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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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rachel and "the way of women"

WRJ Torah Commentary - Special Study Session with Rosanne Selfon:

We studied the passage about Rachel taking her father's idols: Genesis 31

Reviewing the questions of why Rachel took the idols and what extended meaning might be found in this story we explored the various possibilities of reasons. R. Andrea Weiss compiled the analysis from Rashi, Rashbam to Alter and Plaut with explanations that range from: "to keep her father from idol worship" to "following the custom of the times" or "symbolic of her defying her father".

Then we moved on a bit to discuss the part where she concealed the idols from her father by sitting on them and then stating, "I cannon rise before you, for the period of women is upon me".

Wendy Zierier (author, And Rachel Stole the Idols) compiled commentary on this part. One that caught our interest:
As with 'I cannot rise before you', Rachel takes the "way of women". an expression that is usually defined by men as "not the way of men" and she layers over its male-generated meaning with her own meaning from her own female perspective. Rachel is thus speaking two languages simultaneously: One is the male-dominated language that sees the "way of women" as a sexually "other" way of being; the second is her own language created from her female perspective, which understands the 'way of women" as an unsanctioned subversive way of attaining justice. Her subversive action in stealing the teraphim is matched by her equally subversive undermining of the male definitions of women and her creation of new meanings out of male-generated language.
by J. E. Lapsley "The Voice of Rachel..."

This particular passage gives a point of view worth more thought. Rachel was a ‘clever’ and ‘wily’ individual and knew how to use her gender to her own advantage. Whether she took the idols to ‘help her father’ or to ‘confirm her rights of inheritance’ or because she believed them to ‘have special powers for her’, it is certain that Rachel knew how to make an impact in her household and use her feminine attributes to her own advantage.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Marriage & Divorce - Details and Questions

Deuteronomy 24:1 – 5

All about men who can divorce the wife he finds "obnoxious" (much discussion on what that means and the translation issues) but once he divorces her – he can’t have her back again. AND then -a man is obligated to make his new wife happy in the first year of marriage.

So many questions come…

It is all about relationships. Is it fair to look at the relationships of marriage in Biblical times and judge them by modern standards? Can we draw information that is helpful for relationships today? Who is responsible for the good relationship in marriage? Can broken relationships be repaired? And what about divorce today, how is it different, or is it?

Rabbi Citrin referenced an interesting book that reflects on the feminist viewpoint:
Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics By Rachel Adler

Good summary & analysis of main points in this book

by the way you can find Rachel Adler in Wikipedia impressive!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Who is "You"

Deuteronomy 23:25-26 "when you enter your neighbor's vineyard, you may eat your fill..." and similarly for the field of grain...

This week's discussion mostly centered on "who is YOU" in this passage and how the rabbis figured that out.

Clearly there is intention that others should not starve and so it is good to allow others to eat a bit of the crops to keep from starving. This passage instructs the "you" to feel ok about eating some of the crops. But "you" clearly cannot take more of the crops than you might need to satisfy present hunger. There is the question about 'who is you' and also a question about limits to 'how many yous' can come and partake.

It seems the Rabbis most often saw the "you" as laborers who came into the fields. This conclusion is mostly based on seeing parallels in the way it is said with other references to the laborers in different passages. (Deut 24:15) And the way the verb for “To Come” is used. There are different ways to say ‘to come’, meaning either ‘by chance’ or ‘deliberate’. The word in this passage is the ‘deliberate’ meaning. Thus, it gives another indicator that the “you” was referring to the laborers who came to the fields on a regular basis.

Examples were noted of times when large populations might be traveling by due to exiles or famines in other places. The question if this law applied to this case was discussed. Certainly there is another parallel with the law in Leviticus about leaving the corners of the fields that implies we are to help in these circumstances to keep the poor from starving. But there are also clear rules about not giving so much that it would put your own life in jeopardy.

What I found interesting is the way the words are analyzed to determine intention. The “you” in the translation of the passage doesn’t seem to be restricted to who it is or how many. Nevertheless, through time and analysis by the Rabbis, “you” has been defined and restricted a bit to make it more reasonable and clear.

class leader: R. Micah Citrin