Chavarah- Jewish Community Learning

A blog of Jewish study and traditions. Notes from classes: Torah Study with Rabbi Marder, Toledot and Shabbaton as well as other details found of interest.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Notes: God & Big Bang - Dr Danny Matt

Kabbalistic Spirituality has much in common with Scientific Cosmology.

Scientific theories give a new way to read Genesis - it causes us 'loose the myth'. Big Band is a contemporary creation story. Gives us a different way to look at Creation. But Science doesn't answer the Purpose or Meaning of Life... that is a spiritual question.

Science - we crave understanding and order in the world. But science doesn't answer the meaning of life.

Spirituality - the inutitive feeling of oneness of the universe. Spirituality offers underlying unity together with diversity to give us direction.

The universe is expanding
God is expanding
There is rhythm to the universe.

Science - Theory of Broken Symmetry - like perfect bunch of pencils all the same size grouped together and held together in perfect symmetry points down. Let go and they fall in a broken and asymmetric pattern. There was symmetry in the origin but now we are in broken symmetry.

Kabbalah - Theory of Broken Vessels - there are devine sparks in everything. God is not a separate entity. God is part of everything. God needs us to help mend the broken world.

Science & Religion compliment each other.

Religion - brings wonder
Science - brings discovery and rediscovery

Interesting lecture beautifully delivered.

Publisher Review

Article by Dr. Matt

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

On Interfaith Marriage in Biblical Times

Deuteronomy 23:4-9

So there are clearly specific groups of people who were not to be ‘admitted’ into some aspects of the Israelite community. And there is conflicting evidence to these laws that make it somewhat confusing. (see previous post)

The Bible and history of that time confirms that interfaith marriage happened in Biblical times. Especially in Kings I: King Solomon loved foreign women. And yet interfaith marriage with idol worshipers is clearly discouraged in Torah. The most prevalent reason is the same today as it was then, to preserve our ways and avoid assimilation with foreign tribes.

Ezra finds the people have been assimilated with foreign tribes at the end of the Babylonian exile period – in 458 BCE. When they go to rebuild the Temple and he discovers what has happened he ‘rents his garment’ as a sign of mourning. He proclaims that the exile was a punishment for all the intermarriage. And he went on to ‘purge the Israelites of the foreigners’ ways.’

And then Isaiah says: "My house shall be a place of prayer for all people" (Isaiah 56.7) and indicates that he promoted acceptance of the foreigner who were ‘attached to Israel’.

Today the issues of concern of interfaith marriage are not so different from in Biblical times. There is still a fear that the Jews and their faith will be diluted by assimilation. Our goals are still the same, to preserve our people and the distinctions that make us who we are. This is not to say that interfaith marriage cannot work. It is just that the value of the Jewish heritage and faith is important and needs to be continued from generation to generation ‘dor l’dor’.

Book reference: The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage by Maurice Lamm

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Whose Who in the Neighborhood

Deuteronomy 23:4

Do not ‘ADMIT’ - the Moabites and Ammonites for all generations are excluded, and then the Egyptians and the Edomites for 3 generations only.

Interesting the contrast when setting rules for exclusion.

And it isn’t completely clear what they are excluded from.

And why those often mentioned enemies ‘the Amalek’ are not mentioned here.

More questions to dig into that seem to be part of political and/or marriage laws.

Clues to why Ammonites & Moabites may have been noted here: These are descendants of Ammon & Moab, the sons of Lot by his daughter (Gen 19:38) and fall under the ‘momzer’ definition, children of those who cannot marry within the law. .

On the other hand, the story of Ruth, shows the existence of friendly relations between Moabites and Israelites. And there also is the relation to Ruth and David to understand. King David was a descendent of Ruth and might have had Moabite blood. Yet there was a terrible war between David and the Moabites which also may have some connection.
Interesting link about this: Moabite Find

*** How is it that Ruth, a Moabite, married an Israelite when it was seemingly forbidden? The 'law' applies only to men and not to women. It was ok for an Israelite man to marry a Moabite woman... nice that the language clearly has masculine and feminie forms of the words to make that distinction. *** Later the Rabbis set up the rules of conversion - just to be sure.

There are other conflicts to this law; just back in Deut 2:26 when Moses recounts the history and mentions an episode with the Moabites and again in chapter 37 it relates to the Ammonites.

The Edomites are the descendents of Esau the brother of Jacob – they are mishpacha, ‘family’.

The Egyptians were the ones who enslaved the Israelites but then again earlier they offered them a haven and saved them from dire conditions.

And then there is the conflict with the repetitive commandment to ‘love the stranger’.

This just keeps on getting more complex to sort out. . . more to come.

Momzers and More

The 'misbegotten' child is a "momzer". Defined as one born from those who cannot marry within the law.

Children who are blamed for the issues of the parents and cannot be part of the ‘assembly’, which either is about being part of the governing body or marrying into the community. And it continues down the inheritance chain because the status makes their decedents not able to marry into the community as well.

This is still an issue in some Orthodox groups. The Reform movement has defined a Jew as one with 1 Jewish parent and who has been raised as a Jew.

Interesting that the word 'momzer' has in Yiddish has more meanings - something to research here.

And they have the same rules for the 'emasculated man' or a eunuch. This may be due to the role of the eunuchs in pagan society and the Torah's repudiation of 'things pagan'.

Deuteronomy 23:2-5 deals with who cannot be part of the 'assembly' of Israel.

The part about the eunuch is conflicted especially as revealed in Isaiah 56:

"To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant –
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial (lit. hand) and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will never be cut off.

This is also the reference to Yad Vashem - the memorial to their names.

So they really were considered part of the community.

This requires much searching for the meaning of 'assembly' and the contradictions in Torah that are the 'food' for our digging for meaning.