Torah Study Date
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Bereishit (Genesis) 19:35 – 20:13
Saturday, March 6, 2021
Last week, we finished discussing the intercourse between Lot’s daughters and Lot and began discussing Abraham and Sarah’s encounter with Abimelek, king of Gerar. We discussed the daughters getting Lot drunk on wine for a second night, the younger one having sex with him and the text saying that Lot did not know of her lying down and getting up (which some say is mentioned to exonerate Lot of the incest), the two daughters becoming pregnant by their father and having sons, the sons’ names indicating the nature of their birth–since Moab means ‘from father’ and ben-Ami means ‘son of my people’ (euphemistically implying the birth came from within).
The narrative returns to Abraham who leaves Mamre, goes to the Negev and lives between Kadesh and Shur in Gerar. We discussed that, for a second time, Abraham tells Sarah, his wife, to say that she was his sister, that as a result Abimelek, the king, sends for and takes Sarah and that God comes to Abimelek in a dream telling him that he is dead over the woman because she is a man’s wife. We noted that Abimelek, though not a Hebrew, has a close relationship with God–close enough that God comes to him and warns him–and that his relationship is closer than Pharaoh’s in Genesis 12:12 whom God plagues for sleeping with Sarah.
We discussed that Abimelek had not come close to Sarah and so argues that he is innocent especially since Abraham and Sarah had told him that Sarah was Abraham’s sister, that Abimelek asks God if God would kill an innocent nation, and that Abimelek sounds like Abraham arguing with God about not killing the innocent people of Sodom. We discussed God saying he knew Abimelek was innocent and holding Abimelek back from sinning by not letting him touch Sarah, and God telling Abimelek, if he wants to live, to give Sarah back to Abraham because Abraham is a prophet. We learned that that is the only use of the term for prophet in Genesis, that its meaning is not very well-defined as a result, and that it might be another indication of the fact that Genesis was composed after Exodus.
We discussed Abraham saying to Abimelek when asked why he brought such a sin on Abimelek and his kingdom, that he had not thought there was fear of God in the place and that the sermonic point of the passage is not to assume that people who are different from you necessarily are bad. Instead, they may be God-fearing, have a sense of what is fair or just, and may have their own relationship with God. We also discussed the fact that many polytheists are open to the gods of other religions and simply incorporate them into their own set of gods. We also discussed Abraham saying that in fact Sarah was his sister since she was his half-sister by his father. We also discussed some grammatical points and a number of other topics.
Our artwork this week is from The Comic Torah: Reimagining the Very Good Book by Chicago Jewish husband and wife team, Aaron Freeman, a comedian and journalist, and Sharon Rosenzweig, an artist. In the comic, Moses is a black man based on Aaron, God is a woman based on Sharon, and Israel is personified as a woman named Honey (as in “land of Milk and Honey”). It seemed like appropriate artwork to post at this time since Rabbi Myra’s Jews and Race class begins this weekend.
Bereishit (Genesis) 22:1-6
Last week we discussed God testing Abraham. We noted that God calling Abraham by name indicates something important is about to happen and that in the Samaritan and Greek texts Abraham’s name is called twice (“And God said to him, ‘Abraham, Abraham'”) making the importance even more evident. We discussed Abraham saying, in response, “Hineni” (“Here I am” or “I’m here”), that “Hineni” is a combination of “Hinei” (“here” or “behold”) and “Ani” (“I”) and that it indicates being ready, responsive or attentive.
We discussed the command, “Take your son, your only one, Isaac, whom you love…” and the fact that each part is significant. “Take your son” (which son?), your only one (not the one by Hagar but the one by Sarah, your wife; the one through whom your heirs are supposed to come), whom you love (which will make it a difficult test), Isaac (to make it completely clear).
We discussed the possibility of a different interpretation of what Abraham is asked to do (is it to go up to the land of Moriah and offer Isaac as a sacrifice or is it to go up there and make Isaac another one who goes up) with the idea in mind that perhaps Abraham misheard the command or could have understood it differently, and we discussed why Abraham did not argue with the command as he argued with God about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (some possible answers from Friedman: Abraham has an obedient personality; because Isaac is his son and so his request would be biased; the outcome in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah–that nothing was changed by Abraham’s argument–led him to stay silent in this case); we still wondered if he could not have argued with God about it.
We discussed “early next morning” indicating that Abraham was, in fact, responsive and ready since he got going right away, what the wood would be for if not for a sacrifice (to keep warm?), Abraham saying to the two servants who went with them to stay there with the ass and that he and Isaac would worship and return to them (was it a sign that he had faith–but ‘faith’ is not a concept in these passages and, in general, is stressed a great deal in Protestant Christianity and relatively little in Judaism and Jewish texts; was he sparing Isaac’s feelings; did he not want the servants to know what he was doing), that Abraham “put the wood on his son Isaac” an emotionally fraught thing to do since it indicates how burdened Isaac is, and that “the two walked off together” makes the pathos even greater since it hints at the close connection between the two of them. We also discussed what exactly the test of Abraham was since it would not be a test of faith on a Jewish interpretation (as it is thought to be by some Christian thinkers). Could God be testing Abraham’s obedience? Or could God be hoping Abraham would refuse to obey?
Our artwork this week is by New York City Jewish artist, Eden Morris, Sarah’s Nightmare (above) and Collateral Damage (below), and shows the effect of the almost sacrifice of Isaac on Sarah. Morris studied painting at Brandeis University and Boston University. Her work tends to be about relationships and often tells a story from the women’s point of view.