Torah Study Notes 8-20-16

August 20, 2016

Plaut page 1199

Rabbi Paul Golomb

This is the beginning of an Aliyah. Moses is addressing the Israelites; recalling the events of Sinai and repeating the Ten Commandments – with some differences.

5:19 Moses is relating what the previous generation has agreed to and he has stated forty years previously. For the most part the audience did not experience Sinai and may be ignorant of the details.  Note that the actual writing of this text takes place hundreds of years later. At the end of this verse we learn that the account of Exodus has been written down. But were the tablets accurately and completely transcribed?  The issue of what did they know and when did they know it has been the subject of much scholarly discussion. When was the source document for Exodus created? Ezra and his redactors who assembled the Torah in about 500 to 450 BC had sources and fragments. Here it is assumed that the Deuteronomist was aware of the work of the J writer who assembled Exodus. PG believes that the redactor didn’t just try to sew the documents together with minimum effort. Nor did the redactor rewrite everything. There were a great many decisions that had to be made as evidenced by the creation narrative and the flood narrative in Genesis. There are two radically different creation narratives placed side by side whereas the flood narrative weaves the two creation narratives together seamlessly. Here we have the redactor taking the Deuteronomist in the context of Exodus. This creates the narrative gaps that appear purposefully here. This is here a complex notion of translation. It is Moses telling what happened but changing the words of God in a careful manner. His purposes are worthy of discussion on another occasion. He is humanizing himself by admitting his frailties and asking that the focus be on the words. Note that even the same words can have different meanings depending on the vocalization – the inflection. LL: This oration seems to me to be ceremonial. It is a momentous occasion – they are about to enter the Promised Land.

25 Follow the rules and you will long endure in the land that you are to possess. Note the Jordan is being crossed from east to west. The Psalms suggest that the Jordan also parted. Today it empties into the Dead Sea. The force of the river has been abated due to irrigation and other uses.

6:1 And this is the instruction… This is the recipe for a long and happy life. Deuteronomy is overwhelmingly concerned about the social weal – how you create a commonwealth. The individual’s responsibility to community for social wellbeing. The individual “you” is intrinsically linked to the communal “you.”  Compare the lessons of  Sophicle’s Antigone in Greek culture.  In Antigone, Sophocles asks the question, which law is greater: the gods’ or man’s. Sophocles votes for the law of the gods. He does this in order to save Athens from the moral destruction which seems imminent. Sophocles wants to warn his countrymen about hubris, or arrogance, because he believes this will be their downfall.

And compare  the life and work of Aeschylus which virtually overlaps the time of the redactors:

There are scholarly discussions about the extent of communication between eastern thinkers and the Greeks..

4: Hear oh Israel etc. all language that appears in the Friday Service. See Reform prayer book The Gates of Prayer. Now it is gender neutral. The Reform prayer book says the Eternal is “one” whereas here the Eternal is “alone.” The emphasis on absolute oneness has been changed so as to exclude any other methods of faith. The context is different as well – liturgy is today taking place in a society that generally believe in one God. At the time Moses is speaking the other societies are polytheistic. Here a constitution is being established in order to organize the society.

8:10 When the Eternal your God brings you into the land… Note that the rules are to be applied once the land is taken – like moving into a furnished apartment. There are inherent advantages in taking an occupied land. See Martin Buber’s response to Gandhi who wanted everyone to use the Hindu principles of acceptance – even in the face of the Nazi’s. Buber differed and noted that historically all land had been seized from someone. With the possible exception of Australia’s aborigines.

In the context of the Babylonian exile and return this author is now saying that there had been a loss of faith. You – the people – assumed that you were the authors of the writings and therefore could alter them. The Deuteronomist is rejecting that notion and insisting that they return to basics. This is the word of God and cannot be altered (except by Moses.)