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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Sunday, December 31, 2006

to a sweet 2007

We wish for sweetness in our new year and at Rosh Hashanah as we eat honey.
So it is also appropriate for the secular new year.

I found this Proverb to be appropriate:
“Eat Honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul.” (Proverbs 24:13-14)

So eat sweet and have a sweet new year

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Who went where and why?

When you cross the Jordan, the ones who will stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people are Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. The ones who will stand on Mount Eval for the curse are Reuven, Gad, Asher, Zevulun, Dan, and Naftali. Deuteronomy 27:11

These are the tribes or decedents of Jacob's sons. And of course, when Moses gave this order the actual sons were no longer alive. So, why were some to go to the blessed mountain and others to the cursed mountain? Well it seems that who's who follows you for many generations. Those who are to go to Mount Gerizim are the decedents of Rachel and Leah's children, while those who went to Mount Eval were the children of the concubines and then there is Reuven who is still blamed for his sins back in Genesis.

And of course there are the Levites who were special and seem to be the ones to chant this particular part about the curses where the people say "Amen" to validate their understanding. Is the chanting to help them remember them kind of like the words to a song? And all the curses relate to sins against people and mostly those that can be 'secret'. And some scholars say that there is a 'curse' associated with each tribe. (Someday I may want to explore which goes with whom - I wonder if we can determine which tribe we descend from today? I am sure there are scientists working on that too.)

One website I found did a real visual impression of where these mountains are and what they might look like:
"Mount Ebal, from the Hebrew word, meaning rocky, is a mountain in Samaria, in central Israel. At a height of 3,077 feet / 937 meters above sea level, and 1,200 feet / 365 feet above the level of the adjacent valley, it was located on the north side of the ancient city of Shechem. Mount Gerizim was to the south of Shechem on the opposite side of the valley.
Well within sight of each other, Mount Ebal's rather barren appearance contrasted with the more lushly covered Mount Gerizim. This difference was used in a ceremony to symbolize the blessings for those who obey God, and the curses for those who disobey" They even did a map to show where these mountains are. Interesting to see it this way.

Mt Ebal shows up in other places relating to curses as well. An interesting article on this subject and of course points out some controversy about this subject: "It is surprising that the altar was built on Mount Ebal, since further on, as well as previously, in Deuteronomy 11, this place is described as the site of the curses. This has been explained in terms of custom in royal treaties in the ancient Near East and in terms of psychological impact, the curse being the primary component of the pact, as a deterrent against its violation. Indeed, a structure resembling an altar from the appropriate period was discovered not long ago on Mount Ebal,[4] and may be identified as the altar of the covenant. The Samaritan version of the Bible resolves this difficulty by placing the altar on Mount Gerizim, where the Samaritan's altar is to this day."

I found several interesting links talking abut this subject:

Another analysis
A Christian Site with interesting points
An Interesting comparison about the tribes

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Permanence vs Impermanence

Write it down. Put it in stone. Make it permanent.

Adam Allenberg, HUC student intern, led Torah Study through the maze of discussion from the permanence of writing the laws on stone, plaster or not, how to make the laws last through generations, writing on stones as markers of the territory, oral vs written law and the role of the elders in the community.

The writing of the law was important as noted in Deuteronomy 27:1-3. But there was no archaeological evidence of this being done. Nevertheless, the law HAS been passed down all the way to the current generation.

The law has been flexible and changed in interpretation. The law has been inflexible as it has been written in Torah and not changed. Both permanent and impermanent at the same time.

The contrast of the oral tradition and the written law was explored (as well as the role of women in passing down the stories and laws - thanks Randi). But it is the balance of these traditions and the evolution of impermanent interpretation along side the permanence of the written word that has sustained the basis of our code from generation to generation.

Elyon (more)


means something like 'higher, upper'. It derives from the Hebrew root ‘lh, Semitic root ‘ly 'go up, ascend'. ‘Elyōn when it means God or is applied to God is often translated 'Most High'. (wikipedia definition)

The Hebrew "Elyon" occurs thirty-one times in th Bible. Usually referring to God as being superior or 'higher'.

So in Deuteronomy 26:17-19 when the term is mentioned in relation to the people it is questioned as to what it means. Are the people who follow the commandments "higher" than others?

Well then the real question is: Do we actually follow the commandments?

Yes, we have kept Torah and held it as 'elyon' for thousands of years. But we have not followed all the commandments.

Moses does motivate the descendents of the people but it is not clear if there is a true fulfillment of the promise for us to be 'higher' than others.

This goes back to the other question: Chosen for what?

Friday, December 15, 2006

This Day

. The term “this day” appears several times in Deuteronomy.
Chapter 4 v8, Chapter 15 v5, Chapter 19 v9 – what day are they speaking of?

Is it the 1st day of the 11th month when Moses gave his speech?
OR is it the day that you read or hear it?

Moses is speaking to the new generation of Israelites, the ones who were born in the wilderness. Do we today still qualify? Or is the modern generation different?

Nevertheless the message of Moses is still valid. Is the promise of "Elyon" still valid?

Are we superior? There are signs of our 'power' in that we represent such a tiny percentage of the population but a much higher percentage of success and notoriety. Look at the list of Nobel Prize winners, look at the statistics on the % of Jews in prestigious universities, look at the % of Jews who head successful businesses ... Look at the news!

What does this word Elyon mean?

Look at the wikipedia definition:

(more later)

About Liberals

“ The problem with liberals is that is is hard for them to take their own side in an argument”
(from R. Zweiback attributed to R. David Ellenson)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Torah Study Tangent on Deuteronomy

Last session the tangent to discuss Deuteronomy structure as it parallels a vassal treaty was very interesting.
The format -
History and background
Listing of laws and rules
Description of the vassal or boundaries
Consequences and benefits

As this is the same as Hittite and Suzerain treaties of the Kings it helped the analysts to date the book and to better understand Deuteronomy from a historical perspective. I found an interesting (but more Christain) presentation on this subject on the internet:

Even Wikipedia refers to this format. Interesting!

I also want to do more research on other topics covered last week: The Tractate on Eggs!, Why Chosen and for What?, and The Curse of Assimilation are topics worthy of more exploration!

I hope to get back to update the blog this week!

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