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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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Speaking of getting FAT!

We charged ahead to Deuteronomy 32:15 today and spent our hour with Rabbi Citrin discussing the concept of ‘fat & kicked’.

While “Fat” describes our greed, overindulgence and gluttony; “Kicked” could refer to our rebellion, arrogance and haughty attitude.

We get ‘fat’ and forget to stay in shape both physically and spiritually.

The slogan of the day: “Lean and Mean Beats Fat and Sloppy” (how true)

So many images from this concept arise from the group:
Jess notes that it is like a baby as it grows and changes.
Janet points out that we need to learn the boundaries for living – because we are easily blinded by our own success.
Jerry looked at more recent history, when we become comfortable and complacent then unexpected things happen like in the ‘73 Yom Kippur war.
Sterling referenced that those who are lean and mean tend to get fat & sloppy.
Cantor Unterman reminded us that when we grow fat we take things for granted. We need to realize that it takes the whole world to make things happen.
Evan described our descent from “piety to sedition” and when we are ‘fat’ and really need less, then we don't follow our needs and the cycle continues.
We need to find a way to keep our values in synch with our reality.
Saul reminded us that only a comfortable person with say that being uncomfortable is a good thing! (not so good to be uncomfortable either)
And Lisa said that ‘prosperity leads to spiritual instability.

Wow – this is amazing insight to just that one line in the song!

The recurring theme throughout our history, beginning with Adam & Eve is that of Exile vs Security in the land.

The roll of food also is significant in this reference. Noted that we have a time of fasting as a way to prepare for conflict or significant events. (Esther was an example given)

The last word – we should not become static – it is important to be satisfied but also to continually strive to be better!

Happy Thanksgiving! - try not to get too fat!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Found In the Wilderness

Deuteronomy 32:10

The Wilderness – a significant place where we were ‘found’.

With Cantor Bandman we discussed Who found Whom and where. The significance of the wilderness and the metaphor and vastness that is visualized by this.

One comment I noted: Do we blow the Shofar from the mountaintops to get the attention of us or of God?

We reflected on the reflexive relationship of God as protector of the people as well as on the journey we took and continue to take.

The significance of the ‘heights’ and it’s strategic advantage. And then there was Jess's comment “You never heard of the ‘low holy days’” to remind us that the heights also are a place of awe.

The wrap up brought us to verse 15 – our key challenge – to understand why we go to the land and get “fat and kicked”, why as Samson Raphael Hirsch tells us, we have a hard time with good fortune. And what exactly does Jeshurun represent?

This is ahead!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fat and Kicked

Deuteronomy 32:11-15

Different Views of the Wilderness Experience - On one hand it was a "time of nurturing" and on the other it was a "time of conflict" - similar to how we look back on our own adolescence or that of our children - at one time we think it was a constant battle but at another time it was a period when parents protected and guided their child from harms way.

Did those Israelis recognize that they were 'guarded' and 'guided' and 'taken care of'? It seems that they just thought they were lost in the wilderness.

There was discussion of those "other gods" mentioned in the poem which are recognized as existing but not considered as real or true. (thanks Larry)

v 13-14: High Places -
refers to food, to the best military vantage and the place for offerings.
Note: This is also the source for the Bimah to be a high point in the sanctuary.

Book mentioned by R. Marder as relevant - "the Myth of Monotheism":
Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras - by Diana L. Eck

Imagery - Honey from the Stone and Oil from the Flinty Rock
Being fed and taken care of no mater how difficult it might have been.

cheese (curd and kine) of cattle and milk of flocks;

With the best of lambs,

And rams (or bulls) of Bashan, and he-goats;

With the very finest wheat-

And foaming grape-blood was your drink

Referral to the 'best of the land' the 'cream of the crop' the 'fat of the land' that the Israelites were given along with the image of being sustained in the wilderness and protected which will change when they go into the 'land of milk and honey' where they will prosper on their own.

We discover that 'we cannot endure the good fortune' for every time we find ourselves in prosperity we become 'fat and kicked'. A thought to ponder -

Our Challenge from Rabbi Marder for the Next 3 Months -
to interpret this reference to our going to the heights and then growing 'fat and kicked':

( I found this on a site and I am pretty sure this commentary from SR Hirsch is the same reference as what R. Marder read to us)

Deuteronomy 32: 13 & 15
He set him atop the highlands,

To feast on the yield of the earth;

He fed him honey from the stone,

And oil from the flinty rock,
. . .
You grew fat and gross and coarse-

He forsook the God who made him

And spurned the Rock of his support.

(Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Germany, 1808-1888) relates to this specific point in his illuminating commentary:

"Here for the first time we meet the name Jeshurun. It designates Israel after the ideal of its moral calling, which in 'yashar' - straight, never deviating in any way from the straight path, corresponds to this name...God wishes that Israel ascend the summit of the dual heights of human aims, the highest material good fortune and the highest spiritual and moral perfection. For Israel is to show the world an illuminating example of how a life devoted entirely to spiritual moral duties by no means entails a renunciation of bright earthly happiness, on the contrary, how the highest degree of morality fits in very well with the highest amount of earthly happiness and all material wealth and earthly enjoyments can be turned into moral deeds and spiritual achievements. But when the destined Jeshurun-people get an abundance of all the good things on earth for the purpose of fulfilling this mission, when it has come out of the wilderness into the land of milk and honey, then it became fat and "kicked out."

'You grew fat and gross and coarse' is an address in parenthesis made to the people present with Moses and to all future readers of the words of the poem. It contains the quintessence of the whole of Jewish history. In suffering, the Jewish people have mostly proved themselves splendid. But it has seldom been able to stand good fortune. 'As often as it has become fat, it has become corpulent and overgrown with fat,' literally: 'covered.' ... The sense of the passage is: - the more strengthening, the fatter, the food which is given to the body is, the more should the surplus be used up in energy and work, the higher should the activity and achievements be. Then the person masters the abundance and remains bodily and mentally healthy and fit, and by his greater achievements increases his moral worth. But if he neglects to use it, then the surplus material stores itself up in his body, he becomes corpulent, obese, and instead of mastering the abundance, he, his real spiritual active self, becomes overcome by the fat, and sinks. That is the history of Israel. It did not use the abundance and surplus with which it was blessed to increased spiritual and moral achievements, not the fuller carrying out of its mission. Its moral improvement did not keep pace with its material good fortune. It did not understand how to remain master of its riches and good fortune, did not know how to use them for the purpose of fulfilling commandments, it allowed itself to be overcome by riches and good fortune, and its better, spiritual moral self to be ruined by it."

*** Rabbi Hirsch suggests that the word "Jeshurun" stems from the root 'yashar' - straight and refers to the whole nation of Israel. The nation which was to exemplify uprightness has become crooked and has turned away from God. They have become fat from the abundance of the land of Israel.

web link for source

So we have to work on this challenge - AND of course in our spare time - learn to list the Prophets in order !!!!

Best wishes to our Rabbi Marder on her 3 month leave for rest and renewal!