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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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hagar names God and Abram names Ishmael

13 – 17:1 Hagar names God and Abram names Ishmael

Starting with the questions: “why would Hagar want to have a child who is like a wild ass...?”
Note: The attitude of the nomadic tribes is different and perhaps this is a good quality to that community. And it was promised that he would lead to a ‘great nation’.

Hagar was a progenitrix of a ‘great nation’.
Theophany – Hagar’s experience with the messenger of God
Hagar gives a name to God. v13
What does this signify?
- an act of chutzpah
- an act of intimacy – gives a special bond or tie.

Name: EL RO-Ea - (aleph lamed resh aleph with a special vowel under the resh – chateph quamets)
  • to see
  • all seeing – God of vision
  • God I have seen
  • God who sees me

Not translated in JPS

Rashi – Looks as the special vowel – God of seeing who sees the humiliation of the humbled.
God sees the suffering of the oppressed.

A common theme in Tanach – devine attention to the lowly - ie Psalm 119 – Hallel

Levi ben Gershon OR R. Gershom (France--end of 10th to beginning of 11th century). (France) Supernatural – Not an angel – rather a person – a prophet. She was surprised that there was another prophet of God - other than Abraham.

SR Hirsch – broad sense basic ideal – can’t flee from God – she realized that God is everywhere.

Women’s Commentary – hagar is happy to believe after the encounter in the wilderness.

“Wilderness is where God is found” - a concept that also repeats in Torah.

About the Well where she was – name is similar to Beer Shiva This well is celebrated in the Arab tradition. Symbolism of the well – a place to be refreshed and renewed.

The effect of this on social hierarchy – adds to the challenges of the social structure and to treat those lower – about power.
Tradition – used to be that the poor sat in the back of the synagogue – so when they turn around to greet the Sabbath bride the poor were in the front.

v15 – baby is born – Abraham names the child. But in v11 the angel tells Hagar to call him Ishmael.
How did this happen?
Pillow talk
Rashi – Abram knew becvause the holy spirit told him.
Naming him adds to the legitimacy of his son.

Focus on age – Abram is 86 - next age mention is when he is 99 and the circumcision happen – Ishmael will then be 13 – bar mitzvah.

Message 99 is not too old to be creative!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Talking to the Angels

Genesis 16: 7-12 Hagar –runs away and talks to the Angel(s)

All about Angels – this is the first place where an angel speaks to a person...
Malach Hashem
Greek for Angel = messenger
The same word is used for human and spiritual messengers

Thinking about angels evolved in Biblical times as well as contemporary.
Jewish Angels - messenger of God / human messengers - prophets

Confusing in how they are presented – is it a person or is it God?

Before the 6th century BCE - Angels did not have any 'personality' they were sent by God to do a specific job.

the line is blurry - Angels and God get mixed up so it is confusing.

Usually in human form in the Bible – 3 strangers later to Abraham, wife of Noma, Samson story
Sometimes seem as a ‘subordinate God’, The ”Host of Heaven”
Thought that angels only can do one task so there are many angels (no article to indicated if one of more)
Differences between angels and cherubim

Different theories:
  1. like “bike” messengers from God
  2. Temporary manifestations of God in human form
  3. the ‘editors’ made them angels so not to say that God was human.

Cherubs and Seraphim appear later.

Not until the Apocrypha do ‘fallen angels’ appear

The relationship between God and earth
Kabala the notion of Emanations - can know the energies of God

“Chariots of God” the term to describe how God moves from place to place.
Humans are those chariots...

Rambam sees this episode as a dream.

v8 – Hagar is trying to return to Egypt
Angel asks ‘where from’ ‘where to’?
But an angel should know the answer.... Same reason to ask as when God asks Adam where he is in the garden.

Rashi – to give an opening for conversation.

Sforno – consider where you are coming from – a holy place – and going to – a wicked place.

Hagar responds
Rashi – notes how quickly Hagar respond – maybe she saw angels all the time at Abram’s home.

The relations hip between Hagar and Sari – explored – Sari the mistress - but Hagar was feeling that she was higher.

saying of the Talmud
"If your neighbor calls you an ass, put a saddle on your back."
Old English proverb
"If three people say you are an ass, put on a bridle."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hagar - Story of Gender and Class - different views

Notes Torah Study 5/8 Rabbi Marder
Genesis 16 Hagar – Sari – a complex story of jealousy and class – seen for more modern commentators

Sari = princess – a barren princess who is feeling unworthy because she is “empty”

We discussed the views of modern commentators:
Erik Erickson – psychologist – Womanhood and the Innerspace
A sense of loneliness and fear.

Marc Gafni – The first Biblical expression of doubt. ULI – uncertain.

Professor J. Cheryl Exum – book: Fragmented Women: Feminist (Sub)versions of Biblical Narratives
An impatient matriarch who suffers as a result of intervention
The value of having a child is reflected in women in Biblical times and even forward in history.
In this case the power of having a child trumps class distinction

Katie Cannon – The Sarah Syndrome - ( Black Christian point of view )
Try to contol the spirit of God – not waiting for God’s will – turns this into a metaphor about managing other people’s lives.
Reflects a difference between Christian and Jewish views – Jews focus on taking more action in tikkun olam.

Naomi H. Rosenblatt Wrestling With Angels
“How could I have been too obtuse?”
Getting inside Sari’s psyche – watching evidence as Hagar is pregnant.

Liz Swados and Bill Moyers
co-produced The Question of God -program – notes Sari’s ‘territorial possessiveness’ about jealousy and resentment.

Phyllis Trible: Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives
Hagar is a symbol of the oppressed, faithful maid who is exploited.

Hagar is a powerful symbol – she is Egyptian, she lost her name, there is no dialog between Sari and Hagar, the situation breed violence.

Hagar’s escape to the wilderness, wells and angel intervention.

A change of vision - Hagar ‘s interaction with the angel. She sees the world differently.
There is a reorder in the relationship and her pregnancy and the interaction lowers barriers in status. But the angel addresses Hagar as the “servant of Sari”

Ruth Behar ( a Cuban) Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan – “Heelprints upon their Faces” The African American Hagar connection.
The African Americans view Hagar as a matriarch. The ex-slave, mother, a figure of strength.
Great article

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Hagar – A figure for concern or distaste?

Genesis 16 Speculating about Hagar

Rabbi Adam led Torah Study in a lively discussion on Hagar!
The attitude changes – Hagar as a slave is neutral, When she has a child her status rises - maybe even above Sari.
This becomes a big problem for Sari.
Hagar runs away – Then she is convinced by an “angel” to return.
Much midrash around what really happened here.

Power Dynamics – Who is in charge? Avram? Sari? Or Hagar?

There are parallels with the story of Jacob and his children.

This episode is the beginning of the end of the relationship between Avram and Sari.

Term: “Wife” - Hagar is elevated to “wife” status. v3 – Sari gave Hagar to Avram as a ‘wife’. Then it becomes a rivalry.

The term: ISH ISHA – the ‘matik’ in the hay makes it pronounced slightly differently. And makes the term in the feminine possessive form.

Avram is absent – he doesn’t make decisions in the situation.
Interest to speculate about his attitude about his son and Hagar.

Do not hear Hagar’s point of view until she is in the desert.

v6 “your slave is in your hands” Avram’s attitude is complicated to understand and is further complicated by Hagar being Egyptian.

Hagar name = “stranger”

Question of what was Hagar really like? Is she a “tramp”, a victim or a heroine?

Midrash link