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This Week's Portion: "When You Go Out To War..." [ Deut 21:10-25:19 ]read on Sat Aug 21, Shabbath Elul 11
The children of Israel are still camped across the Jordan River, on the plains of Moab just outside the promised land. This week's portion opens with Moses nearing the end of the first section of his farewell address to the assembled people. Moses repeats the laws of Israel which aim at instilling the "good faith" in which the different social relationships (familial, economic, and legal) between members of Israelite society must be maintained.
This week's concluding reading from Isaiah records God's emphatic promises of reunion with the people of Israel, God's beloved "wife," and God's exuberant instructions to prepare for a future restoration and expansion.
Looking for something good to read?
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE by Marino
"Murderers dressed in sunday's best commit thought-crimes inspired by divine bureaucrats while obscure patterns radiate from an overdose on reality. I try to mean it when I smile."
WE ARE ALL GOD'S CHILDREN by Joseph Haddad
"Though we may have different languages, cultures, beliefs, and faiths, human beings remain fundamentally related to each other, members of an extended family."
THE NAKED CROWD by Jose Faur
"Hence, the Tora or Law of Israel involves both spiritual enlightenment and political freedom: one without the other strips Judaism from its significance."
GOY by Ranjit Chatterjee
"I am not a poet, much as I admire poets, like Milton who absolutely baffles me with his prodigious blind creativity and puritan sensuality, or Walt Whitman with his unabashed American confidence and grandeur that in a sane man would be called lunatic. Ah, sanity."
THE MISHNE TORAH ed. Yohai Makbili, et al
"The first of the positive precepts is to know that there exists a God, as it is written 'I am the LORD, your God' (Exodus 20,2; Deuteronomy 5,6)."
Questions and Commentary
"If you no longer desire [the woman you captured], you must release her; you may not sell her for money or treat her harshly, for you have violated her." [ 21:14 ]
Her captor is told by the Torah, "you have violated her." That in itself was no doubt news to men's ears. "What do you mean I violated her? I just did what any red-blooded male would do," one can just hear these men protest. The root of "violated" isanat, which is the name of the vengeful Canaanite goddess raped by her father and her brother. It is the same verb used to describe the rape of Dinah (Gen. 34:2) and the Egyptian oppression of the Jews (Ex. 1:11-12, 3:7). Judith Antonelli
"You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together." [ 22:10 ]
...the Torah forbids us to plow a field with an ox and donkey together. Can you think of any logic behind this law? Menachem Leibtag
"You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother; you shall not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land." [ 23:8 ]
...Let us try to extract some relevant principles from among the Mosaic imperatives regarding certain peoples who were unfriendly to Israel....The descendants of Esau had inherited the hostility of their ancestor toward Jacob with such intensity that the king of Edom refused the Hebrews simple passage through his country. Nevertheless, Moses instructed his people not to hate the Edomites, for they are our brethren. And in order to make clear that this injunction is not due to the kinship between Esau and Jacob, he amplifies it in the same verse: "You shall not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land" (Dt 23:8). Why is this said? Could it be claimed that Egypt lavished a benevolence upon Israel beyond what she received from other peoples? To the contrary, indeed, the Jews were so ill treated there that they had all the more reason to be grateful to the other nations. If the text, then, invokes the memory of Egyptian hospitality, it must be an acknowledgement that the generous reception which Israel was initially granted in that country ought to be more remembered than the severe suffering which came later. Elijah Benamozegh
"Since God, your Authority, walks in the midst of your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you, let your camp be holy; let [God] not find anything unseemly among you and turn away from you." [ 23:15 ]
These words caution us about the types of destructiveness which are known among soldiers when they are away from their homes a long time. God therefore instructed us about actions which bring upon consideration the resting of the Divine Presence among us, so that we will be saved from those [destructive] actions....In order that it will be rooted within everyone that the camp is like the sanctuary of God, and is not like the camps of the nations - in regards to destructiveness and negligence, interpersonal injury and the taking of wealth, and nothing more - rather our goal is the rectification of human beings towards God's service and the regularity of their circumstance.
"God called you, like a brokenhearted and abandoned wife - a young wife that was rejected, declared your Authority; for a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I gather you back. " [ Isaiah 54:6-7 ]
For us, the scenario of the rejected woman reconciling with her husband may resonate all too well with the familiar domestic reality of battered wives rejoicing in a reunion with their abusers. Such an association strips the prophecy of all redemptive promise. In order for the metaphor to hold its power, its readers must go along with the unspoken assumption of the prophet/poet, which is that, in this scenario, the man is completely righteous in his anger toward his woman; that she has, in fact, betrayed him...This metaphor reflects the way the Israelites viewed themselves in relation to God. It was their sin that caused their exile. Israel, though powerless and exiled, sees itself as the one whose actions drive the situation...Forgiveness and liberation comprise the ultimate theme of this haftarah. God's love endures beyond all physical existence. The expression of such love through a sexist metaphor is simply an affirmation that complete redemption is imaginable, describable, if even from a limited perspective. For us, it is comforting to know that we don't have to be able to perfectly envision the fully redeemed world in order to believe that it is possible.Vivian Mayer
News and Views
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[ follow-up @ Lazer Beams ]
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[ haftarah @ Velveteen Rabbi ]
[ progress @ The Jew and the Carrot ]
[ opinion @ Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals ]
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