no particular day is established – all is required is consistency from that point on. Note that a calendar exists at the time of promulgation of the Torah and even names for months of the year. They were previously known only by ordinals. Scholars deeply disagree as to how days were named or numbered. One generally thinks of days starting with sunrise. See: Eugen Weber on apocalypses:

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