Torah Study Notes 9-26-15

A NOTE TO READERS: THESE NOTES SHOULD BE READ WITH PLAUT’S TRANSLATION OF THE TORAH AND ITS RICH FOOTNOTES. THESE TORAH CLASSES ARE LED BY RABBI LEAH BERKOWITZ. ALL ERROR ARE MY OWN AND CORRECTIONS ARE WELCOMED.

September 26, 2015

RB: A letter received from Mazon – the Jewish response to hunger – in response to her inquiry. No reason for the suggested three  percent – just used the “Goldilocks” approach.

See Page 1389 From last week’s Torah portion. We will read the entire portion – a poem – and then discuss it in its entirety. “You are soon to lie with your ancestors…” A prediction as to the problems that will afflict the people because of their turning to other gods. Write down this poem and teach it to the people. The natural reaction to bad things happening is to think that God has abandoned them or  that they may reject God altogether. Note that the word “Ashtier” is the basis for Esther – which means hidden.  It also relates to Ishtar – the Babylonian God. This reinforces the Deuteronomy philosophy that God will punish you and hide his face from you. Countenance here does not literally mean God’s face – it refers to His presence or teachings. The entire community will be blessed or punished. This is communal.

  1. 1400 A witness against Israel – a testimony or record of what is going to happen. This is really a retrospection of a later generation trying to explain why they are in exile. See Essays at page 1409. Read continuously through parsha 51. A very sophisticated poem written by someone very well educated. Words are used with multiple meanings – as in Shakespeare. The various meanings of “rock” for example. There is much parental imagery here with warnings. There Is also maternal imagery in line 13 “nursing them with honey…” Also “ …the God who brought you forth…” Note that there are groups today that believe that the Holocaust was divine retribution for assimilation or equate terrorist attacks the same way.  Ancient Israel was likely no more monolithic as a society that is Israel today. Obviously, there were individuals or even groups doing some of the things that are here proscribed or criticized. SF: This poem comes from a place of compassion and offers free will or choice to the reader.  Here are set forth the angels and demons within us.  RB: Rock is used eight times in this portion – as a stone – as the God of Israel – the pagan god – as a nurturer – as a source of stability.

Note that Moses makes this speech and then blesses the tribes. This is the last Torah portion that is read on Shabbat.  Richard Elliot Friedman identifies this poem with one of the  Deuteronomic authors – promoting coming to the Temple and not worshiping other gods. The next poem is from  attributed to another Deuteronomist author by him.  It is likely that each author had his own agenda and the Redactor tried to make these various works into a coherent whole. See: How the Bible Became a Book by William M. Schneidewind. Review: For the past two hundred years Biblical scholars have usually assumed that the Hebrew Bible was essentially written and edited in the Persian and Hellenistic periods (the fifth-through-second centuries BCE) Recent archaeological evidence and insights from linguistic anthropology, however, point to the earlier era of the late-Iron Age (eighth-through-sixth centuries BCE) as the formative period for the writing of biblical literature. How the Bible Became a Book combines recent archaeological discoveries in the Middle East with insights culled from the history of writing to address how the Bible was written and evolved into sacred Scripture. Written for general readers as well as scholars, the book provides rich insight into how these texts came to possess the authority of Scripture and explores why Ancient Israel, an oral culture, began to write literature. It describes an emerging literate society in ancient Israel that challenges the assertion that literacy first arose in Greece during the fifth century BCE. William M. Schneidewind is Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA. He is the author of The Word of God in Transition (Sheffield Academic Press, 1995) and Society and the Promise to David.

These are documentary hypothesis. The Rabbi’s have done considerable work trying to fill in the gaps.  SF: Is this conflict still going on? RB: Yes as to the origins of the texts. There are also arguments as to what is central to Judaism. The Reform movement believes that social justice is central. Chabad wants to get as many people as possible to perform ritual mitzvoth so as to encourage the coming of the Messiah. Prayer was originally intended to be a conversation with God. It has become for some a conversation with one’s community or even an internalized conversation with one’s self. We do not take away from this text – we comment or even retranslate. It is the translations that cause wide differences and often are actually interpretations.

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