Torah Study Notes 1-31-15

January 31, 2015

P. 436 The final plague has now occurred. Moses approaches the Red Sea and God explains what will happen. PG: For several reasons it appears that God needs to impress the Israelites. We read this as a story in terms of what was going on at the time but also in the context of when it was written. This happens with both fiction and non-fiction. As to the later – the context of the time in which the story was put down – there is frequently an effort to uncover something new. On both occasions we have to consider Israel’s relationship to Egypt. For a considerable portion of their history the ancient Israelites turned to Egypt when there was pressure from the north – in the form of the Assyrians or other invaders. Again, the overall arc here is to accept God as the one God of the Israelites. If this was written after the return from Babylonia it is argued by some scholars that Egypt is effectively a disguise for Babylonian.

14:19  The angel of God – a pillar of clouds. LL: Is the “angel” as a manifestation of God here a pillar of clouds? PG: Yes. Whenever you see a reference to an angel in Torah – with only two exceptions – it means that there is a manifestation of God – one God with different images. One cannot see God but God can be experienced by concretizing. Martin Buber said that we need to create an image of God. See  “kib’ya kohl” which is the process of rationalizing scripture toward the goal of living a good life. See the essay “ Ethics” by Peter Singer—-.htm

14:21 Moses held out his arm… “The Eternal is fighting for them…” Note that there are a variety of terms throughout the Torah referring to God. Here the writers of the text is being ironic in that he has the Egyptians calling upon the one God. Whenever armies clashed at this time it was understood that the respective God’s were also clashing. It is rational that the Egyptians would know how the Israelites called their God.

14:26 The waters come back upon the Egyptians. Great effort has been made to find natural explanations for these phenomena. There needs to be some minimal verisimilitude in order to make all of this work. Consider the difference between science fiction and fantasy. LL: To treat all of this as the result of natural phenomena is to take away the miraculous element.

14:30 A logical problem as to the location of the Egyptian bodies. Suddenly they are on the east bank of the Red Sea.  The Rabbi’s had an ingenious explanation for this: The sea knew it could be cursed so spews the bodies onto the dry land.

p.438 The Song of the Sea. This can be sung and there are cantellation marks in the text. Note again that songs and poems precede narratives chronologically. The narrative here was most likely drawn from the song. There are only two complete songs in the Torah but there are many instances of fragments of song. Peter Schickele ( )has pointed out that most folk songs do not have a definitive version. There were likely a variety of oral versions before this was written down.

Note that Red Sea could be a middle English spelling of Reed Sea. SF: This is a manifestation of the Oedipal complex where P is the father. LL: This is triumphalism at its worst. A kind of crowing that would not be looked upon favorably today in civilized societies –  except in the end zone. Was this society militaristic?  Paul Johnson in his History of the Jews suggests as much. See:

Compare paragraph 11 which is not militaristic and is part of the Shabbat service. It is in every morning service in its entirety. As is the entire Akidah.  See:

Note that all of the success of the flight from Egypt is being attributed to God – exclusively. Also, the “booty” sought by the Egyptians could be the return of their slaves as well as the wealth of those who are fleeing. The word “earth” here refers to Earth inclusive of land and sea. The word “celestials” in Hebrew refers to “Gods.” Note also that the Song of the Sea in Hebrew is written to look like waves.

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