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, February 23, 2010

Kings After Battle...Who is Melchizedek?

Torah Study 2/20/10 Rabbi Janet Marder
Genesis 14:17-20
Abraham met the Melech Sodom – the King of Sodom – and yet it is not sure of the exact situation due to some tricky translation from the Hebrew.

There seems to be a military implication in the wording but not sure if it is a confrontation or not.

Where the met – in the “valley” - Rashi says it is just an open flat place. Midrash puts it in a sport arena/grounds.

There is implications that Abraham was to be ‘crowned’ as king – but he rejects that. He refuses the spoils of this battle.

A bit of Abraham character building here.

What is the meeting about and who is this King of Sodom?

Christians use this as a parallel story to that of Jesus. Similar to what appears in Daniel that is a predictor of Jesus.
And Paul in the New Testament says Jesus is Melchizedek.

Melchizedek – A term meaning King of Justice – with a lot written about it!

Brought bread and wine and blessed Abraham. Is it a sign of hospitality that is later linked to Abraham directly?

(Link to Shem, son of Noah. Also appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Psalm 110.)

Rashi says this is just normal good behavior and generosity.

Abraham gives Melchizedek a tithe – 1/10 of his property.
It is common to give a tithe to a king – standard taxes of the times.

It is not entirely clear who gave what to whom but this is another detail for commentaries.

Hassidic reading – How the bread and wine is given and how it is consumed in a holy way. A conscious act to gain strength and serve God.

Melchizedek is the first to bless Abraham.

More modern interpretations from Samson R. Hirsch – this defines what it is to be a Cohanim. Need to shape others by a greater force, there to serve God.
From Joseph B. Soloveitchik – Melchizedek (a non Jew) showed respect that Abraham fought for his ideals.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Abraham to the Rescue

Torah Study 2/14 - Rabbi Marder
Genesis 14:14-17 The Battle of 4 Kings vs 5 Kings and Abraham

Seems that Lot and his family are captured and Abraham comes to the rescue!

Of course there are many questions:
Lot is referred to as “brother” - think about that – last time we heard they didn’t really have that great a relationship – but then again it is “family”

A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (P.S.) by Samantha Power

Eli Munk: Connects the sense of obligation to relatives.

Maimonides: Links to Redemption of the Captive mitzvot. This has priority over even feeding the poor.
(because of the added danger of possible death)

Today this relates to the rescue of immigrants – in cases like “operation Moses”.

Of course there are specific words with unusual usage in this passage:
“Muster his retainers”
Yerek = emptied and Hanahim = Hannah = Dedication

Who are the servants in his house and do they become Abraham’s army?

This also brings up the question regarding Torah Scholars going to war. As it is interpreted that the people in Abraham’s household were much like students in a yeshivah.

It says that the 318 men overcame the 5 Kings and their army: What was the strategy? What is the number 318 relate to?
(this number doesn’t appear anywhere else in Torah) But it is used in other ancient writings including the Iliad in the 8th Cen BCE where 318 men were killed. It is also the sum of 12 prime numbers starting with 7! And in Gematra 318 can equal the Hebrew name of Eliazer. Another midrash on this explains that only Eliazer fought because the rest of the men decided to return home and not fight based on the mitzvot in Deuteronomy 20 where a soldier should not fight if he is afraid.

The battle strategy is explained in detail.

The went to Dan – this is said to be the same place where a golden calf was built. This is where they ran out of energy.
(deeds of patriarchs forsee the deeds of the future) Dan also means “justice”.
The attack was from 3 directions and at night which was a total surprise which resulted in the overtaking of the king’s armies.
(similar strategy works in other places in the Bible as well – like Gideon vs the Middianites and David vs the Philistines)

The result was the freedom of Lot and his family. But there was no mention of children. Midrash says that Abraham kept the children and taught them the moral ways of life.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Special Guest – Interfaith Weekend... Fern Chertok from Brandeis University

A researcher and teacher on interfaith trends and impact on the Jewish community, our speaker gave us a lot of insight into how assimilation had effected Jews over time.

Data from the 2000 National Jewish Population study and the Birthright database showed that Jewish continuity does not depend on intra-faith marriages.

She gives historic and Torah based background from the week’s parasha showing that Yitro, a non Jew, was one of the first who stood with the Israelites and the ‘sojourners’ at Mt. Sinai and gave a blessing to the One God.

The “Mixed Multitude” Ha Am – had a significant place at Sinai also.

In 1985 synagogues started reaching out to interfaith families with a slow but successful result.

4 predictors of participation in Jewish life:
  1. Gender – women have higher probability of participation
  2. Jewish education after bar/bat mitzvah
  3. Home ritual or observance on a regular basis
  4. Social network of Jewish friends – emphasis on a positive attitude

Problem is in the engagement - between 13 and marriage age there is no connection to youth. Important to find ways to keep the connection during the college years especially.

New trends and ideas are emerging to help this connection from facebook pages to Jew Brews – Shabbat meetings at local bars.

To keep young Jews from feeling like “incompetent strangers” when they go to the synagogue.