Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What I learned from Parshat Ki Tisa

Rabbi Yishmael omer, bi-shlosh esreh midot haTorah midreshet:

Rabbi Ishmael says, by thirteen principles/through thirteen rules is the Torah expounded/elucidated (depending on your translation):

1. Mi kal vachomer--An inference from a lenient law to a strict one, and vice versa
2. U-mi-g'zerah shavah--An inference drawn from identical words in two passages

. . .

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Exodus Chapter 32 שְׁמוֹת

א וַיַּרְא הָעָם, כִּי-בֹשֵׁשׁ מֹשֶׁה לָרֶדֶת מִן-הָהָר; וַיִּקָּהֵל הָעָם עַל-אַהֲרֹן, וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו קוּם עֲשֵׂה-לָנוּ אֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר יֵלְכוּ לְפָנֵינוּ--כִּי-זֶה מֹשֶׁה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלָנוּ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, לֹא יָדַעְנוּ מֶה-הָיָה לוֹ.

1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him: 'Up, make us a god who shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him.'

ב וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם, אַהֲרֹן, פָּרְקוּ נִזְמֵי הַזָּהָב, אֲשֶׁר בְּאָזְנֵי נְשֵׁיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם וּבְנֹתֵיכֶם; וְהָבִיאוּ, אֵלָי.

2 And Aaron said unto them: 'Break off the golden rings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.'

ג וַיִּתְפָּרְקוּ, כָּל-הָעָם, אֶת-נִזְמֵי הַזָּהָב, אֲשֶׁר בְּאָזְנֵיהֶם; וַיָּבִיאוּ, אֶל-אַהֲרֹן.

3 And all the people broke off the golden rings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.

Larry and his rabbinical-student guest tried to clue me into how "g'zerah shavah" applies to this text--since, clearly, when Aharon/Aaron was speaking to "ha-am," the women and children were not included, then, when "ha-am" broke off their gold jewelry, it was only the adult males who did so, which is why midrash (rabbinical interpretive story) credits us women with not having taken part in the sin of the Egel haZahav/Golden Calf. I'm not so sure myself, since the text says "kol ha-am, all the people." But at least I now understand the rabbis' logic.

ו וַיַּשְׁכִּימוּ, מִמָּחֳרָת, וַיַּעֲלוּ עֹלֹת, וַיַּגִּשׁוּ שְׁלָמִים; וַיֵּשֶׁב הָעָם לֶאֱכֹל וְשָׁתוֹ, וַיָּקֻמוּ לְצַחֵק. {פ}

6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt-offerings, and brought peace-offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to make merry. {P}

Speaking of g'zerah shavah, "l'tzahek" refers to making merry in the context of pagan worship?! Holy Moses, is that what Yishmael (Ishmael) was doing at Yitzchak's (Isaac's) weaning party?! No wonder Sarah insisted that Avraham (Abraham) expel him from their home! (That's still no excuse for his having sent Yishmael and his mother, Hagar, out into the desert with nothing but bread and water--what, he couldn't have given his son a small flock of goats with which to earn a living?)


Anonymous rejewvenator said...

l'tzachek usually means not to make merry in the context of idol-worship, but rather to be sexual. Yitzchak and Rivka are described with this word when Avimelech spies them after the whole "she's my sister" ruse.

The gemara explains that the reason that the Israelites worshipped the calf was not for the idolatry, but rather to allow themselves to engage in forbidden sexual relationships (as part of the worship, as was the style of the time).

In other words, Yishmael may have been sexually abusing Yitzchak, which places his and Hagar's eviction in a much more understandable light, even sans a small herd of goats.

It also makes the Akeida that much more poignant psychologically, in that victims of sexual abuse often blame themselves, and see themselves as worthless, impure, and unclean. God's selection of Yitxchak as the sacrifice means that in God's eyes he was unsullied, perfect, and pure - which may help explain why Yitzchak was willing to go along with the whole thing.

Thu Feb 24, 07:32:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Sex as a part of religious worship? Typical of the times, as you said, but still, I don't know whether that or idol-worship is worse.

Good grief, Yitzchak was only a toddler! Sexually abusing a toddler is a pretty serious accusation. I don't know whether I'm willing to go that far, given we have only one word as evidence.

On the other hand, that's an interesting approach to Yitzchak's role in the Akeidah.

Thu Feb 24, 09:34:00 AM 2011  

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