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, July 27, 2010

God and Strangers and Angels

Torah Study 7/24 Led by Rabbi Sarah Wolf

Genesis 18:1 – 3 the beginning of Vyera - “He Appeared” AND “greeting strangers”

Vayar – twice – He saw twice -
Rashi – once for God and once for the strangers.
different ways to see: 1 reality – 2 prophesy -

question: Did Abraham know that the ‘strangers’ were angels?
Three strangers / angels
Each has a different ‘mission’
1 – announce about Isaac
2 – overturn Sodom & Gomorrah
3 – Heal Abraham – help his recovery

Later in the story of Lot there were only 2 angels (#3 did the mission)
(“Angels don’t multitask”- Bill L)

v3 - “My Lords if...” (plural)
Interpretation through the vowels!
“don’t leave your ‘singular’ servant”

Does God appear before or after the strangers?

Moment of prophesy intertwined with interaction with people.

Rosenzweig: Abraham sees God in the human situation.

David Kimke: a power of prophesy – Angels appear as people here vs Lot sees them as angels later.

“Heat of the Day” - Rashi – this is a time when normally they will not have visitors – but this time they have strangers.

Abraham “runs” to greet them – Why? To indicate how much Abraham wants to greet them.

Is Abraham hallucinating?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Visit Sick / Welcome Strangers

Genesis 18:1 the beginning of Vyera - “He Appeared”
Led by Rabbi Janet Marder

Abraham’s Tent – he is sitting at the door watching

The personality of Abraham develops even more

Structure divided in 2 parts
  1. the three strangers
  2. the announcement of the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah

First – when God appears this time there is no description of the content of the interaction between Abraham and God

This is when God visits Abraham because he is “sick” and recovering from the circumcision.

Interepretations of the structure:
1 – a headline to be followed by the “story”
2 – a one sentence revelation

Nachmanades – there is no purpose other than just that Abraham is in the presence of God.
Rashi – It is the 3rd day after the circumcision which is the most painful (again noted in the story later regarding Dinah)
It is simply God setting the precedent of visiting the sick. It is a reward to Abraham for his devotion.

Talmud Tractate Sotah – The way to imitate God when you visit the sick (and bury the dead) - entirely for the other person a selfless act

(this led to a lot of discussion on motivations and reasons for visiting the sick and also about not die alone)

Hirsch – God’s presence is everywhere. But God is not always visible – It was Abraham’s act of circumcision that allowed him to see God. An act of devotion and obedience to the mitzvot.

Abraham in Mamre – the place
This place is mentioned earlier in Genesis.

“In the doorway of the tent”

Rashi – Abraham is looking for passers by he might welcome to his tent and offer hospitality. AND he was sitting with God.

Welcoming the Stranger – inviting them to your home.

The spelling in Hebrew for “sitting” is missing a vav -
Rashi – Abraham tried to stand up when God came and God said not to worry about that - God stands over Abraham.

“in the heat of the day”
Is the way Torah indicated time)


God is there with Abraham, and Abraham is more interested in looking for guests than in the Devine presence – Hospitality is his highest priority.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

God leaves and Abraham Circumcised at 99!

Led by our Rabbinic Intern, Jen Gubitz

Genesis 17:22-27

The end of the Parasha Lech Lecha

The whole parasha is about relationships and defining the Jews and about covenant making.

  1. A grammatical issue of one word in verse 22 is the subject of much commentary.

After God spoke to Abraham it either says God “ascended away from”, “went up away from”, “was gone from”, “disappeared”

So what was it and what does it mean?
Raba – says - “upon”
Rashi – says – God went “up from” / the Shahina stood on Abraham’s shoulders

And there was a reminder that Abraham was prostrate on his face while God was talking so it makes sense that there might be an upward movement described.

There is some reference to a chariot – Abraham is a “chariot of God” - as in Abraham is a delivery system for God.

Eli Munk: says this not only refers to Abraham but to all righteous people who must carry the word of God.

Heschel also referenced that one needs to be a “divine chariot of God”.

The “Guide for the Perplexed” by Maimonides – To rise up is part of the message: God promises and then God rises up.

This is also the source for the word CARE

2. Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised.

Some say it was on Yom Kippur - Pirkey Rabbi Eliezer 29; According to others, it was on Passover

book: The Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg

Idea that the circumcision relates in some way to atonement for Israel – not very well received idea in our class!

3. V 27 – All the slaves were also circumcised.
This is mentioned twice and is in the imperative – so it was a definite command.

4. Why on the 8th day?
Some say that 7 days were ‘natural’ and the 8th day becomes a holy time.
References on the 8th day

Another similar one

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Laughter and Balance

Genesis 17:19-27
Isaac Arrives - Ishmael vs Isaac - Balance

Abraham is 99 and Isaac is 8 days old when they were both circumcised.

The final section of God’s promise

The meaning of Isaac’s name – Laughter

Hirsch – the absurdity of our continued existance – defiant laughter of the Jews (19th Cen)

Sarna – originally Itzak El – Itzak is the short form – and meaning God Laughs or God will Laugh
Hypochlor – shortening a name – child talk (greek)
Why shortened? 1. Might not give the right image. 2. Laughter in Bible is usually of the mocking or pitying type (Psalm 2:4)

Itzak also means – to play.

Rashi – on laughter
Abraham in joy – Sarah in skepticism – Itzak laughs out loud.
The first Jewish child named for laughter – interesting basis of our origins.

In the Talmud when the Rabbis want to solve an issue for themselves and they tell God to “stay out of it” then God laughs!

Biblical names have endured through history.

Gematria interpretation of Itzak’s name
Yud = 10 = Abraham’s 10 trials
Tzadie = 90 = Sarah’s age
Het = 8 = days to the brit
Kuf = 100 Abraham’s age
This is the story of Isaac’s life

Isaac’s name is the only one given by God and not changed.

v20 – Isaac – the covenant focus
Ishmael – promised to be also the head of great nation

The balance of Isaac vs Ishmael:

Ishmael – sire 12 princes

Richard Friedman – Ishmael is the ancestor of the Ishmaelites.

Menahem Recanati - Kabalistic theory – Ishmael begat 12 princes – Eclesiastic - “true good fortune in a time of misfortune”
Reflect that both good fortune and misfortune come from God.

Dualism – 2 polarities – a theory that is verified in physics.
Complementary opposites.
Positive way to understand misfortune.
“sparks of light embedded in the darkness”

Nasi / Naseem - Prince

Hirsch – Jewish concept of nationhood comes from those who are elevated – Nisiem – lifted above and carried by the people. (this is what he says a ruler should be)

Rashi - Nasi – also means a cloud – use of the term nasi rather than sar
Shevetim = tribes of Israel
Clouds blow away.
Ishmael’s glory is transient like clouds.

Bakhuda The Koran scholar – Spain 11th Century
2047 years from creation the Arabs became a great nation. The Ishmaelites waited and then they dominated. The descendents of Isaac can wait a bit longer!

Book: Abraham Halkin and David Hartman. Crisis and Leadership: Epistles of. Maimonides.

Rambam – numeric value = name of Mohamed in 12th century Egypt he was the physician in the court – the Jews of Yemin wrote to him for advice as they were being persecuted. He wrote them a letter on how to survive.

Roots of anti-Semitism – references to oppressed communities.