Monday, November 05, 2012

Parshat Vayera,5773/2012thoughts:Grammar gaffes?

You can read the basics here.

Below are links to some previous Vayera posts of mine, along with some new thoughts about them.

But first, some new thoughts from this year's reading.

In the first verse of this parshah, HaShem appears to Avraham/Abraham; in the second, Avraham looks up and sees three men (yes, men, not angels--the text says "anashim," not "mal'achim") and runs to greet them;  in the third verse, he speaks in the singular, asking his guest not to leave him; in the fourth and fifth verses, he speaks in the plural, asking his guests to wash their feet, rest under the tree, and have a bite to eat.  (One wiseguy at our synagogue's weekly Torah discussion during Seudah Shlishit commented that it was as if Avraham put G-d on hold while he talked with someone else on Call Waiting.:) )  It's no wonder the rabbis comment that G-d waited patiently while Avraham showed hospitality to the guests whom Avraham thought were human, thus teaching us the importance of welcoming strangers.

Also, check out B'reshit/Genesis, chapter 11, verse 2:  Within a single verse, Lot address his guests as--depending on your point of view--my lord or my Lord (again, ignore the incorrect English translation), then switches from the singular to the plural.

Judging by the inconsistent grammar, it would appear that two or more stories were cobbled together to create this parshah/weekly Torah reading.

Here's another goodie to consider:  What, exactly does B'reshit/Genesis, chapter 21, verse 6 mean?  In this case, I don't think that the grammar is garbled, but rather, that  the Hebrew is deliberately ambiguous.  After all, G-d has already rebuked Sarah for having had the supposed chutzpah/gall to laugh when she was told she'd have a child at her ridiculously-advanced age.  (See chapter 18, verse 13.)  I don't think she would have dared to say, straight out, "G-d has made a laughing stock of me, everyone who hears will laugh at me."  But, if, as some theorize, Yitzchak was intellect-challenged, and particularly if he had the visible difference in appearance that's common in those with Down's Syndrome, Sarah may, indeed, have thought that someone who'd waited well over a decade to have a child only to bear a baby with an obvious disability would be a victim of communal mockery.

As promised, here are links to some previous Vayera posts of mine, along with some new thoughts:

  • "What's the big deal about Avraham having served his guests dairy and meat in the same meal? The laws of kashrut couldn't possibly have been binding then because the Torah hadn't been given yet! (In my opinion, the rabbis created unnecessary problems for themselves by articulating the idea that there's no early or late [ein mukdam u-meuchar?] in the Torah.)
  • Sarah did not lie when she told G-d that she had not laughed--the text says quite clearly that she laughed "b'kirbah," "within herself," which is not the same as laughing out loud."

    This year's thought:  Look carefully at the Hebrew of B'reishit/Genesis, chapter 18, verse 10.  Never mind that the English translation uses an upper-case H--the Hebrew says that "he" said that Sarah would have a son.  The Hebrew does not indicate that it was G-d who was speaking.  How could she have known that G-d would read her mind? 

  • "It appears that HaShem wasn't so thrilled with the fact that Avraham went along with the Akeidah without protest--afterward, HaShem never spoke to Avraham again. (I don't think that this observation originated with either of us, but I can't remember where I read it.)
  • Last but not least comes my big gripe of the year: Why is Avraham nicer to strangers than to his own family? He argues repeatedly with G-d not to destroy S'dom and Amorah (Sodom and Gemorah), but says not a word when G-d tells him to sacrifice his son Yitzchak. He shows hospitality to total strangers, yet sends his son Yishmael packing with nothing but bread and water. All HaShem said was "Sh'ma b'kolah," listen to her (Sarah's) voice. HaShem never suggested that Yishmael and his mother Hagar should be sent off into the desert with limited means of short-term survival and no means of long-term support. Judging by the text, Yishmael had to have been over 14 years old at the time of his expulsion. Avraham could have given him a parting gift of, for example, a small flock of goats. Why didn't he?"

    This year's thoughts:

    I'm not terribly impressed with either Avinu sheh-ba-Shamayim (Our Heavenly Father) or Avraham Avinu (Abraham Our Father) as role models for  fatherhood.  Yishmael/Ishmael was expelled with no means of survival; Yitzchak/Isaac nearly had his throat slit.  Is either "father" serious about creating and preserving the lives of children? Both G-d and Avraham treat both boys as toys, born only to make a point.  Let's call a spade a spade, folks--in our day, this kind of treatment would be called child abuse, child endangerment, child abandonment, and/or attempted murder.

    Nor am I impressed with either G-d's or Avraham's callous indifference to the suffering of Sarah, who seems to be present only to help Avraham acquire greater wealth and to prove that G-d can perform a miracle and enable a barren woman to become pregnant at any age--if and when G-d jolly well feels like it.
  • Parshat Vayera:  Tons to write about (Thursday, November 10, 2011) Yep, more goodies not mentioned above, including this thought:
  • "So let me get this straight--HaShem orders Avraham to sacrifice Yitzchak/Isaac, but an angel tells him not to?!!! (See chapter 22, verses 1-3 and 11-12.) I'm not impressed with either HaShem's command or Avraham's willingness to go along with it. For openers, "Why on earth (or in heaven) would HaShem want to stoop to the level of a pagan god and demand child sacrifice?"
Better-late-than-never update, Friday, November 9, 2012:  Conservadox blogs about the Akeidah.



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