Torah Study Notes 12-6-14


December 6, 2014
p. 222 Jacob and Esau are somewhat reconciled.
33:15 “Pray let me leave behind with you a portion of the force that accompanies me.” See footnote indicating that Jacob has no intention of going to Esau’s home nor does he desire a contingent of Esau’s men monitoring him. This is the first mention of “Succoth” in the Torah – the holiday reflecting God’s favor via the harvest.
33:18 Jacob makes camp, buys a field and sets up an altar -indicative of a prolonged visit. See verse 5 on page 91 where Abraham also builds an altar. He does it again in Bethel. In a sense this is marking territory – but on property not purchased. This may be ownerless land or even public land. The rabbinic term is for such property is “hefker.” Abraham only purchased land for Sarah’s grave. Here Jacob buys land to worship and to praise life. In Poughkeepsie in 1845 a cemetery was purchased on Pershing Avenue but our Reform Temple was not purchased until some years later. Burying people is the first step in establishing a community. CL: According to the archeology the Israelites were living in the north where this Succoth is being established. See: The Bible Unearthed by Finklestein et al.
This area of Israel was sparsely settled along the central spine – even during the period of David and Solomon. PG: FInklestein tends to assign late dates rather than earlier. His tendency is to be skeptical. LL: There is no before or after in the Torah. PG: See the work of David Aaron arguing that most of the Bible was composed in the post-exilic era. Etched in Stone: The Emergence of the Decalogue. PG: Note that Sinai disappears in Deuteronomy – it is outside the land of Israel whereas the Law is portable. No hard fixed location is necessary in order to have a relationship with God. The transformation of the Sinai account from being incidental to one of central importance is itself divinely inspired. This is theological. See review of Aaron’s work at:
34:1 The story of Dinah’s rape by Shechem. But then he seeks to marry her. The Hebrew word translated as “ rape” is important – it refers to oppression with force. See footnote indicating that if a man takes a virgin by force he must marry her and is prohibited from divorcing her.
34:5 Scholars have suggested that there are two narratives that are intertwined here. Note that Jacob did not react immediately but his children do so. This is a violation of the existing cultural and historical context as well as a violation of the woman. Dinah was in the territory of Hamor. What were the rights and prerogatives of the nobility in this territory? Jacob does not know and is silent. Compare to the wives as sisters story with both Isaac and Jacob where, for purposes of safety they pretended that their wives were their sisters. Note further that this was a time – post exilic – of Persian control. The Zoroastrians were not idolaters. Here we see a transition from the notion of woman as property to the mystical notion of “shekhinah” – in this case it is the female invested with the divinity of God. See:
34: 8 Both Hamor and Shachem plead for a marriage. LL: They seem sincere. Wouldn’t it have been preferable to avoid the ensuing violence? See Karen Armstrong on the subject of religion and violence:
34:13 The sons answer deceptively and call for all of the men be circumcised.
34:18 Hamar and Shechem accept the condition presupposing a genuine offer of peace. The circumcisions proceed.PG: Adult circumcision was not a rare or unknown act in ancient times. It was seen as beneficial to trade with economic advantages.
34: 35 Simeon and Levi enter the city and kill every male and all their sheep etc are taken. PG: When you are fighting with idolaters you are fighting a war for God. That is not the case here. But clearly the Shechemites intended to take the property of the Israelites.
34:30 Jacob remonstrates with Simeon and Levi. He fears retaliation. Note that, because of this conduct, the sons are cursed by Jacob in his final testament. Simeon disappears hereafter and the Levites are forbidden the ownership of any land.

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