Torah Study Notes 2-8-14

February 8, 2014
p. 563
Exodus 27: 20
The Eternal Light. But here it says that it will burn only from evening to morning. The practical rationale is for dealing with the darkness. Pure olive oil puts out little smoke as compared to wood. When did the light become “eternal?” PG: Probably during the period of synagogues.
28:1 This is likely a retrojection based on what was known at the time of this priestly writing. Note that these vestments are still worn by Catholic Bishops and in the Greek Orthodox Church. Judaism eliminated the priesthood after the Diaspora of 70 AD and the destruction of the second Temple. PG: A religion should be evaluated based on its authenticity. But what does “authentic” mean? For the Orthodox it is strict adherence to the text of the Torah. For the Reform movement it is adaptation to the ideals of the Enlightenment. Rabbinic Judaism puts the burden on each individual to be a member of the “kingdom of priests.” This is in sharp contrast to the Aaronite priesthood set forth in this parsha. Note that at this time only priests were circumcised – usually at the time of ordination. SF: We should consider how to adapt these practices into our everyday lives. PG: How do we do that with our vestments? Today we identify a priest by his alb or collar. “Clothes make the man.” We dress for the high holidays. SF: At what point are you transformed from Paul Golomb to Rabbi Golomb? PG: There are no clothes that separate a rabbi from anyone else. On the high holy days everyone is supposed to wear white. SF: The congregation needs to have their leader elevated in some way. PG: This is the burden of theatre – inhabiting a certain role. Consider the play “Our Town” when Paul Newman played the Stage Manager. It was very difficult for him not to be Paul Newman in the eyes of everyone attending. DC: To me the phrase a Kingdom of Priests indicates that each individual shall have direct contact with God. PG: There is no longer a need for an intercessor on a daily basis – but there will still be prophets. But the people essentially reject this notion and create priests anyway. The real world requires constant compromise or recognition of ones limitations. See Franz Kafka on the creation of the Tower of Babel “”If it was possible to build the tower without ascending it there never would have been a tower.” This is the result that we see in today’s stalled Congress – an unwillingness to compromise from the “ideal.”
28:6 The ephod of gold. See Note 6. SF: This is a description of a tribal leader? PG: No. the description of the names suggests that many generations have passed since Sinai. The is no mention of separate tribes. They do not reappear until the beginning of the Book of Numbers with the census. The redactor seems to want to move the focus from the people standing at the base of Sinai to the tribes. This was the people Israel. But at some point the writers/redactors have to deal with the reality that confronted them. There was a hierarchy. But not in Exodus except for the creation of a priesthood. LL: Division is a necessary part of government: political parties, different and municipal structures. Consider the replication of this sequence described in The Promised Land with the resettlement of Israel by kibbutzim. PG: This happened as well when everyone left the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.
28:13 “…a breastpiece of decision…” RR: This is essentially a description of the silver cover over a Torah. PG: The twelve stones make it clear that each tribe is different than the other. DC: Every year we read this and I wonder why we need all of this detail about construction and clothing. PG: When you are concerned that something be done just right one takes great care in setting forth the detail. CL: In modern society the ritual that gets the most attention is the wedding. If you go into Barnes and Nobel there are detailed instruction. PG: Consider the book “The ‘Eternal American Bliss Machine.” byMarcia Seligson https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/marcia-seligson/the-eternal-bliss-machine-americas-way-of-weddi/
RG: This is a critical juncture in the life of the people. It is necessary to get all of the rules in place even as they become more geographically dispersed over the land of Israel. PG: This was likely written at the time of the Second Temple – which was considerably less than Solomon’s Temple – not as grand a structure and doesn’t have the Ark. These sections are likely a description of what was rather than what existed at the time of writing. It is a memory that calls for a future recreation. (PJ: Why does the thread a mixture of cotton and wool? I thought that they were incompatible. PG: This is required of certain kind of clothing so as to make it unique. CL: We are living in a bubble of present day Jewish culture with its emphasis on words and philosophy. Ancient cultures were more frequently opulent and comfortable with that opulence. SF: But what was the significance of the Breastplate of Decision? What decisions were being made? PG: This was more in indicator of authority. The Book of Leviticus sets forth the responsibility of the priests – including determining what was holy and what was not. Note that there is no possibility of appeal from a determination by a priest on those issues. SF: The breastplate is near the heart so suggests something deeper – a breastplate within one’s heart – a pure heart effaces one’s ego. PG: This is demonstrated in modern times by Al Gore certifying George Bush as President. I believe that GB would have done the same if the roles were reversed. Most of us “buy in” to the necessity for the rule of law as part of the American model.
Per SF see work of Rabbi Luzatto. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moshe_Chaim_Luzzatto

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