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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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fire and Brimstone and the Pillar of Salt

Torah Study 12-18 – 10 with Rabbi Janet Marder

Genesis 19:23-28

It “ rained down on Sodom” started as normal rain to give them one more chance to change their ways.

What rained down?

Sulfurous fire - old translation: brimstone

Hebrew: aleph nun shin - same root as for humans - link fire to this concept.

Book: Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human

Richard Wrangham - cooking - launched the changes in evolution

Culture changes : man hunts and women cook

Fire - connection to the Eternal light in sanctuary derived from the light at mt sainai and before that from the burning bush that called to Moses.

Role fire plays in Torah. Symbol of Gods anger AND purification.

Last song of Moses warning of the future. V22 fire flared in my wrath. Rage. Burns me up. Heat and anger linked.

Second meaning purifying function. Revolt of Korah. Purifies a camp of evil. Sterilization.

Also to make kosher with flames.

Sodom fire is both a sign of anger and purification..

Gafrit - sulfer -archaic term ‘brimstone’ burning stone.

End of Deuteronomy ch 29 land devastated by sulfur and salt. Ask why. As a reminder.

Ezekiel. Ch 38 end of days. Battle that will happen. Ref to sulfurous fire same. To destroy the wicked.

Isaiah 30.

Psalm 11:6. God will rain fire and sulfur on the wicked.

Changed in new testament in reference to hell. Introduced in Christianity where the fire goes underground. Like volcanoes. Documentary called lake of fire. Begins with quote from Revelations. Further developed by the Puritans. In the US there were "fire and brimstone preachers". Jonatham Edwards most noted.

What is fire and brimstone? Why fire?

Order of creation is undone.

God can't tolerate depraved morals. Sexual depravity destroyed by fire. Story of Tamar. Method of execution by fire. (rarely focus on sexual crimes)

Fire is a symbol of God throughout Torah.

V24. A. Fire brimstone Already started. From dawn. When sun and moon both in sky. Some people still worshiped both sun and moon. Because of the timing these worshipers can not blame the other.

Supported by other text in the time line in Torah.

V25. He animate these cities. "overthrow" better translation. Rashi all four cities on one rock and God overthrow them from bottom to top. Complete transformation of this place

Lots Wife.

Anthropological interpretation by Sarna. Dead sea.

Apocryphal book: The Wisdom of Solomon. Pillar of salt that is a reminder.

Function of salt in Torah:

Sign of destruction. Story of Avi Melech.

Sowed the city with salt. To make the ground cursed. Common practice in the ancient near-east to render land infertile.

Why bad for her to look back. V17 angel said not to look back.

Midrash about looking back. Eli Wiesel book - Wise Men and Their Tales . midrash. Lot’s wife is Irit. Wiesel is sympathetic to her.

Why she turned to salt? She was not virtuous. She was turned to salt due to her sinfulness. Because of her the angels were found at their home. Law in Sodom about welcoming guests. She borrowed salt from neighbors which notified the town of the guests.

Another thought. She was terrified by what she saw. Sher saw the Shaheena and was filled with light. She wanted to see where she left her other children behind. Sympathetic.

Another possibility about lack of communication. She didn't get the message.

Next Lots wife as a symbol of inertia.

Caption:Lot's Wife Turned into a Pillar of Salt.
Source:(From the Sarajevo Haggadah of the fourteenth century.)