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.

IF you want to be part of our Chavarah email group let me know at

Saturday, February 19, 2011

About Prayer - Avimelach

Torah study Genesis 20:6-10 – About Prayer!
Avimelach asks God: What were you thinking? v6. God says “I kept you from sinning.”
Grammatical. How sinning is spelled het tet aleph usually. Here it is without the aleph unusual spelling. Mystical interpretation Zohar. Similar to the word for needle. Every sin is like a needle into God.
Interpretation that our sins effect God. Different from the interpretation by Maimonides he says that nothing that you do "shakes"God. Maimonides is so abstract and doesn't like metaphors like this.

Things you do effect others? Does it effect God?
v7 Avimelach doesn't know the reality of the situation.

First time in Torah noted about someone praying for someone else.
Prayer – one interpretation – from the same word as ‘to argue’

SRHirsch. Derived from word. To judge. To judge one self against Gods laws. Bring self to trial against external truths and laws.
When pray we encounter truths beyond ones self. This is what we do with formalized prayer.

Prayer attempt to get a true judgement of oneself. Work on self. Align oneself with powerful truths outside oneself.

Prayers of Spontaneous thanks are not part of this.

Prescribed prayers are a way of reminding us on a regular basis.
Hirsch - "The less we feel in the mood for prayer the greater is the need for prayer ".
Concept that you can pray anywhere. But formalized service in the community is to have the words act upon us. If not in the mood it is a warning that you really do need it.

Maimonides - Contemplation is prayer. Hirsch - prayer is finding truth.

Intercession: Pray for someone else. Jews do not have intercession. Don't need to go through someone else.
Pray for healing: King is suffering. Abraham will pray for him.
If the one who prays is a tzedek or if the community prays
Desire to pray for others is a way to participate in others pain. A way to help.
A righteous person feels anguish when others are in pain.
Why pray for sick? Law of the leper. Need to announce. Infection control and to request prayer from others. Leveticus tells us that you need to tell others and to request help. Need to let the community know so you can get help.
Community prayer is more powerful. Links individual to the community.

On Shabbat - why pray for sick? Should focus on pleasure and gratitude. Should not focus on negative. One exception is to pray for healing. Express confidence that healing will come.
Does it work? Larry Dossey physician in Texas convinced that prayer works. Interview with him. Sites example of when prayer worked in an aids study and heart attack cases. - Sam Harris critique. Says that this cannot be true.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sarah is His Sister --- AGAIN

Torah Study 2/12 Gen 20:1-9
Abraham passes his wife as his sister as a form of protection
(Hebrew issue. The wording implies that maybe Sarah didn't say anything when Abraham said she was his sister. So, it is not clear. )

Avimelach responds to Gods message that he should not touch her to be on the defensive.
Avimelach blames Abraham and Sarah as they told him they were sister and brother.
Blameless heart. Used by both Avimelach and also in Gods response.
Clean hands. Avimelach says clean hands but God does not mention hands.
Rashi says that he was not completely free of sin as he still took her.
God prevented Avimelach from committed the sin against God. But he is not free of the sin of kidnapping her.
Why does Avimelach even listen to this God? Hints of a universal God in Torah.
How did God stop him? Rendered him as impotent.
f God can stop a man from sinning like this, why doesn't God always do this?
Problematic in relation to the issue of free will.

If you initiate an effort for self improvement then God will assist him. You will be helped in your

Rabbi Abraham Twerski Book on addiction. Help is given to one who makes the effort.

Why a dream? Dream can be a different way to look at a situation.

Verse 7. Therefore restore his wife.
Return the wife. Rashi don't think she will be disgraced.
No fear that Abraham would not want his wife back. Rashi's time during the crusades

Because he is a prophet.
What is a prophet? First time this word used inTorah.
Word is derived from the verb "to call". Prophet is the one who calls to others.
Bringing God's word to the people. Also an intercessor for the people.

SRHirsch- if injure someone must pay five fold compensation - also must apologize.
Duty demands more than just releasing he but he must also must apologize and pray for him.

Next time we will go into what it means to pray for someone else.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Sojourner

Torah Study 2/5

Genesis 20:1-7
Abraham Now in the capital city of the Philistines and a sojourner
Abraham and Avimelach meet They discuss Sarah – Once again she is noted as Abraham’s sister
Verse 2 .. Avimelach saw Sarah and took her – many interpretations
Eli Munk. How did she preserve her beauty? Why did he take her
Nachum Sarna. She is now 90 what interest would he have in her?
Response to why.
Gen 18 she was told she would be a mother then her youth and beauty was returned. Then she was taken by Avimelach
Political reason.

God appeared to Avimelach as a dream in the night.
Dreams are a method of communication in Bible many times.

A fundamental laws of morality. Noahkite laws. Is there a moral absolutism?
Question of how morality needs to apply to all people vs those that just apply to Jews.
7 Noahkite laws and one added Justice systems must be set up within each culture is the guideline accepted by Jews.

Avimelach is guilty of kidnapping as well as possible adultery.

Even if he was unaware/innocent he is guilty!

Verse 4. God gives Avimelach the truth. Narrator says that Avimelach had not had sex with her.
Rashi asks why. The angel prevented him. Based on verse 6 he was not allowed to touch her.
Perhaps it was a case of being rendered impotent. Important because of Isaac.

Parallels to the Sodom & Gomorrah story:
Same question as Abraham asked in reference to Sodom and Gomorra.
Verse 5 Avimelach defense. Abraham told him she was his sister.
Extra word in the Hebrew. Implies that he made a personal investigation. Also Sarah verified this. Also an extra word in Hebrew. Rashi says the extra words implies that it also includes her entourage. Even the servants support her.( Reference to Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth's opinion is based on the servant's impression. )

Noted: Days of Heaven. Movie. Based on this story.

Next. The comeuppance

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Back to Abraham - Heading South

Torah study 1/29
Starting Genesis Chapter 20! Back to Abraham...

Abraham Sarah go South -

Resumes narrative from ch 18.
Close link to the. Previous story thematically
male handing over female to save his life

Source criticism. Narrative replicates Gen 12
Different source document
In verse 20 God is Elohim from the "e" source
In ch 12 :17. God is Adonai From the "j" source

Why does Abraham head south? Would go to the Negev for their flocks.
He is a Ger Change of status he is a foreigner at this point.

Rashi reflects on why he leaves.
1. Saw cities destroyed there are no more passers by. He lives for guests so when no more guests it is too isolated for him.
2. He needs to get away from Lot because he now has a bad reputation due to sexual relations with daughter. Also idea that the looked alike so didn't want to be confused with Lot.

Eli Munk.
His need to give hospitality. Needed to proclaim monotheism to others. So moved to where he could continue his "missionary" work.

Abraham is the model of the man who never gives up even in the face of a failure. Never gives up his mission.
Or maybe it was an economic motive. He needs to be where people are to make his living.

R David Kimkee. A goes walk though the land to claim the land. Political motive.

a Kabbalisitic interpretation of the patriarchs:
Abraham exemplifies the characteristic of "chesed" kindness to others. Selfless giving
Isaac. Gevurah. Restraint - inner directive to succeed
Jacob. Tiferet- Truth Compassion. Middle ground.

Possible to have too much chesid. Need boundaries. Need to have a balance.
Keeping close vs pushing away

SRH. Explains. Started in Negev and moves north and now moves again south. But he needs to be near the city.
Some say it relates to the birth of Isaac. Need to be closer to cities to learn of different cultures he will see near the city. T
hus his temp residence is the capital of a Philistine prince. Need to balance education between Torah and the secular world.

Argue against the education philosophy of those who try to isolate children from the secular world. (haradim)
Abraham said to or about Sarah. "She is my sister"
Troubling behavior. How people apologize for this.
Art scroll interpretation. A feared for his life. People would befriend the sister of a man but if married he would be in danger
Rashi. Says this was against her will. Say Abraham was wrong.

Mystic explains. Eli Munk. Zohar. Sarah represents the Shahinah. A is trying to show he is closer to God. Sister is a more permanent relationship

Sarah Is Abraham's sister. Another fact?