Torah Study Notes 8-29-15

August 29, 2015

p. 1329

Deuteronomy 23

Last week’s question: What were the six cities of refuge? The Torah names the following six cities as being cities of refuge: Golan, Ramoth, and Bosor, on the east of the Jordan River, and KedeshShechem, and Hebron on the western side. Probably established  during the reign of Josiah. We think of taking refuge in a synagogue or church. But remember Charleston.

23:8 More laws in this Torah portion than any other in the Bible. “You shall not abhor an Edomite” etc. Why do the Egyptians get special treatment? If they co-exist for three generations they are admitted to the congregations. Is this an exclusive list or representational? RB: There are certain people that can never be admitted – seven nations including the Amalekites.   There is a fear of loss of identity because part of social interaction in ancient times is sacrificing to the God(s) of others. Ruth is a Moabite and is ultimately the grandmother of King David. LL: There has been a diffusion of Jewish culture that has made much of America more Jewish. PC: The moral and ethical aspects of Judaism are harder to see in the fabric of American society: fixing the world frequently clashes with many American attitudes. Acceptance of immigrants is another – social justice – caring for the poor. AS: Dis-aggregating the data on where Jews give money – they are the most generous in the country. RB: In the rabbinic period there was a communal organization that cared for the poor. Now the split is generally between government or philanthropic organizations. DC: Note that “Sedakah” means Justice not Charity. Note there is no mention of the Ishmaelite peoples.

28:10 Anything “untoward.” Or “unseemly.” There must be public sanitation and avoidance of impurities.  A military camp is considered a sacred place because it is assumed that God is with the Israelite army. God’s presence is essential.

28:16  You shall not turn over a slave that seeks refuge. “Dog” here is a euphemism for a male prostitute. The Bible was cited on both sides of the Abolitionist movement since there were slaves in the Bible. Note that it was very important not to have children of questionable paternity. See God vs Gay by Jay Michelson on the religious attitudes toward homosexuality.

The Hebrew word “Toevah” is best translated “against the custom of the place.” Instead of “abomination.”

28:20 The question of charging interest. It can be charged to foreigners. But in the 7th year and in the 50th year where there was a remission of debts. Loans were seen not as investments but as an act of charity. Hillel invented a system wherein your loan was actually transferred to a “court” that collected the loan. Jews became moneylenders because they could loan to foreigners.

28:22 When you make a vow to the Eternal your God… DC: But Kol Nidre absolves one of intemperate vows. RB: It sounds like divine forgiveness but it is actually legalistic. See recent decision on suit enforcing a promised bar mitzvah gift.

24:1 A bill of divorcement for an obnoxious wife. Even today the “get” is given by a husband to a wife. Hillel and Shamei and Akiva all commented on this – questions of translation are posed. This was a “no fault” divorce. Polygamy was a way of retaining the infertile wife and at the same time having a fertile one. This was probably all fairly progressive for the time. It is better to have some legal structure or rules of conduct than to have anarchy. A Ketuba is actually a prenuptial agreement. See:

In Reform Judaism a religious divorce is available to both men and woman. See: Ritual of Release.

In the Conservative movement there is the “Lieberman Clause” in the Ketuba which assures a divorce.

There is also a somewhat similar agreement in the Orthodox community.

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