Torah Study Notes 5-17-14

May 17, 2014
p. 865
26:3 “If you follow my laws and faithfully observe… “ The promise of benefits accruing from following the laws. Is this in the nature of a bargain – a contract? Or more of an exhortation? Experience tells the people that periodically the rains will fail. Note again that this text is post-exilic. See Steve Martin in Leap of Faith a film based on The Rainmaker where he plays an evangelist – faith healer. http://www.nytimes.com/1992/12/18/movies/review-film-steve-martin-as-a-healer-with-faith-only-in-lies.html Where the miracle doesn’t happen it is arguably because of insufficient faith. Consider also the challenge to that notion in the Book of Job. Or Harold Kushner http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Kushner on Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. But also see: http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/why_harold_kushner_is_wrong.html

26:6 They will not be conquered – an invading army shall be routed regardless of their size. Again, this is after the invasion and destruction of Judah by the Assyrians.
26:11” I will establish my abode in your midst…” Were the Israelites highly militaristic? Cleopatra’s bodyguard was comprised of 300 Israelites. PG: There was a suggestion in Egyptian literature, written in Greek about the 3d C BCE, that Israel had invaded Egypt. It is considered by Egyptians a counter-weight to the account of Exodus. Note that there are also pre-exilic references to Egypt in Hebrew literature. See Albrecht Alt’s work on this subject. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albrecht_Alt
26:14 Bad things will happen if you do not keep the law. The curses take up much more space than the blessings. Note that the text does not distinguish or tell us which are the most important commandments – nor does it suggest what happens if you obey most but not all. Are the punishments of equal severity regardless of the extent of the transgression? There is no reference to 613 rules or to Torah per se. That did not happen until Talmudic times. The rabbinic sages said “On the whole – be good.” AF: Are many of the rules sub-sets of the ten commandments? PG: That is a philological discussion/argument that continues to this day. Note the parallel structure that indicates poetry. However, the rabbinic view is that everything has significance – nothing is wasted.
26:18 PG: The are fundamentally two types of punishments – how nature will treat us and how we will suffer socially. Note the distinction between the narrative context and the time when the text would actually have been read. There is a clear difference between the way that parents read to their children and how the child later reads the book on its own. There is a different leadership approach when dealing with a mature and immature group.
26:21 “If you remain hostile to me…” The punishments grow more severe. Israel was devastated by Nebuchadnezzar and that was within the historical memory of the readers/hearers. There is a misorah that tells which word were infrequently used. The Hebrew word here that is translated into “decimate” is likely a rarely used word.
26:23 “And is these things fail to discipline you…” Things will get worse.
26:27 And worse. This resonates because the text is being read after the exile and the Israelites returned to find their land in ruins. PG: What causes the greater anxiety – the blessings or the curses? The question as to how to live a virtuous life can be unnerving. When things go wrong there is some instruction from failure as to what must be done differently – the basis for improvement. LL: Some react to anxiety by collapsing. Not everyone can redouble their efforts. (Note the half tone letters indicating the paragraphs in the Hebrew text.)
PG: What is being presented here are the issues of both social connection and maintaining a relationship with God. Social justice is paramount in order to create a stable society that can withstand the harsh realities of the less-ordered societies around them. LL: Sadly, there are many forms of government and social order that can be stable over long periods of time but are not just societies. The Pharaohs ruled for millennia.

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