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, September 28, 2011

The Right Wife... a test!

Torah Study 9-24 Genesis.24: 10-27

Dialog between Rebecca and the servant at the well.

Verse 12-14. The servant first person who offers a prayer for personal guidance. Nachum Sarna. Concept of the individual's connection with God.
This is a spontaneous and unscripted prayer.

Hasidic Rabbi Nachman. Important for people to speak to God in their own voice and language. Recommends to set aside a time each day to speak with God.

Servant. God of master Abraham. Identifies this way. V13. Here as I stand here by the well. Standing in ready. Eager to see her away from her home..will reflect her own behavior away from her family.

How to assess her. Away from her family's influence.
If trying to assess someone go out to dinners and notice how he treats the waiter and service staff.

Looking for how she treats the animals. Camels. Each camel needs 25 gallons of water to replenish themselves takes about 10 min. 10 camels. Very generous of her.

Talmud. Your own meal must wait until the animals have been fed.

He sets up his criteria for finding the right person. He prays that this is in accordance with God's will.

Prayer is answered immediately as she shows up... Dramatic irony that she shows up at that time and even exceeds his expectations.

Get her genealogy. Nahor. Has a wife and concubines. She is the daughter of the wife. And she is related to Abraham. Also told she is Good to look at. She is a Bitulah... A virgin...not really.. She is a mature woman of marriageable age. It is verified that she is also chaste. Rashi... Why of her virginity first then no man had been intimate with her..there is the possibility that other men can be intimate with her without intercourse. She did not engage in any sexual behavior.

Chain of verbs.. She goes about her work without wasting time. Midrash missing verb. When she did this she didn't need to draw the water. The water came to her...

Servant runs to her.. A lot of running in this story.
V17. Let me swallow a little water.. He humbly asks her for just a drop.
Her response. Drink adonee. My lord. Tells him to drink his fill... Quickly lowers the jar.
And she mentions the camels...

SRH. First she quenched his thirst before the camels. She was not showing off. She offered to draw the water for the camels running.
To show how extraordinary she is. She is confident.

She is criticized by some commentators for being too forward talking to this stranger.

Song about this scene.. Israeli children sing it... (will add lyrics when I get them)

V21. He was staring at her. Fascinated by her.
When the camels finish drinking her takes out jewelry... Gives it to her
Commentators troubled that he gives jewelry before he knows who she is. But later when the story is recounted the order is reversed.

Asks if there is a place to lodge in her family home.. Requests one night and she offers more. She is like Abraham in offering hospitality.

Who are you? She doesn't mention her mother. How related to Abraham
Najor brother of Abraham. Gen 11:27-29. Married to Milkah. Milkahs sister might be Sarah. So she would be related on both sides.

Bow low.
SRH. Act of placing himself in her guidance.
Prayer of thanks for how he had been guided on this quest.

Naomi Rosenblat. Knows exactly who she is. Her confidence is important and she brings her kindness to the family.
Heschel quote.. When young admire for cleverness when old for their kindness.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sending the Servant To Fetch A Bride

Torah study 9-17
Genesis 24:1-14
Isaac gets a wife. How they met.

THE Longest chapter. A lot of detail.
Release from the tension of the previous verses.

Abrahams concern turns to the next generation and feels that if Isaac’s wife comes from his birthplace he will find someone who can be loyal to God. Subtle reference that he should go to his family to find the wife for Isaac. This was foreshadowed previously with reference to the children of Milka. We were previously noted and a reference to Rebecca.

Redundancy in the text in the Hebrew. Get a wife for my son for Isaac.
She must be a good character and good for Isaac.

Servant. Responds with a question. What if she doesn't want to come back with him? Because he is a servant? Isaac needs to fetch her himself? Should Isaac go himself?
Abraham doesn't want Isaac to go there because he fears his exposure to the customs of his past ... The idolatry could seduce him. Isaac is "rooted"to the land of Canaan.
He has not been previously exposed to that. And he is looking for a woman who would be willing to break away from there.

Women's commentary. She has a choice. She must give her consent. Cannot be coerced into marriage. Still part of Jewish law.

V7 reference to the promise of the land and posterity... Both are fulfilled through Isaac. He is the only patriarch who stays in the same place... In Canaan his whole life.

Angel sent.. Who is it? Messenger. Same word as the people messenger. This is a personification of God's care.
Abraham expresses his confidence that it will work out. But he says if it doesn't go right then he releases the servant from the oath. He is comfortable with the outcome whatever happens.

Oath on thigh..euphemism. For genitals. Happens again with Joseph later.

V10. Took 10 camels. Previous reference to camels when Abraham goes to Egypt.
Camels reference the wealth. At that time they were not common. (anachronism for wealth)

(most common phrase in the Bible is "be not afraid". promotes peacefulness in emotion.)

Naomi Rosenblat. Making a wise choice for a partner. In Biblical times parents role to find the right person different. When people choose for self there is a higher probability of failure. It needs more in depth considerations.

V10. Rashi commentary "took camels." Of the camels of his master. Something special about Abraham's camels.. Muzzled so they would not eat other people's grain.

Muzzle: Not allow his animals to steal from others. Thus makes Abraham's camels different and distinct from other camels.

What type woman to select? On her free will willing to go. But the servant on his own set more criteria. Concerned that she is of good moral character like the people of his family from where he grew up. Suggestion that Isaac needs a strong woman.

No reference to Isaac's point of view before this point. Later you see he is eager to have a wife.

Arrives in town. Nahariam. Two rivers. Better translation - land beside the Euphrates.

V11 he makes camels lie down near well.
Naomi Rosenblat.. Wells are good scenes for Biblical stories. Represent women sexuality and fertility. The well is a social place where he can discern a woman's personality.
Beverages are the common ground.. Soda fountain. coffee house. Water cooler... The well.

Book : Art of Biblical Narrative by Robert Alter. Basic theme and then variations on that theme. There are three. Rebecca . Rachel. Moses

This one is different as it is not Isaac who is there. Verses the meeting of Jacob and Rachel the stone onto of well. Moses version he saves someone at the well. Always reflects the theme if the overall story.

When women come to draw water... Looking for someone who would do it for herself not a servant.

V12. Vayomar with trope mark rare mark shashellit. Only 4 times in Torah. Indicates Hesitation .
Lower her jar. On her shoulder heavy ... Man asks her to do this. His test.
She offers to go beyond the request and offers to water the camels.

Tilt the jar.. It is a revealing character test. She could have been irritated by the request. But she was not....

The Actual Meeting next time.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Finding A Wife for Isaac...

Genesis 24:1-12 Rebekah at the well

Longest chapter in Genesis. Much detail. About marriage.
Eulogy about the marriage of Abraham and Sarah

Book: Wrestling with Angels by Naomi Rosenblatt
Relationship between monotheistic and monogamy
Abraham and Sarah are prepared to make sacrifices for their family and marriage.
Strong couples with strong commitment to their family and their marriage.

Eli Munk. Importance of Isaacs marriage. Reflects the importance to a Jewish father to see your child marriage to the right person. A pivotal point in the fathers life.

First Jewish marriage through a matchmaker. Eliazer.

V1 Abraham was old. Focus on his age. Two phrases = emphasis. His age = 137. And he will live another 38 years. He felt old here.
Same phrase in ch 18:11. Before his circumcision.
Midrash lost his vigor and vitality the second time. Emphasize age to explain why he sent his servant.

"came in days" Rabbi David Kimkee middle ages. He is feeling his mortality.

SRH. His life work was finished now the focus is on his son.. At a point in life where they start to think of posterity and legacy.

Musar. Abrahams life was full. Every day was of value. No wasted days. Proud of self and how spent days.

Midrash. First person described as old. Talmud San Hedron. Age was invisible.

He wanted to look old so there would not be any confusion between father and son.

Daniel. Sees God in a vision. Ancient of days. Mentions the white hair. A sign of who needs to be honored. Given white hair is a sign of wisdom for respect.
Eli Munk. Positive commandment. Rise before an elderly person. Emphasis on respect for the elderly.

God blessed Abraham in all things - Nachum Sarna says this is about his wealth
Rashi. Gematra explanation . 52 is Ben=son

About Isaac
Question why this is coming up right now? Why didn't Isaac get married before this?
Passivity of Isaac. Zohar points out that Isaacs time is evening
Likens Abraham to morning and Isaac to evening. Isaac is more passive.
Some Midrash about the relationship between Isaac and his mother.

Slave. Senior servant assigned the task if finding Isaacs wife. Midrash Agrees it is Eliazer.
Put hand under my thigh... Oath gesture.
Gen 14:22 also about an oath. Raise hand.
Take oath has a sacred object in his hand. Word thigh euphemism for genitals. Rashi says it is related to the circumcision.
Word testify or testament related to testicles. It is a sign of maleness. The place of procreation relates to the task of finding wife for son.
Womens commentary. Thigh relates to male organ If fail ends in a curse of sterility.

Says to servant. Make him swear to oath. Why?
Rambam. Abraham fears that he may die before it is done. Eliazer acknowledges the seriousness of this request.
The oath.. Reference to God
Sarna. Emphasis that God is with him everywhere. Makes people aware that God is on earth.
Hassidic reading. Marriage is issue of ultimate importance

Go back to land of his birth. Daughters of Cannan and Aram were idolitor's.
SRH. Daughters of Aram. Not about the theology. More about the moral make up of the people. Not about intermarriage.

Tamara Eskenazi universalistic point of view. Reference different places where there is a contrast between the universalistic view and the need to keep the values within.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Sarah's Parasha About her Death

27 Genesis 23 - Sarah
Rabbi Wolf
Name of the parasha is “the Life of Sarah”. It is about her death.

full of ironies.
Span of her life 100 years and 20 years and 7 years. Odd way to say it. 127 significant. Fullness.
Why years repeated. At 100 she had the beauty of a 20 year old

Theories of why she dies:
Satan tells her Isaac killed. She dies
Satan comes looking like Isaac looking terrible
Isaac comes to her and tells her what happened
She dies because of the Akidah

Aviva Zornberg. Writes of this.
She dies of grief Or When she sees him
Illu lay.
Sarah dies of the knowledge that Isaac came close to death. And Abraham's willingness to kill his son.
Shofar symbol of redemption. Of the ram. Here Sarah's wails remind the sound of the shoffar.

Abraham buys a burial plot. V 3,
She dies in Hebron. First time Abraham owns land
17verses on the negotiation for the burial plot. Only 2 verses on her death.
Abraham speaks to the Hitites. He needs to buy the land he cannot accept as a gift. Must buy it. Specific location of this cave.
No question about who owns the land. All details of the transaction is recorded.
The detail is important. It is the beginning of the promise of the land. But it shows Abrahams humility in how it is done.

Question if it is happening as God promised or not...
Ownership of the land is still a debate.
Continues the issues of faith... The promised land is bought.
Irony as this is a family burial spot.
The whole family is buried there except Rachel. (also the word for a hem to hide loose threads.)
Machmellah. Double.. Pairs of graves. Or two caves. Adam and Eve are buried there.

Talmud. How to acquire a wife. Word take is the same in take money and take wife...
Hirsch. Jew buys his bride. He takes her but treats her a ps a precious possession.
Abrahams buying the burial place is a symbol of his love.

Traditions around death. Abraham gives a eulogy. Jacob builds a monument to Rachel the Egyptians mourn Joseph for a stated time period. Patriarch deaths are detailed.

Isaac gets married three years after Sarah's death.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Angel Intervenes

8-27 Genesis 22:9-19

Angel intervention
Isaac is bound.

Style is Hemmingway-like - lean descriptions – emotions not explained.
Thus the midrash is needed to explore the feelings and emotions.

1. Isaac speaks – he may jerk and ruin the sacrifice. Isaac volunteers to be sacrificed.
2. Abraham feels joy and sadness – tears – Isaac saw the angels – epic drama with tears and angels who appeal to God to rescue Isaac.

Call from the Angel – a new name for God – Adonai – the name associated with mercy.
(Elohim previously used – justice)

Angels are in heaven and they CALL from heaven ( Angels need assistance to get to earth physically)

Midrash: Abraham questions who angel and if the angel really represents God.

V16 – “by myself I swear” a message clearly from God.

“do not do anything to the boy”

Rambam – Opportunity for Abraham to demonstrate his fear of God – righteousness must be fulfilled in action … “lack of ego” demonstrated.

SRHirsch – After this experience Isaac is influenced by the willingness to be sacrificed. Now it is a part of our story – always ready to be sacrificed.

Eli Munk – The Ram – Rosh Hashanah
Symbolic act for the future of the Jews.
Ram’s horn = shoffar
We have all had to be Isaac.
All parts of the ram are used in the history of the Jewish people.
Akidah becomes part of our essence. Source of our moral strength.

V14 “lynchpin of the story” name of place = “God will see” –‘vision’ on the Mountain of God “ God Sees” verb “to see” throughout the story.

Martin Buber “Abraham – the seer” essay

Heschel – 1. How we SEE – Glory and Evil – both together. 2. Teacher (70’s) The angel is not too late – sometimes humans are too late.

V19 Where was Isaac?
1. He was sent to study Torah?
2. Hirsch: Isaac was there but not mentioned in this verse. It said they went “together”

The whole part is a message against human sacrifice.

Book: The Last Trial by Shalom Spiegel
The Last Trial: On the Legends and Lore of the Command to Abraham to Offer Isaac as a Sacrifice: The Akedah

Poem – 1953 – Israeli poet…
Isaac - Amir Gilboa
Early in the morning the sun took a walk in the forest
Together with me and with Father
And my right hand in his left.

Like lightning a knife flamed between the trees.
And I fear so the terror of my eyes facing blood on the leaves.

Father, hurry and save Isaac
And no one will be missing at lunchtime.

It is I who am being slaughtered, my son,
And my blood is already on the leaves.
And Father’s voice was stifled.
And his face pale.

And I wanted to cry out; writhing not to believe
And tearing open the eyes.
And I woke up.

And bloodless was my right hand.

Poem by Wilfred Owens – Anthem for Doomed Youth