Torah Study Notes 2-14-15

February 14, 2015
Moses encounters God and receives very detailed rules for the conduct of society.
22:4 The Code of Hammurabi, clearly the source of some of this material, is dated to about 1900 BCE. The responsibility here is primarily for negligence. These are regulations for an agrarian society. Note that rabbinic courts are essentially medieval – post Talmudic. At that time there was a sufficiently connected Jewish community –in Tiberias or Baghdad – to require determinations to be made beyond those of the polity. Also, God permits the divine will to be overturned. Recall the story of Eleazer and God arguing and, when Eleazer is adamant God is smiling. LL: Very impressive that Moses is able to remember all of these rules without writing them down. PG: After Moses relays all of this to the people it is written down. The fundamental notion here is that each person has responsibility for his/her actions.
22:6 This implies swearing before God to tell the truth. It assumes that both parties are within the faith therefore their oath can be trusted.
22:9 A missing animal and a determination of responsibility. This does not apply in situations where the animal’s guardian is paid – such as an employee.
22:13 A fine distinction as to responsibility for an animal for hire or loan.
22:15 “If a man seduces a virgin…” Rabbinic literature addresses how one became betrothed. Once a man marries a woman he becomes responsible for her entire estate. If the marriage dissolves part of the estate remains with the wife. “ Proscribed” refers to something that is consecrated and refers to a death penalty – or excommunication. Verses 17, 18 and 19 refer to foreign practices. But even a foreigner must abstain from these acts while residing in the land of Israel. That includes praying to other Gods. How was the bride price related to dowry? In the latter the parents contribute to the bride and grooms estate. The bride price is additional and goes to the bride alone. It is intended to insulate her from penury going forward – as in becoming a widow.
22:21 Mistreatment of widows and orphans. Exact no interest for the loan of money. Note the emotional content here – referring to compassion and anger. The problem of interest is complex. Here it is forbidden but note that the lender is arguably somewhat harmed by making a loan – he has no benefit from that asset. This is taken up extensively in the rabbinic literature. Deuteronomy implies that any additional benefit is forbidden – that there is an inherent benefit to the lender in the act of making a loan. Again, interest still may be charged to a foreigner.

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