Torah Study Notes 11-1-14

Rabbi AR

November 1, 2014

p. 94

Nineteen people in attendance. Background: Abraham is informed by God that he should go to the land “that I will show you.”  There is a famine and they go to Egypt. Abraham passes off his wife as his sister – a motif that occurs on two more occasions in the Torah. In this parsha  we have Abraham the warrior who saves his cousin Lot.

14:1  Four kings against five. Some of these names are symbolic and mean “wickedness” or “evil.” It was not uncommon for local tribes to be battling for resources.

14:10 The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fall into tar pits. Lot is rescued. AF: How many people were involved in these armies. AR: This is more like tribal warfare. See footnote 14 as to the number 318.

14:12  This is one of the first references to “Hebrew” and Abraham is still “Abram.” See the notes on p. 106 about what it means to be a Hebrew – a word used for wanderer among other things. AR: They had tassels on the edges of their skirts.  See also Gleanings on page 114 and the reference to Gematria giving numerical significance to letters in the name Eleazer.  This has been the subject of much mystical speculation. MS: What impelled the mystics to take the numerical approach? AR: We have been studying all of this for 5000 years. Numerology has been a big part of that study. Also, remember that a shepherd was the tough guy in ancient times. To bring a group of shepherds was to mount a formidable force.

14:15 At night he deploys his forces against them… He is victorious and the king of Sodom comes out to   meet him.  Abram gives him a tenth of everything. “The most high” could refer to the chief god of the Canaanite religion. There is archeological evidence of a god called “El” worshiped by the Canaanites. BR: Is this an early motze? AR: It could be read that way or it could refer to another cultures traditions that were adopted. Rashi thought that the 318 referred to just Eleazer. SF: The message here is that Abraham acted with force where appropriate – he did what was right. He is rewarded and blessed. AR: There are several messages here. We don’t know if there was any actual violence. He may have just restored order.  SH: This seems to be an example – that we see repeated throughout – of a small minority prevailing. AR: This also poses the quandary of what one does to rescue hostages. The American policy is not to pay ransom.  Israel will pay even for a person who was killed so that he can have a proper Jewish burial. LL: It would be handy to have Friedman’s “Who Wrote the Bible” here snce he seems to be able to identify the different traditions that were merged by the redactors. AR: Note that some Torah study groups use a variety of Torah sources for these study meetings. It can get chaotic.

14:21  Who should get a share?  Abram makes it clear that he will take nothing of the king of Sodom. “I raised my hand to the Eternal…” indicates that he has sworn to  come to rescue his people. Shira – There is a lesson here in Jewish values – people come first. LC: Could these visitations be a precursor to the story of Jesus? AR: There is a difference between Isogesis and exegesis. See the note on page 107 which references Jesus as the “high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” EL: That tradition could also have been inherent in the culture of the time. AR: Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin has written a book called “The Gods are Broken” which sees Abram as an iconoclast. See:

Salkin said the story of Abraham smashing the idols is at the core of “what it means to be an heir of Abraham and an heir of the prophet. Judaism should not be the affirmation of what we already believe; it should challenge us in some way.

“I’d always suspected and had always known that we Jews are a people that have rejected easy truths and accepted wisdom. What I found surprising was how that pattern of thinking has resonated throughout Jewish history,” he said.

One area that The Gods Are Broken! examines is the origins of anti-Semitism. Salkin argues that “Judaism’s moral excellence” and “ability to say no to the dominant ideology” have been provocative factors throughout the centuries.

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1 Comment

  1. ibritter

     /  November 1, 2014

    A special experience.


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