Torah Study Notes 8-30-14

August 30, 2014
p. 1294 – We are joined by Doi Cohen!
Deuteronomy has to do with the creation and organization of a civil society. This parsha has to do with the identification of leaders – and how that comes about. It is more than genetics or even anointment. The concept of a responsible anarchy suggests that the process will not necessarily be smooth. There needs to be consent in some form in order to function as a leader. The construction of this text is probably late Kingdom of Judea. The Northern Kingdom has been destroyed. The unified kingdom of David is no more. All of this suggests a failure of leadership.
16:18 You shall appoint magistrates and officials.. Note how the word “justice” is repeated. This suggests sanctions that are tempered with mercy. The Hebrew word “tzedek” also can also mean innocence in a variant form. (LL: Consider the presumption of innocence in Anglo American jurisprudence.) Note the explicit reference to bribes. There is a question as to the translation here – it could be “gifts” rather than “bribes”. SF: Some commentators would argue that the beginning of justice is personal guidance so we can manage our inner cravings and drives. Justice from this perspective begins with deep personal honesty. PG: This is basic to 19th C. Hasidism. Bal Shem Tov emphasized piety rather than scholarship. It is the feeling of goodness that is the source of piety. The leader is then the individual who has the greatest spiritual acuity. This is at odds with the long-standing rabbinic tradition that the connection with God is via the text – not via direct relationship with God. This struggle is reflected throughout the history of Christianity – where the various Protestant movements (and earlier) argued for a direct connection. This was perceived as an attack on the priesthood and Catholicism. See From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun re the flowering of innovation and the impact of all of that on society.
16:21 You shall not set up sacred posts… In establishing an organized society the question is always presented as to syncretism – the adoption of other pre-existing forms and practices. In accepting the unique practice of monotheism this had to be avoided.
17: 2 Stoning to death on the testimony of two or more witnesses. Specifically for idolatry. This was considered the greatest danger to society.
17:8 If a case is too baffling for you to decide… LL: It is unclear to me who the “you” is that is referenced here. If it is the individual it seems basic that the individual would turn to the established system. But here “you” shall promptly repair “…to the place that the Eternal your God has chosen…” The footnotes suggest that the application is here being made to priestly rather than civil intercession. Finally, what was the failure of leadership that led to the end of the united kingdom’s? Solomon had taken on the trappings of other secular kings of the time – great wealth, many wives, the final arbiter of disputes, etc. Some have suggested that his downfall came about because he allowed some of his wives to worship other Gods. See:

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1 Comment

  1. ibritter

     /  September 7, 2014

    Doi in the house. That must have felt good.


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