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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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Controversial "THEN"

Torah Study with Rabbi Sarah Wolf 11/7

Genesis 12: 6 –

The Canaanites were THEN in the land -

This one word, "THEN" in this verse caused much anguish and controversy for Ibn Ezra relating to the possibility of “post-Mosaic” editorial of the Bible...
It was a huge controversy in the Middle Ages (1089-1164) to even imply that the Bible was not the “words of God”.
The "then" implies that they weren't there any more when the narrator was telling the story. So if the narrator were Moses, this would not make any sense because the Canaanites were still there in Moses' time.

His commentary notes:
It could be that the land of Canaan was seized by Canaan from someone else. If not, there is a secret “And the enlightened one will be silent.”
he suggests that the more likely correct interpretation is that the verse teaches us that the Canaanites had taken the land by force from someone else. In other words, he thinks the better translation of the verse is “The Canaanites were then in the land”, meaning “then as opposed to previously”. That translation allows the verse to be written at the time of Moses.

The subject goes back to the verses on the son’s of Noah and their places “in the land” when Ham was the one who was associated with Canaan.

Many opinions and options are possible...
Abraham had become a Canaanite?
Abraham and the Canaanites arrived at the same time?
It was a mistake to use the word “then” - a word lost in the recording?

This leads to a big discussion on “who wrote the Bible” and the many verses and words that are inconsistent and imply that Moses could not have written the Bible. AND if Moses DID write the Bible – where and when did he write it? There is the possibility that he wrote it at the end of his life rather than at Mt. Sinai...

There is also the midrash that he made 13 copies of the Bible – one extra copy for each tribe.

Spinoza alludes to Ibn Ezra in his analysis of the question. He suggests that Ezra wrote the Bible after the Deuteronomy scroll was found.

Books on this topic:
Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliott Friedman
Who Wrote the Bible?: A Book for the People by Washington Gladden
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein
A Layman's Guide to Who Wrote the Books of the Bible?: When? Why? by C. Jack Trickler

JDEP theory:
The theory is based on the fact that different names for God are used in different portions of the Torah, and there are detectable differences in linguistic style. The letters of the JEDP theory stand for the four supposed authors: the author who uses Jehovah for God’s name, the author who uses Elohim for God’s name, the author of Deuteronomy, and the priestly author of Leviticus. The JEDP theory goes on to state that the different portions were likely compiled in the 4th Century BCE, possibly by Ezra.
Talmudic story of when Moses visits the class of Rabbi Akiva
Rav Judah said in the name of Rav, When Moses ascended on high he found the Holy One of Blessing, engaged in affixing coronets to the letters. [6] Said Moses, "Lord of the Universe, Who stays your hand?" He answered, "There will arise a man, at the end of many generations, Akiba b. Joseph by name, who will expound upon each tittle heaps and heaps of laws." "Lord of the Universe," said Moses; "permit me to see him." He replied, "Turn around." Moses went and sat down behind eight rows [and listened to the discourses upon the law]. Not being able to follow their arguments he was ill at ease, but when they came to a certain subject and the disciples said to the master "Whence do you know it?" and the latter replied "It is a law given to Moses at Sinai" he was comforted. Thereupon he returned to the Holy One of Blessing, and said, "Lord of the Universe, you have such a man and you give the Torah by me!" He replied, "Be silent, for such is my decree." Then said Moses, "Lord of the Universe, you have shown me his To rah, show me his reward." "Turn around," said He; and Moses turned around and saw them weighing out his flesh at the market-stalls. "Lord of the Universe," cried Moses, "such Torah, and such a reward!" He replied, "Be silent, for such is my decree." [7]

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Abraham - Old Scientist and Seeker

Abraham like a scientist -

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas Kuhn, is an analysis of the history of science.

The Beginning of Desire by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg
pictures Abraham as a scientific thinker
she points out Rambam's analysis of how Avram realized that there was one God.

- a thinker teacher and writer
- a wanderer in his mind as well as location
- freedom from the cognitive norms of his time

Abraham was an 'inner vagabond' and a discoverer. He used the process of scientific discovery and gradual development of understanding.


The significance of Lot on the journey:
- Avram had no son of his own.
- Lot had no father.
- Lot's nature is a contrast to Abraham - he takes the rich land, he seeks out a sinful life
while Abraham's focus is on compassion and welcoming others.

There are rabbinic opinions of misplaced compassion of Abraham:
“He Who is Compassionate to the Cruel
Will Ultimately Become Cruel to the Compassionate”.

tells the lesson on leniency vs discipline
Evil should have consequences rather than indulgences.

Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin - Lot give excuses as to why not to do mitzvot. Abraham had Lot "tagging along" to offer the excuses!

The Rabbi of Kobrin said,
“The soul says to the evil inclination what Abraham our Father told Lot: 'You go to the left and I'll go to the right. If you go to the right, I'll go to the left. If you want to lead me to the left,' the soul says to the evil inclination. 'I will not listen to you and I will go to the right path. Even if you advise me to go with you to the right, it is better that I go to the left.'”

Abraham is 75 years old:
Pirkei Avot :
At five years of age, the study of Bible; at 10, the study of Mishna; 13, responsibility for the mitzvot; 15, the study of Talmud; 18, marriage; 20, pursuit of a livelihood; 30, the peak of one's powers; 40, the age of understanding; 50, the age of counsel; 60, old age; 70, the hoary head; 80, the age of strength; 90, the bent back; and 100, one dead and out of this world.

Our patriarchs were old men!

80 age of strength refers to inner strength.
- compassion and acceptance of others
- humility
- strength and self respect


The souls / person made in Haran

Rashi accepts the simple reading that they were the servants.

Midrash says it refers to converts "brought under the wings of the divine presence"

Proselytization and attitude toward conversion changed over time.
In the New Testament - Matthew - tells that Jesus was critical of the Pharisees as being too zealous in their proselytization of pagans to the laws of Moses.

There is question on whether it was the servants or converts - the commentators ask why we do not hear of these 'converts' again. Was it that they were not treated well and then they abandoned their faith? Used as a teaching point on why it is important to treat the convert well.

Conversion is not in Torah.

After the exile came the realization that God is portable and can be 'shared'. However at the time of the destruction of the temple through the acceptance of Christianity by Constantine it became 'illegal' to do the mitzvot of Judaism such as circumcision and then conversion was discouraged.

Sanhedrin 19b, quoted by Rashi- "Anyone who teaches someone else's child Torah is regarded as if he had begotten them."

Abraham brought all his wealth...

assures that wealth is a good thing ...

Eretz Yisrael in the Parshah: The Centrality of the Land of Israel ... by Moshe Lichtman
connects this thought to the mitzvah to make aliyah 'fully' - not on the '10 year plan'
Avram left first - he immediately left and didn't wait to settle his affairs ( as in verse 4 it states that he left) Then he was joined by Sari and Lot and the others - they may have stayed behind to 'settle the affairs' and gather the wealth. (verse 5)

Abraham arrives in Canaan - Abraham passes through Canaan
there is redundancy that spurs controversial interpretatrion!