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, January 19, 2010

A New Promise After Lot Leaves...

Torah Study 1/16
Genesis 13: 12-18

Lot and Avram part ways. Lot chooses greed over morality.

v13 – Sodom- a fertile land that Lot chooses. Inhabitants are ‘wicked’ and ‘sinners’ - a redundancy -
No details at this point on how they were wicked or sinning.
the curse, "May [his / her] name and memory be obliterated," (Hebrew: ימח שמו וזכרו , yimach shmo ve-zichro)

As opposed to:
Z”L - zikhrono livrakha זיכרונו לברכה of blessed memory; or
may his/her memory be for blessing

Rashi on the redundancy: Wicked – with body – adultry – man lies with another man’s wife.
Sin – with money – stingy – not give to the poor – greed.

(Sodomy – not from the Bible – no mention of homosexuality in relation to the place of Sodom)

Book Review: Elizabeth Gilbert - Committed

Al Het – the word for sin = “miss the mark”

Hassidic interpretation: Ezekiel on Sodom (book)
Sinners (pride and idleness) before God – cruelty to other people.

Even if someone seems pious on the outside they may be a sinner before God.

V14 – After Lot leaves – God speaks to Avram.
“Lift your eyes” and a reconfirmation of the promise not that Avram is cut off from his past and his family.

Avram waits for God to ask.

Samson R. Hirsch – Writes about this in reference to his own time.
Don't be seduced by the material wealth. Speaking to people who were assimilating with the German society.

The Divine promise is renewed – the land given to him and his offspring.

This is problematic as you ‘cant take land’ but we have a responsibility to care for the land.

Nachum Sarna - It was not about ‘ownership’ – it is about ‘home’ and where we are from.

“Dust of the Earth” (interesting website)
Dust endures forever – we are everywhere as dust is.
Blessed with water:
Water = Torah
Dust outlives people.

Paul Resnikoff poem:

Ownership of land commentaries:
Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah (Hardcover) By: Moshe D. Lichtman

Oct 7 2000 – Tomb of Joseph desecrated.

Question: Why does the Bible start with Genesis?
To give the background about the land.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Conflict and Solutions

Genesis 13: 8-15 – Abraham’s Solution – the separation

Leon Kass – why midrash? To fill in the gaps! To keep it fresh through 100s of generations.

Abraham was always the ‘stranger’ ( Peter Pitzele)

Avram stays in Canaan Lot goes to Sodom

Avram tries to make peace.

They are “ahim” brothers/kin – how does the relationship effect their attitude and the attitude of the community?

When did Lot “go wrong”? When he acquired wealth.

Rashi says that the text implies that Avram and Lot ‘looked alike’ -
Eli Munk says on this that the lesson is not to think that because they look alike that they are alike.

Lot’s nature is based on greed – thus he went to the place that “looked” good from where he was.

Avram’s tone in suggesting separation is most respectful and peaceful.
Eli Munk points how the word for ‘separate’ indicates a definitive separation which implies a complete break including forbidden intermarriage in the future.
SR Hirsch – this is to protect Avram’s people from the bad influence of Lot’s way of life.
Rashi – looking forward in the story to Sodom & Gomorra – interprets it differently – Abraham will always be there to help Lot.
Nachum Sarna – Abraham shows nobility of character here (to make up for the last chapter) he doesn’t insist on his seniority.

Directions: Left Right = North South

E Munk – there is inference of sexual desire – Lot is driven by sensuality – which is confirmed later.

Lot sees the Planes of Jordon – using the word ‘kikar’ = same as a bar of gold
The sin of Sodom is greed and selfishness.

v11 – parenthetical statement – before the destruction of Sodom & Gemorra - it was beautiful and lush prior to this.

A parallel to Eden – while it looks good there is a serpent buried below.

Lot’s choice is based on his self interest. He doesn’t consult with anyone else.

A word confusion: “Journeyed Eastward” vs. “from the East” to figure out next week.

Books & Articles Mentioned:
I Only Say This Because I Love You, Deborah Tannen

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Sendak, schmendak. - guest review of CJM exhibit

304,805 at the CJM
by Howard Selznick

Sendak, schmendak.

The much-ballyhooed exhibit on the acclaimed author and illustrator Maurice Sendak packs them into the San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum. What’s overlooked is the display upstairs.

The CJM has commissioned a scribe, Julie Seltzer, to write a Torah scroll, all 304,805 letters of it. She’s a rookie soferet; it’s her first effort. You’d hardly know it by the care and precision with which she forms the letters and words. She was taught well.

Julie claims that the writing is a science. It’s anything but. The effort is mostly artistic and requires much patience. The discipline to work for several hours a day for over one year with ink, quill pen, and parchment must be demanding. It’s a labor of love. It could be mind-numbing boring, but Julie deals with this by remembering that her efforts connect to numerous scribes going back thousands of years. It must be gratifying to know that she is sustaining an ancient tradition.

The effort is mostly copying; the real artistic work comes from the need to justify the text. So that every line has equal length, certain letters must be elongated to fill the space. Evidently, you can tell a veteran scribe from an inexperienced one by the way this spacing is done.

It’s also an ongoing ritual. Each word is pronounced before being written. Before beginning work each day, she silently recites, “I write this Torah scroll for the sake of the holiness of the Torah.” Before each of the many names of God is written, she whispers, “I write this holy name for the sake of the holiness of the Torah.”

She expects the scroll to be completed by the fall of 2010, about one year after starting. If so, she will have written an average of about 1,000 letters per day (excluding Shabbat and holidays) or the equivalent of 20 verses.

A scribe’s work is anonymous, so Julie will not sign the completed scroll. Too bad.

Post script: the 613th mitzvah is to write your own Torah, derived from Deuteronomy 31:19. Of course, it must be done perfectly, according to guidelines on type of parchment, ruled lines, type and color of ink, quill, and lettering; even one variation means the scroll cannot be read publicly. What if I wrote a Torah on notebook paper, with a pencil, in my poor Hebrew script? No matter how kosher the trees or lead were, the result wouldn’t be a truly valid Torah, at least in public, ritualistic terms.

But what a labor of love this would be! It would be my private Torah, to be used to follow during Shacharit services. Or study the words during Shabbat Torah class. Or learn Biblical Hebrew. What a sense of accomplishment it would produce! What a huge time commitment it would be! Vey iz mir!

So, when should I start?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Too Much Stuff Causes Big Family Split!

Genesis 13: 1 - 10 (summary of notes - need to fill in details)

Books & Articles Mentioned:
Jews for Judaism: Know How to Answer (I could not find the book but here is their website )

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
Review by Malcolm Gladwell -

The Tragedy of the Commons by Garrett Hardin, 1968

About Avram returning from Egypt the ‘way he came’ - returns by the same route:
  • A lesson in frugality
  • Showing loyalty
  • He paid his debts – debts not monetary but of answers to questions he could not previously answer
  • To return to the altars – as he was a missionary

Lot’s role -
“the land could not support them both”
- Too much stuff!
- Ecological reasons
- Conflict over resources
- Their possessions weigh them down.

SR Hirsch – incompatibility between Lot and Avram – If they can’t agree and there is no trust they need to separate all their possessions.

Priority conflict: Lot = Profit Avram = Morality

There are deeper reasons why people come into conflict.

What does ownership mean? Concept of private property?

Canaanites and the Perizzites – the settled population – a contrast to Avram and the nomadic life he leads.

Avram and Lot – strangers in the land and conflict between them.

NEXT TIME: Avram offers a solution...