Torah Study Notes 4-26-14

April 26, 2014
NOTICE TO READERS. THESE STUDY NOTES MUST BE READ IN CONJUNJCTION WITH THE PASSAGES AS THEY OCCUR IN PLAUT’S “THE TORAH – A Modern Commentary” the revised edition published in 2005 by the Union for Reformed Judaism.
p. 798
19:1 “The Eternal One spoke to Moses…” We are immediately given three of the Ten Commandments. Is the speaker here God or Moses? Or a subsequent narrator? The mention of golden idols is clearly a reference to the Golden Calf. This almost has the feel of antiphonal reading – a call and response. The congregation speaks and takes God into themselves. It is a communal response.
19:5 Details as to the offering of sacrifice. This seems a non-sequitor but may refer to the preceding “You shall be holy…” in terms of purification. Letting the food go to the third day means turning what is holy into something commonplace – no longer sacred.
19:9 Charity is part of holiness and reflective of one’s internal relationship to God. AF: Are these sections an amalgam of the J, P and E traditions reflecting different authorship? PG: Usually these differences can be spotted by the name of God – here “the Eternal One” is used throughout. There is nothing here to suggest an amalgamation. Starting with parsha 18 and continuing through 20 is usually known as “The Holiness Code” and is treated as a single entity that could be abstracted from the Book of Leviticus without effect on the Book. HF: How many people could actually write at this time? PG: This was a literate community but scribal abilities were usually separate. Writing was primarily used for documentation of transactions. These were “The People of the Book”” but there was also a strong oral tradition.
19:11 Note that the rules might be different beyond the immediate community. Fraud can be a difficult subject and frequently involves a subjective determination of value. See footnote 13.
19:15 “You shall not render an unfair decision…” Although this seems to be addressed to someone sitting in judgment we all make decisions every day. Many of these “rules” were found in the Code of Hammurabi but that was notoriously more favorable to the rich.
19:17 You shall not hate your kinfolk in your heart…” This parsha is what Rabbi Akiva ( ) termed the central tenet of the Torah. It is very similar to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Who is the neighbor that you are to love – the person who lives next do you? But Jews started to live among others. This text is problematic for both rabbinic Judaism and Pauline Christianity. Each tradition develops its own justification from the same text. Hillel said “Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.” This is based on the premise that we best know what we don’t like.
19:19 through 22. There are a number of subtle things here. Two different kinds of cattle, seeds and material. This may be respectful of boundaries that have been established by creation. LL: But it may also be read as a metaphor against miscegenation, PG: That would be a misunderstanding of this text.

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