Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Parshat Vaeira catch-up

You can read the basics of last Shabbat's parshat here.

Here's a little something that I spotted this year: What's the story with Sh'mot/Exodus chapter 6, verse 15's statement that Shim'on's/Shimon's/Simeon's/Simon's son Shaul/Saul is the son of a Canaanite woman? Who the heck did the rest of B'nei Yaakov (the sons of Jacob) marry?

On a broader theme, it's all a matter of pollution--once the Nile turns red/becomes polluted, all but the last plague (the death of the firstborn) pretty much follow as a result. It's natural for the frogs to bail out if the water's polluted, then die of whatever got under their skin (literally). The insects follow the mass death of the frogs, and disease results from the insect infestation. Naturally, I can't find the video, but the History Channel telecast a theory that the death of the firstborn was caused when a natural body of water released trapped gas, which killed only those privileged few who slept on close-to-the-ground beds (firstborn sons and high officials) rather than those sleeping higher up on rooftops (the majority of the population), who were at a high-enough elevation that the poisonous gas passed under them. Traditionalists shouldn't be alarmed by this interpretation--all of these natural phenomena could have been caused by G-d.

The haftarah (Ezekiel chapter 28, verse 25-29, verse 21) is not one of the more pleasant readings--("And I will put hooks in your jaws . . . "), and also has the most difficult Hebrew of all the haftarot that I chant.

See also:


Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

The other thing I found interesting about 'the son of the Canaanite woman' is that it argues that the standard for Jewishness in those days were based on the male ancestor, rather than the female.

Tue Jan 24, 02:39:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Funny thing about that. Patrilineal descent may be against the current traditional halachic consensus, but the Reform Movement did not pull that approach to Jewish identity out of thin air.

Tue Jan 24, 04:00:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Correct. Tribal Judaism tracked through the father, you see that continues with tribal identified. While there is textual support for the Rabbinic position that it tracks the mother, it certainly solves the issue of rape victims and other unpleasantness.

I mean, the Christian notion of a virgin birth didn't come out of nowhere. The idea of ignoring the father when establishing Jewishness clearly had a Jewish basis 2000 years ago.

Wed Jan 25, 11:39:00 AM 2012  
Anonymous jdub said...

I'll take issue with all of your comments. The Israelite tribes tracked tribal membership through the father. Makes sense in a tribal society. Most (not all) tribal societies do so (some track it through the mother although those tend to be non-monogamous tribes).

Judaism as a religion tracked it through the mother. That was because in the absence of a tribal society, you needed certainty and with the issue of rape and non-Jewish dominance, you had what to worry about.

So, the Reform movement certainly pulled the concept of Jewish identity out of thin air. Whatever our Patriarchs were, they certainly weren't Jewish.

Thu Jan 26, 11:12:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Tribal Judaism tracked through the father," said Miami Al.

" . . . the Reform movement certainly pulled the concept of Jewish identity out of thin air. Whatever our Patriarchs were, they certainly weren't Jewish," said JDub

Okay, JDub, let's try it this way: the Patriarchs were the ancesters of the Jewish People, and, living within a tribal society, tracked identity through the father. We, their descendents, living in non-tribal societies, have developed Judaism the religion, which tracks identity through the mother "because in the absence of a tribal society, you needed certainty and with the issue of rape and non-Jewish dominance, you had what to worry about."

Thu Jan 26, 01:16:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Miami Al said...

The text is pretty clear that when leaving Egypt, the Israelite tribe was very tribal, and therefore tracked through the father. It is also clear, that by the time the text we have today was recorded, marrying outside an Israelite tribe was forbidden.

The record is very clear that by the time the Gemara was codified, the understanding via Oral Law and Written Law was that Jewishness tracked through the mother, with textual support coming from Written Law.

At some point, "Jewishness" as opposed to "Tribal identity" mattered, and we tracked through the mother. We'd don't have a historical record of this time, but it certainly happened before the Mishnah.

There is no evidence of any time in Jewish history where there was a concept of "Jewishness" outside of "which Israelite tribe were you" that it was tracked through the father.

So the Reform movement has zero evidentiary or textual support for the concept of "either parent, providing being raised Jewish," with no definition of what that means.

Thu Jan 26, 04:35:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

In other words, the "pre-Judaism" of our patriarchal ancestors tracked *tribal* identity through the father, but the Judaism of the Mishna and beyond tracked/tracks, *Jewish* identity through the mother--and mixing the two ways of tracking has no precedent in Jewish history and/or tradition. JDub and Miami Al, thanks for pointing that out.

Thu Jan 26, 05:07:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

A quick observation: Accepting the child of either a Jewish mother (per rabbinic Jewish law) or a Jewish father (per tribal pre-Jewish practice) as Jewish is a little like following "Biblical Kashrut" (don't eat the forbidden animals, don't boil a kid in its mother's milk, don't eat "torn" animals or animals that you find already dead)--it's easier, but we're now following rabbinic ID rules just as we're now following additional kashrut rules established by the ancient sages and rabbis.

Thu Jan 26, 06:19:00 PM 2012  

Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>