Torah Study Notes 7-19-14

July 19, 2014
p. 1100
Three portions ago the Israelites made their way to the shores of the Jordan River. All of these portions take place sequentially at the end of the journey through the wilderness.
30:2 Making a vow. This is a public vow and therefore a commitment in the presence of the community. But what does the text take for granted? Marshall McLuhan said that no one can write a completely original book – no one would understand it.
Accordingly, the text here reminds the listener/reader of what they already know. The father must abrogate the vow, if he is to do so, immediately. The footnote refers to vows pertaining to God. See page 1099 re a calendar of offerings – vows of women. Making a vow in the presence of witnesses implies enforceability. There is no longer a question of “he said” or “she said.” A vow made to the community and then not fulfilled is sanctionable. Note that this injunction is being imparted by God to the heads of the tribes.LL: This implies that they had a responsibility to enforce vows.
30:7 When and under what circumstances a woman may keep or have her vow abrogated. Does this reinforce the notion that woman are subject to their husbands. SF: But who can expiate the guilt of the husband? This is a heavy burden. In our society we each have virtually unlimited personal responsibility. Note also that if most obligations are associated with an offering such an offering may materially affect the estate by diminution. Woman today – who have their own property – are more akin to the widows and divorced woman referenced here. They have their own responsibilities. SF: Vows are made for a higher purpose. They are a form of connection to God. The movement away from being merely an animal to becoming something else is the primary lesson of Torah.
30:17 There are the laws that the Eternal enjoined…
31:1 Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites. A great deal of slaying ensues. This is a cartoon that serves as an emotional release. It is the classic notion of the Zane Grey Western of good prevailing over evil. Baloch the Moabite is not mentioned although he has been previously identified as an evil person. There is a large section of Talmud discussing this problem . Ruth is consistently referred to as a Moabite so possibly a descendent of Baloch and hence David is also of that line. This logic is constructed by the rabbinical analysts out of the absence of any mention of Baloch.
31:9 The Israelites took the woman and children of the Midianites captive…
31:13 Moses became angry because they spared the females – who were the seductresses. A gory turn of events when he directs that they – except the virgins – be slain as well as the male children. This has been a divinely ordained battle – indicated by the presence of Pinchas among the troops.
30:19 You shall stay outside the camp seven days… the purification of anyone who has touched a corpse in battle. They are tainted even though they have been engaged in a war ordained by God. LL: Shouldn’t we be suspect of any wars that are supposedly “ordained by God?” It is very difficult to approach these sections with any reverence or to view them as sacred. PG: This is no more than an attempt to invest the soldiers with a motivation that is greater than death. Most of the military conflicts in the past two hundred years have been initiated on the basis of loyalty to one’s state. The rabbis ask the question: what are we to draw from this? The act of war is debilitating and demands purgation. Idolatry is the justification here because it “kills” and cannot be permitted. Note that the rabbis did not consider either the Christians or the Zoroastrians as idolatrous. They were monotheistic. There has to be a connection with God. William P. Alston talks about metaphor on this same basis of connection.
Spinoza is quoted as saying that belief has to be examined through the lens of the universe. Note that he was a lens grinder.
See the following paragraphs on what happens to the spoils of war. Most of this is being read when the Israelites were under the control of the Babylonians. They had no army. LL: Clearly these accounts were intended in part to give heart to the downtrodden and discouraged Israelites in captivity – much like a film today with super-heroes.

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