Torah Study Notes 5-30-15

May 30, 2015


5:11  God and Moses on the subject of marital fidelity. PG:  We will leave out the emotional state of the husband here. Generally, the Torah does not concern itself with inner thoughts. It focuses on actions.  The husbands concern is the paternity of the child and the impact on his estate. But what about the word “Jealousy” which seems to bespeak an inner state? It can also be treated as “suspicious.” This is an issue of promise keeping more than physical infidelity. LL: Why does the Redactor use this form of instruction rather than a story? PG: This brings up the question of the import of the entire text – not every law is clear and unambiguous.  SF: Last night we read a commentary on the subject of God’s will. Here G is intervening on behalf of the woman in order to bring peace between husband and wife. PG: In other societies the wife’s infidelity would have been used as a basis for an honor killing. Here there is a suggestion of due process. Subsequent commentaries by the rabbi’s are much more sexist and more concerned about the sexual component of all of this. Consider Milton’s Paradise Lost and attitudes at that time toward Satan. It was understood that Satan is the personification of evil. A modern reader might read Paradise Lost and disagree. In the Middle Ages this text would have been understood and interpreted differently than at the time it was written and certainly differently than a modern reader.

Much of the Torah has to do with the land – its spiritual value that preserves the people. This is the entire import of the story of Exodus out of Egypt. Now we are in era where the emphasis is on ideas rather than land. Hence: the rise of ideology – such as communism. Or ISIS devotion to Sharia law and the Caliphate. If you are willing to devote yourself it a belief system all is forgiven by the fanatic true believer. The preservation of the law courts is also a sub-text here.

5:16  An early version of a polygraph intended to search out the truth from the wife.

15:23 Drinking the water of bitterness –elevating the meal offering of jealousy and turning it to smoke. The punishment for the wife is that she shall have no more children. Note that elsewhere in the Torah it is said that the penalty for adultery is death. This parsha today may instead refer to sex before marriage. Obviously, it is hoped that “the fear of god” might induce a confession. If a man is unfaithful he nevertheless assumes responsibility for the woman and her children. Again, this has to do with economics. HF: What happens to the child? PG: It is considered the child of the biological father.  It was thought at the time that the male was the bearer of the child in his “seed” and the woman merely a vessel. Note that these issues go before the priest – not a judge.  Read the Haftarah story of Hosea where everyone assumes that his wife is having extramarital affairs. There is no mention of this procedure. Instead it becomes an allegory for the relationship between a faithful G and his people.

6:1 A Nazirites vow.

Abstain from wine and grapes in any form. The vow is time limited – to a term. Note that both men and woman can be Nazirites. “No razor shall touch their head…” Sampson was an N but a very bad one. The hair is a means of identification for men. The woman would not bind up her hair. Not coming into contact with the dead and not imbibing wine or spirits are also aspects of being a priest. Here the N takes on the aspects of a priest. Sampson represents the complete disintegration of the Judges where Samuel is the restoration per Talmudic interpretation. Samuel is born into a non-priestly family but becomes a priest anyway.  This group appears to separate themselves from the rest of Israel by taking this vow.

Skiip to 930 verse 22: The priestly blessing. This is a threefold blessing – see Essays on pp 940-941. Blessing is a form of kneeling – we bend our knees at the beginning of the Amidah. A light is shone upon you and then you rise up. See the 150th Psalm which looks like half of a tree – the lines get long as they descend. Prayers and songs of crescendo. Here we have 3,5,7 and then 15, 20 and 25. Playing with prime numbers. Consider gematria where numbers are substituted for word and act as linkages.

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