Torah Study Notes 2-6-16

Page 522
Exodus 23:25 “When my angel goes before you…”
Here we find more detail with respect to other rules of conduct, observing the Sabbath and festivals and the rewards that are promised for our obedience. “”When my angel goes before you… and when I annihilate them (your enemies such as The Canaanites, Moabites and Hittites.) From a modern perspective this is a nihilistic and savage view. It is an intolerant and jealous God – not only as to other gods but as to other cultures. As we move from the Torah to the Prophets God moves from being parental to marital. In ancient societies religion was a part of everyday life that it isn’t today for most modern cultures. No separation between church and state so things like war, treaties and political decisions all have an immediate and important religious dimension. In the early text such as Exodus there is a permeable boundary between divine and human. To have a divine being such as an angel creates a theological problem in monotheism. In retrospect it appears that none of these things promised as rewards and punishments really happened – unless they are still happening – very slowly. This is a problem for the rabbis who start thinking of an afterlife because of the perceived lack of justice in the actual world. The notion of an afterlife is a convenient panacea. LL: Some of this seems to be hyperbole akin to what the coach says during halftime in the locker room. It is over the top exhortation and should be recognized as such. RB In the Mishnah the rabbis acknowledge that they have no idea why bad things happen to good people but agree that we are responsible for enforcing justice in this world. In our society the boundaries between different peoples are thin – which brings the question as to how far that should go. RR Sounds like the concern of the author is to proceed gradually so as to avoid a return to chaos. Consider Jim Carey in Bruce Allmighty Prayers are not being answered so the deiffied Bruce winds up answering all of the prayers “yes.” Bob R – when the Imam was here he warned us to be aware of the things in scripture that are “seeds” of the problems we have today. Scripture has to be read with a filter. Look at line 32 which seems to preclude any accommodation to the people who are being displaced. RB:: There are Jews today who still take this literally and do not mix with “the other.” PC: We can now reject this totally which says something about Judaism today.
24: 1 Come up to the Eternal… and bow low from afar. Moses wrote down all of the commands of the Eternal. The blood of the covenant is splashed on the people. When you behold G you can engage in eating and drinking. Moses remains on the mountain forty days and forty nights. LL What is the pedagogic intent here? Why is Moses going up the mountain several times? RB: Note that 40 years is a generation whereas 40 days is just a long time. The appointment of Aaron and Hur to determine legal disputes indicates the importance of law in the society – and even today. Note that there is some language here which suggests that a fetus in not a person. Note also that the eye for an eye principle is actually a relaxation of an earlier practice where an entire village could be wiped out in revenge for the killing of one person. See Essays on page 526 of Plaut.
24:7 See RB handout on “We will do and we will listen” ending with the following statement of Rabbi Kushner:
Rabbi Harold Kushner (Etz Chayim 378): “The literal meaning of the two words naaseh v’nishma is “we will do and we will obey.” This famous reply represents the Israelites’ faithful acceptance of their role as God’s chosen people. The Sages were impressed by the eagerness with which the Israelites accepted the burdens of being God’s people and following God’s laws. To say “I will do” even before one understands is to say, “I have faith that God will lead me in the proper path.” According to a talmudic legend, the angels were so impressed with this show of faith that they came down from heaven and placed to crowns on the head of each Israelite, one for doing (naaseh) and one for obeying, or seeking to understand (v’nishma). The Israelites could have responded, as most would today, “We will seek to understand and, if we are persuaded, we will agreed to do them.” Instead, having met God in Egypt, at the sea, and at Mount Sinai, the Israelites trusted that God’s demands would be reasonable and in their best interest. Just as we accept medicine from our physician on trust, without understanding what it is or how it works, and commit ourselves to marriage, to parenthood, and to a career as acts of faith before we fully understand what they will entail, so too the Israelites accepted God’s will. There are many things in life that we cannot appreciate before we have lived them and come to appreciate their value. We must do them first (naaseh) and only afterwards realize why (nishma).”

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