Torah Study Notes 5-14-16

May 14, 2015

Page 801

As to the Sabbath when can we work? The Reform and Orthodox movements approach this question differently. Is it harder to celebrate Shabbat now than in ancient times? It is different. In many ways your office follows you home. It is difficult today to carve out a time of introspection and peace – to get away from your cell phone. SN: Shabbat is a Temple in time – it separates the sacred and the profane.  RB; There is an app that is designed to prevent you from touching your phone for 24 hours. The Shabbats elevator stops at every floor.

Leviticus 19:23 When you enter the land… wait for five years before you consume the fruit. The fruit is not ready until it has a “foreskin.” You shall not shave on the side of your face or gash your skin. These may have been practices in Egypt and Canaan and the rules distinguish this people from the others. Also, blood was considered a life force and therefore not to be consumed. At one point mourning was so intense that it was marked on the body. When the future has been determined one can see it via divination and sooth-saying. In Judaism there is free will so the future is determined by the individual.

31: Do not turn to ghosts… This is a community of ancestor worship and even today Christians pray to saints. The notion of spirits or ghosts was deemed competitive to the priestly cult and therefore to be avoided. The Israelites didn’t believe in an afterlife? They did – we should not impose ideas of modern Judaism on this text or the ancient priestly cult.

32: You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old… When are you old? Bernard Baruch said that an old person was anyone who was fifteen years older than him. The importance of honest weights etc. When strangers shall reside among you do not wrong them… A very resonant notion for our time of mass migrations and refugees.

20-1  Do not give an offspring to Molech.. or you will be put to death.  Molech was a rival god who was placated via human sacrifice. M is associated with death – who was fed so as to avoid havoc in the community life. Contrast Baal who was a fertility god. The word means “master.” “Ishi” is the word for man and ‘Isha” for woman.   See essay on Molech and sacrifices on page 791. Situational ethics –

Consider situations when sacrifice may be warranted – particularly self-sacrifice. Also consider end of life issues as to medical intervention. Helping one refugee family is symbolic – it is difficult to have a world-wide impact even though we are aware of terrible situations via modern media.

20 -7 You shall faithfully fulfill my laws. Do not:  insult your father or mother – lie with your fathers wife – lie with a male – or marry a woman and her mother – or mate with a beast or your sisters. Or a woman who is menstruating. Or your mothers sister or fathers sister. Or the wife of your brother. You shall not follow the practices of the nation I am driving out for you. Separate the pure and the impure. Don’t interact with ghosts. See Essay on Holiness at page 807. This last may have applied to people that today we might classify as psychotic. It has been suggested that these rules are an effort to avoid children of questionable paternity or to disrupt the family structure. AF  Did the community assume that a childless couple had sinned? RB: Not necessarily – we have all of these Genesis narratives of a couple not having children for twenty years. Infertility was at one time considered a communal punishment. In Orthodoxy a man can divorce an infertile wife. What about the ghost scene in Fiddler On The Roof? Tevya is very uneducated and lived in a world of superstition. The appearances were in dreams – not in reality. How were the punishments implemented? See page 814 on stoning and being put to the fire.

Note: Sh’mini in Leviticus is paired with the Haftarah portion of II Samuel 6:1-7:17 This is the account of David moving the Ark to Jerusalem. While David is walking before the Ark he and others were dancing to music. The Ark almost tips over and Uzzah touches it. He is immediately struck dead by God. David becomes terrified and instead of having the Ark brought to the City of David diverts it to the house of a Gittite. When David sees that the Gittite and his family are blessed because of the presence of the Ark he  goes back and sacrifices an ox and makes other burnt and peace offerings. He distributed food and wine to the people. However, his niece Michal, daughter of Saul,  accuses him of showing off. He rejects her criticism and Michal never bears a child. The word of the Eternal comes to the prophet Nathan in a dream and he advises David to build a Temple to hold the Ark.


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