Torah Study Notes 3-19-16


March 19, 2016

Page 668

Leviticus generally is a description of the priestly cult. Sacrifice is  considered a means of restoring spiritual balance and order. The focus here is on mistakes that you were unaware of. Compare the Day of Atonement and the notion of expiation of guilt. There are different Hebrew words for transgression including shame.

4:27   Here the sin is unwitting. We atone when it is brought to our attention or via self realization. It is a Jewish tradition  and acceptable to inform others of the sins they have committed.(LL As long as you take no pleasure from it.)  The reference to “nose” also appears in the Song of the Sea and is a personification of anger. After the fall of the Temple it was apparent that the Rabbi’s were already using prayer as a form of expiation instead of via sacrifice through the intermediary of a priest. In the time of the Prophets this method of priestly sacrifice was already being questioned. There were four sects that responded differently to the destruction of the second Temple: Sadducees, Maccabeus, Essenes, and Pharisees. It is the Pharisees who came up with something new (now rabbinic Judaism) and personalized atonement via prayer.  Note that the usual sacrifice was of a ram – not a ewe who would be more valuable. The sacrifice of a ewe was for more important sins.

5:1 “If a person incurs guilt…” Doey: Why are there indentations in both the English and Hebrew? Note that 5:1 through 5:5 is all one sentence. Is there anything that ties all of these sins together? The first and last involve saying and hearing whereas the other two involve personal contact. The first also suggest one’s duty to come forward as a witness – even if someone else already has done so. SF: It appears that the goal here is to transform the individual – restoring a spiritual balance. There are sins that cannot be undone financially or via reparations.

5:7 If you cannot afford a sheep – bring pigeons. Purgation and burnt offerings to achieve expiation. If you cannot afford pigeons bring a tenth of an ephod of flour. Who decides what you can afford? SF We have to rely upon the honesty of the person. Shira: Someone will see what you are bringing to the Temple. What if the motive for giving is to show off? We see that today? Clearly all of this could lead to a perception of corruption. SF: When this was written who advised as to proper procedures? We don’t really know this historical context for all of this. LL: It is likely that when this was written all of the practices were in place. Note how removed we are today from contact with dead animals and their entrails. Not so for the agricultural communities of the time.

5:14 And the Eternal spoke to Moses… a person who sins without knowing it. The priest may make expiation for that person – who shall be forgiven in a variety of specific circumstances. There are different obligations for deceitful practices including robbery or fraud. LL: Today we know it is important psychologically to be cleansed via atonement. See:



Torah Study Notes 2-27-16



February 27, 2016

P 592

Earlier in this parsha we have the account of the Golden Calf. The people are uncomfortable with Moses being gone so long. They corner Aaron and demand that he create a god for them to worship – something tangible.  Moses asks for forgiveness from God and God says he will send an angel.

33:12  Moses argues that God should be lenient with the people he has chosen. You need to be with us in this moment. We have a mortal confronting a deity. SN: This is unique to Judaism. LL:There are Greek myths of struggling with the Gods but that is somewhat different. Here we are evolving toward the notion that God is incorporeal – a distinction that becomes important at the time of Christianity. We have a more intimate relationship with God. The question is raised as to what it means to be in the Covenant. The rule is that “I am God and you are Not.” Has the fundamental contract been violated? Is it accordingly abrogated? The Hebrew indicates an intimate relationship between man and God – almost face to face or the highest form of relationship between a married couple. Moses is asking “How does this work?” He wants to explore the parameters of the relationship.

33::17 I will make all my goodness pass before you… but you may not see my face… LL We gain deep knowledge of others by seeing their faces. From the back you see only general qualities. Note that this is taking place in the Tent of Meeting. There will be more on Mt. Sinai. Here it is the voice, its level and inflection, that are the guides to meaning. Here Moses is in a position analogous to a blind person. This is part of the struggle of moving toward monotheism. The phrase “long in nose” indicates patience. The nose is the seat of anger. See David Sperling’s comment on this passage.

34: 1    Think about the phrase “ I shall make all my goodness pass before you…”  God instructs Moses to return to the mountain for replacement of the Ten Commandments. “Come up in the morning” is a significant phrase used in the sacrifice of Isaac. It indicates an important task that requires ones full attention. Note that God is not permitting Moses to bring someone with him – such as Aaron. This suggests other than a priestly author. This is the J author – Yahwist. It switches to Priestly once he comes down the mountain.  SF: Our encounter with God must be alone. We are supported by the minion but ultimately it is an individual encounter. This is the model for approaching God. See Reb Nachman of Breslov comments on this issue.

RB: You can’t be Jewish by yourself. There is a concept of being religious but not spiritual. The former is our obligations toward one another,

34:4 So Moses carved two tablets of stone… God is described as forgiving. Pardon the iniquity of your stiff necked people. There are some actions that will in fact cast a stain on society. LL Consider the decisions we make today and their consequences to our children and grandchildren. This is the 13 aspects of God’s compassion. By the time of the prophets it is clear that we are uncomfortable with the third and fourth generation being punished. This is a warning here that is rooted in the practicality of real life. In our system the door is open to “shuva.” Joel: The number of “guilty” becomes greater with each generation.   Paul G says that one of the lessons of torah is that there can be collective guilt for the community. The word “hesid” appears several times here. It connotes kindness and loyalty. The concept is  of “grace” in Christianity – you get God’s love because you exist as a human being. Note that the Golden Calf is ground to dust and then put into a drink which is consumed.

There are laws here about idolatry, festivals, etc here. The number 40 indicates a time of transformation.

34:29 Moses face is radiant. He instructs Aaron on all he has been commanded. Note the veil over his face.  The horns of Moses come from the rays of light that are described as coming out of his head.