Torah Study Notes 9-13-14

Sept ember 13, 2014
p. 1350 – Deuteronomy – Ki Tavo – the conclusion of Moses’ third long oration immediately before his death and the entry of the people into the promised land.
26:1 The sanctification of the land and acknowledgement of the fulfillment of the promise. Rituals of thanksgiving are prescribed. Put fruit in a basket, take it to the priest at the place chosen by God to establish the divine name and publicly acknowledge entry into the land given by God.
26:4 The priest shall take the basket from your hand… and you shall recite… the account of the sojourn out of Egypt. Initially the Torah would be read sequentially over a three year period. The effect was that this reading could come at any time of the year. The practice of establishing a sequential triennial reading arose in about 100 AD out of Mesopotamia. Thus this Haggadah is read at Rosh Hashanah. The current practice of triennial reading started in Medieval times. It was designed to limit the size of the readings so as to promote better understanding. The Reform Movement right from its beginnings in the 1840s, read a limited portion each week in recognition of the time limitations imposed by modern life. See Daniel J. Elazar’s comments about the social and political make up of the Jewish community as reflective of the wider society around them. Elazar wrote extensively about the tradition of politics in Jewish scripture and thinking. His works on the subject include: Kinship and Consent: The Jewish Political Tradition and Its Contemporary Uses, Authority, Power and Leadership in the Jewish Polity: Cases and Issues, and Morality and Power: Contemporary Jewish Views.
• Kinship and Consent: The exploration of the Jewish political tradition is predicated on the recognition of the Jews as a separate people, not merely a religion or a set of moral principles growing out of a religion. The exploration of the Jewish political tradition, then, is an exploration of how the Jews as a people managed to maintain their polity over centuries of independence, exile and dispersion, and how they animated that polity by communicating their own expressions of political culture and modes of political behavior.
• Authority, Power and Leadership in the Jewish Polity: Many Jews are finding that they express themselves Jewishly through political means, if at all, whether that entails support of Israel or other causes which then become “Jewish” causes, or through working within the political and communal organizations of the Jewish people, which increasingly are perceived for what they are, namely, means of organizing power.
• Morality and Power: In September 1988, as the intifada approached the end of its first year, a distinguished group of leaders in academic and public affairs in Israel and the diaspora was invited to participate in a symposium on the problems of relating morality and power in contemporary statecraft
The Enlightenment started the break-down of the class system generally so the elitism in the synagogue that existed was similarly eroded. Consider the ending lines of the film Who Shot Liberty Valence. The reporter says “… when people believe the legend that is what you print.”
26:10 A prayer asking a blessing for those who have kept the law and shared their bounty. See comments of Hanoch Bricht on this subject. (Note: I could not find this person. Spelling problem?) There appear to be a consistent recognition of an afterlife here that is similar to that of the Egyptians and elsewhere. There is no distinction made between body and spirit – that is a much later concept. When we recite Kiddush we are nourishing the departed through our memory of them. LL: Why do we celebrate birthdays? It is analogous to celebrating the departed’s death day. On birthday’s we celebrate the living.
26:16 The promise that they will be a holy people. That which is holy is that which is set apart. This issue of being apart was taken up very early by rabbinic Judaism. What did that mean when, after the Bar- Kokhba revolt, they were no longer a nation state.
There was a very large population of displaced persons – some of which like the Essenes – disappeared. Christians were included in this group of people who were examining the relative importance of history and belief. Paul preached that faith was the critical element – not national or cultural background. At the time of the promulgation of this text this prediction of being chosen was extremely risky. This notion was adopted by Christianity and hence we have 2000 year of suppression of deviant practices – apostasy and heresy. LL: Isn’t this setting up an elitist society that is at odds with the political leveling of the past few centuries? PG: Not really. It is a form of nationalism, of the inherent human tendency to be part of something unique. Why do we join clubs or root for a sports team?

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