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, June 25, 2011

The Well Incident and Lambs

Study 6-25 Genesis 22:22-34
Well Incident - Seven Lambs - Beersheva

Eli Munk. Pact between Abraham and Avimelach foreshadow of the future... The eventual messianic reconciliation

V24. “I swear it.” Unusual Hebrew format. Word for "I". Emphasis is on self but not for future generations, Eli Munk. Anochi adds weight to the pronoun. Says I am taking the oath...not you. Avimelach is a idolator and so it points out that Avimelach cannot swear.
No mention of "other gods".
Talmud. Names of other divinities cannot be mentioned. Not heard from your lips means that you cannot swear or cause others to swear by an idolator's god.

Cannot make a partnership with a non Jew. Because of this "swearing".
Extreme opinion.
Rashi's students in the middle ages respond. Refer to non Jews swear by their saints but don't view as divinities. Says they really have the same God and are not pagans.
Had to find a way to allow the business relationships with non Jews.
Commentators in history: Wrestling between the fine line between civic responsibility and their separate identity.

Rebuke regarding the well. A complaint! "Hoheir". Rebuke? Reproof?
Rashi. Says "dispute" or misunderstanding rather than a rebuke..
"Reproof leads to peace." need to be able to hash out the difficult issues in order to make a treaty.
First there was a trust building gesture before Abraham could file a complaint.
Robert Alter says word is "upbraided."

The Well Issue. The servants of Avimelach seized ... Stole ... Robbed his well.
Steal is in secret / Rob is in public.
Abraham is not a ruler- no land no army. But here he is negotiating for the well.
Sophorno. (Italian) And later commentators.
Not a personal complaint but a more general complaint that there is uncontrolled violence in Avimelach's land. Implies that he is not controlling his own people.

Avimelach response. Unaware..
Turning tables on Abraham. He should have told him about it.
What happens in one scenario. Turns to his general and accuses him of not telling him. And then the general responds that he didn't know.
Parallel to today's conflict with the Palastinians.

Eli Munk. Tie in of the well with Hagar episode. Well is more of a symbolic reference for spirituality. Symbol of water to the divine.

Cultural identity to stand firm at the same time create this alliance on a political level with non Jews.

v27 Sheep and Oxen
Cut a covenant. Previously a cutting an animal. Not here.
Recall. Avimelach gave Abraham gifts after the Sarah incident.
Now Abraham is giving gifts to Avimelach ... But no slaves - no human trafficking.

V28 Seven Ewes
By themselves. Set apart.
Female. Future of the flock depends.
Number seven symbolic.
Noahkite laws.
Proof of Abraham's sovereignty over the well. Later same words used between Jacob and Laban.
Sheep as a witness... Always seven sheep.
Seven generations between Abraham and Moses. Seven sanctuaries destroyed. ...
Indicate suffering.

Next - naming of Beershivah.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Non aggression pact with Avimelach.

Torah study 6-18 Genesis 21:22-26
Non aggression pact with Avimelach.

(There are no Hebrew names that begin with f – that is how we know the general is not a Hebrew name)

Avimelach brings his general to the celebration if Isaacs weaning.
Swear to me by God. - Most solemn and binding oath.
SRHirsch. Take a shevouah. Seven is the root word. Week comes from seven.
Oath comes from seven. Originally people would use seven of something to bind an oath. Link to Sabbath. If one breaks an oath it is as if they are doing a forbidden thing and will suffer Gods wrath.

Oaths… Relate to the word for vow. Neder - take on a restriction or a pledge to do something. Would do this for gratitude, guilt or desperation. Enacted through speech not just thought.
Should not make vows lightly. Must fulfill the vow. Vows take on the weight of a commandment. (We do not make vows in a Jewish wedding)

“Bli Neder” (without a vow) is to promise without a vow.

Annulling of vows – High Holidays: Ceremony of release from vows where people are absolved of their vows. This done in front of three people who act as judges. (done at the local day school - to teach the kids.)

Be careful about commitments , do not take on what you cannot do, and know how to release from vows appropriately.
Yom Kippur. Legal ceremony where Jews are absolved of vows. Kol Nidre. Has created problems for the community. The prayer is more popular because of the music rather than the literal meaning of the words. Absolved of vows to self and to God. Not to include business contracts and the like. Modern translations of progressive movements add language to clarify that these are those that we have not been able to fulfill.
Harold Kirchner. May we have the strength to fulfill our commitments. His reversal of the exact words to respond to the criticism.

(Back to the text:) Avimelach. Swear to me by God HERE. Why here?
Swear in your own home. Since Avimelach came to him.
Ili Munk. Same word in ch 15;16 - the fourth generation will return HERE. Relates to the land of Israel.

Not deal falsely- Sheker. Usually refer to lie. Here guilty of breach of contract.

Agreement of non aggression. (full version in David's oath)
multi generation treaty for no war between them.
Why improper for him to agree to a multiple generational agreement?
Impact seen later in the Book of Joshua. Not conquer Jerusalem because of this agreement that Abraham made. Thus not conquered until David.

SRH. Avimelach doesn't reciprocate in this multi generation factor... Shows that Abraham's descendants take the contractural agreements seriously and yet maybe not Avimelech's descendants. Itnis a unilateral Agreement...

Mysterious seven sheep next time.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Torah Study
Genesis 21:20-21

All about Ishmael. “God was with the boy.”
David Kimkee. Means that he prospered. Odd language using the word 'et'.
Akivah says this implies that not only he prospers but all his descendants also.

Few verses later God is with Abraham. No problem with God being with both of them.
In Abrahams house not enough room for Ishmael contrast to this view that there is enough room in God’s house. Forecast to the concept that God is with both the Arabs and the Jews.

He dwelt in the wilderness.
Rashi - word keshet – bow(rainbow) - here kashat - like profession or occupation. So it means bowman. "shooter of bowmen" might be an error. Interpret he was an archer and bowman. Or that he also made bows. Many other interpretations to determine what he did. Talmud. Different imagery- that he robbed passerbys. Shows him in a negative light. Back to the angel from v16 who says he will be a "wild ass of a man".
This is more about the people who descend from Ishmael. Later his people are referred to as people of the bow. In Gen 25 find the descendants of Ishmael named. He dwelt in wilderness of Eastern Sinai is where it is usually referenced as the location. "wild" -wilderness.

His mother took a wife for him. (Common practice of the times.)
Ishmael has two wives. First 3 years after expelled Abraham visits and he meets a woman who is his first wife who turned Abraham away. Later Hagar finds him a new Egyptian wife. Abraham goes again and is then welcomed.
Wife from Egypt. Hagar was also from Egypt... Wanted him to have a wife like her.

Rashi - from the place where she grew up. Throw stick in air and it will stand upon it's root. Go back her origins. Some say back to idolatry but others say it is just that “Mom knows best.”

The text itself is made to make us sympathetic toward the others.
Precarious fate of the child on the brink of death but go ahead and prosper. Historic fortune of the people is precarious.

Hagar and Ruth (essay by professor) Tamara Enazi
Ethics derive from a face to face encounter with others. Revelation of the face makes a demand.

Haggar's name implies an outsider/stranger. Torah wants you to sympathize with the stranger.
Narrative forces us to see Hagar in a sympathetic view and to see another side of Abraham and Sarah.

Contrast with Ruth. Solicitude. Story of a return and inclusion - a literary tshuvah for the episode in Genesis story of exclusion.

V22 - 31
Wells. Avimelach. Beershivah.
At that time. What time? After Isaacs weening. Avimelach invited to party and this is when it happens.
Change status. Avimelach no longer referred to as king. Change of status of Abraham elevated to equal with Avimelach.
There with military. Nachum Sarna says it was a military expedition not a party.

The general's name - Phichol. mouth –all - mighty. General could command and people listened and obeyed.
Rashi. God is with him. Why? Good things happening and prosperous and had a child.
Robert Altar. Avimelach is proposing a treaty and expressing concern.

V23. Now swear to me. Word for "Swear" root "shevah" = seven.
Trying to deal with conflict in a peaceful way. Making an agreement ahead of time.
Peace treaty. Ways of dealing with conflict. First time a formal negotiation method.

Next time why swear and seven are connected. And all about the well!