Torah Study Notes 8-23-14

August 23, 2014
p. 1259
11:26 The people are being asked to carry out a series of new counter-intuitive acts. They are asked to demonstrate their faith by doing things that do not come naturally to them. Compare Gideon who asks for a sign from God. The grain is wet and the floor is dry and then the reverse – which is out of the ordinary. The Israelites had to indicate that they understood what the relationship was. It is a different relationship than that of their neighbors and their Gods. The thrust here is an injunction not to engage in blind faith – one must have faith coupled with understanding. Note the referencing to the blessing at Mt. Gerizim and the curse at Mt. Ebal. These are obscure places that do not immediately resonate with the reader. They are also mentioned in the Book of Joshua and in Deuteronomy. They are physically near Shonrom which was going to be the capital of Northern Israel. They were important to the ancient Samaritans and the Samaritans continue to treat them as significant locations. Remember that it those Israelites who returned from exile in Babylonia who are responsible for the promulgation of this text. The indigenous people who remained are the Samaritans. They had made peace with their Babylonian overlords. But the people who returned had the support of the Persian leadership. The blessings and curses were a tradition retained by them – perhaps orally – that did not make it into the text except via these marginal references. There is something called the Samaritan Torah – not including Joshua. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritan_Pentateuch  LL Note: PG advises that the Samaritan Torah does include Joshua and that the Wikipedia entry is incorrect. The six book Torah is called the “Hexateuch.”
The “you” here is “each of you” rather than reference to a collective responsibility of the people.
11:31 You are about to cross the Jordon… This is a critical juncture which will be very dependent on the form of human organization needed to establish a just society. See the work of Hermann Cohan which rely very heavily on Kant. Kant saw an absolute division between law – which is imposed – and ethics. The question of internal and external. He argued that the law can only become ethical if imbued with the transcendent. That is what is going on in Torah. This is Isogesis. See: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cohen/ See also the Plaut Commentary on page 1256
12:2 Moses calls for a central sanctuary. You must destroy all of the sites of the nations which you will dispossess. Clearly this was an important step in creating a national identity. LL: This is reminiscent of the destruction of all traces of the Akhenaton dynasty in Egypt. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atenism
12:4 Do not worship the Lord in a like manner… Most biblical scholars attribute this text to the Josiah Reforms –See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josiah – circa 610 to 620 BC. He is a King of Judah who decides to renovate the Temple and to shut down other sites being used for sacrifice. All sacrifice would take place in Jerusalem. There are a variety of motives that could be attributed to this move – centralization of power, corruption in the hinterlands, variations in sacrificial practices. Note that most modern scholars believe tht Judaism grew indigenously on the land of Israel – that there was no captivity in Egypt and that many of the other “incidents” are apocryphal. There was never a land totally purged of foreign influences. If anything disparate practices – idolatry – needed to be driven from the land frequently. LL: At what point do variations in practice become identified as idolatry? Judaism is a commitment to a tradition and a culture but it takes a variety of forms today.
12:8 You shall not act now as we all act now… Changes are coming in the form of more ritualized practices and the establishment of a priesthood. The only way you can truly become a covenanted community is by following these practices.
12:13 Not every slaughter of an animal is a sacrifice. The consumption of meat is permitted as a matter of routine.
12:17 Do not neglect …rituals and sacred spaces which will help you in relating to your God. It is the rituals and sacred places that define true sacrifice. See Essays on page 1276.
12:20 When the Eternal enlarges your territory…you may eat to your heart’s content – except for the blood. One must also always provide for the Levites.

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1 Comment

  1. ibritter

     /  September 7, 2014

    The remark about it being our rituals and sacred places that help us relate to God and define true sacrifice is timely.

    Reply

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