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, January 30, 2013

Building a Pillar at a Holy Place

Torah Study
Genesis 35 13-15

Pillar of stone. Beth El
Marking the place where God has made manifest,

God departs...goes up.
What does this mean?
Midrash... Even God takes Gods leave ...say goodbye. 
Gods presence comes from the patriarchs..the patriarchs are the "chariots of God"
Also a hint of the future when there will be the golden calf built...God leaves.

Repetition about Beth El and building a pillar.
Place is important... There is a place where you meet God...because of what happened there.  But the modern interpretation emphasizes that the place can be anywhere God communicates with people. 

Pillar anointed with oil...
Ch 28 Jacob already built a marker... Story repeats...
Is it the same place or not? Or does Jacob call it Beth El but it is a different place.

Ritual act is the anointing.,, problem in that you are only supposed to do this type ritual on an is tied to idol worship so dangerous... Hirsch  setting up a matsevah...holy to a person but difference between appreciation for what God did for you vs giving of a sacrifice.  Not enough just to set up stone...but have to do things in the world to make it a holy place to truly make it a Beth El.

Marking of a particular place as a place to of graves.  Is it important to have a particular place?  For a holy place or as a place of remembrance. 

Modern have the ability to mark in place and time...permanent documentation.   

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Return - BethEl - Name Change Reminder

Torah study 1-19 Rabbi Sarah Wolf

Jacob goes back to BethEl. The text mirrors the previous time he was there

Genesis 35: 1-2
Plural form of God...confusing because they just told the people to get rid of their idols in favor of One why is it in the plural form here?  

v8. Insertion "Deborah, Rebekah's nurse died"
Deborah is the nurse of Rebecca…previously…before she was married.
Here she is with the family...midrash that it is the same Deborah and she was sent to get Jacob...  Another version says it is a suggestion of Rebecca's death..the oak of weeping...but not clear ... Concern if the name of Rebecca is focused on the connection to Esau...very confusing. Because we know that Isaac is still alive...but the midrash says that Isaac is blind...and Esau is estranged from no one there to bury her..

v9 -13 
Name change reminder again...and the land promise verified once more ...confirmation of the information with repetition.

Looking at the different name change scenes...Avram to Abraham  is complete. Jacob's name change only happens when he "earns" it...not permanent as Abraham's name change...

Jacob is about to change his he is where is is supposed to be.
Appropriate that the name that means "struggling with God" is a changing name...more reflective of the struggle.

Name change is something that is earned.

Hirsh commentary on diversity of the tribes..and diversity is to show that everyone can worship the same God no matter your background.  It should be praised... (Ironic because Hirsh was anti reform Jews). Diversity in occupation... 

Place...makom....  This place of BethEl. Where God meets Jacob then ascends...
The notion of a sacred remind Jacob ...then God leaves the place...important message from this as well... 

More next week.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jacob finally goes where he was told to go...

Torah Study 1-12 with Rabbi Sarah Wolf

Backing up...the is unsatisfying because there are no answers about why this happened in Torah...what are the repercussions?  Find out later at the end of Jacobs life and how the tribes are placed in the new land.  This was their delayed "punishment".

Is the dis-proportionate response to Dinah's rape warranted? Is there more to the story that just isn't included?

Move on chapter 35...
Reflects back to previous episodes in Jacobs life...
The conditional vow Jacob made the fulfillment of that vow...
Avila Zornberg...Jacobs flaw is that he held back and didn't return sooner...(theory that the rape of Dinah is his punishment...or how he hid her from Esau). Jacob is punished for his withholding.  His non fulfillment if his vow created. Danger...
This is the third reminder for him to return home...  This is a debt that needs to be paid...

Command...get rid of foreign gods... No information on where this came from...
Commentators blame the Schemites ... 
But this represents a rue dedication of Jacob and his family to the one true God.

Change clothes clean...relates to the scene at mount Sinai ... Cleaning to be ready to face God.  

This is a reminder of his previous encounters..

"Who responds to me  in time of distress". Eli Munk commentary..Jacobs relation with God is continuing... After times of trouble.  God of mercy.

All the people were willing to hand over their idols and even more so by adding the earrings... 

Is there any hint that God approved the massacre?   But even if the actions of Simon and Levy were not approved..the covenant to protect them is kept.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

End of the Jacob narrative - a contrast...

Genesis 35:1-
End of the Jacob narrative. Shift to the stories around Joseph. 

Birth of Benjamin...
Theme focus on purity and holiness...

Chapter 34 is rape and destruction. No mention of Godin this chapter.
Chapter 35 is renewal and purification. God is a focus in this chapter.

Jacob goes up to BethEl to settle
Get rid of false gods and build an altar to Adonai

Gen 28 is where Jacob had previously built a pillar to he goes back.

He goes UP... Both physical and spiritual.  Jacob's pilgrimage spot.

Transforms it from a flight in fear to a flight of spiritual repair.

Was Dinah's abduction a punishment of Jacob... For delaying his return to BethEl?

Remain and dwell there.  Emphasizes the idea of total being there with focus. For this is where there may be Devine presence.

Purification....35:2. What actions do they need to take?
Get rid of offending items
Clean yourself
Change clothes.

Literally...get rid of the spoils of Shechem... (separate alien gods of other places...competes with Israel God).
 Cleanse self literally. When in contact with impure things...death.  Idea of self cleansing.
Even clothes that are in contact with that which is unclean...the dead of Shechem.

Also needs to change the mental state as well as the physical cleansing...

All about how we enter sacred space... Both physical and mental/spiritual preparation.

We also need to be accountable for our actions... This is not thoroughly addressed in this episode.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

They All Agree to be Circumcised?

Genesis 34:15-24

How would Hamor convince the men to circumcise themselves?
Hamor says They need to be circumcised to gain the value of Jacobs family..

Focus on identity ...individual vs community wants...

This is like a mass conversion... This is how they could become part of their community...

To the Shechemites
Everyone should be circumcised...,"if you become like us".
To get what they want.  But it turns around. 
Question of who is the stronger community.

Audacious request... Did not think they would agree... But would use as a way to get Dinah back. 
The suggestion that they will become part of them if they get circumcised...but this was not the was just a strategy to get Dinah back.  But it went terribly wrong.

V21. What would the Schemites get from this?  V23 they plan to steal everything from the Israelites...   They are already rich and powerful....but they must see the Israelites were very wealthy also.

Was it all the brothers or just two if them? Shimone and Levy..

It is supposed to be an absurd request...
Why would the rest of the tribe go along with this?  Implied that they were servants of Shechem and Hamor... Otherwise why would they agree? 

The first of the Helm stories!  Just seems stupid...that Hamor would agree to this at all.

Note...this chapter has no mention of God.

Story shows the perversion of the children of Jacob.  It is a perversion of the covenant of circumcision... Other cultures did circumcision but without religious significance.

Dinah's reaction after the massacre ... She had to be dragged out... Implies that she was also in love with Shechem. 

V25.  Dinahs true brothers, Levy and Shamon after third day... kill all the males.  The other brothers then go in and plunder...  Questions of the pain or the psychological pain and rage.

Irony of plundering the town.

Jacob is not happy... He sees this as a burden...practical response...
Sons remind Jacob of why they did it...  Can't let them get away with raping their sister.

Some interpret it that this is punishment for Jacob..,