Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Parashat Ki Tisa, 5774/2014 edition

Basics here.

Links to last year’s Ki Tisa post and previous versions here.

Exodus Chapter 32 שְׁמוֹת

כו  וַיַּעֲמֹד מֹשֶׁה, בְּשַׁעַר הַמַּחֲנֶה, וַיֹּאמֶר, מִי לַיהוָה אֵלָי; וַיֵּאָסְפוּ אֵלָיו, כָּל-בְּנֵי לֵוִי.
26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said: 'Whoso is on the LORD'S side, let him come unto me.' And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

Call this nepotism or call it a loyalty test, but either way, I smell a rat—why did only Moshe’s tribe answer his call?  Or was this story just an excuse, given after the fact, to explain why all Kohanim/priests came from the tribe of Levi?

יד כִּי לֹא תִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה, לְאֵל אַחֵר: כִּי יְהוָה קַנָּא שְׁמוֹ, אֵל קַנָּא הוּא. 14 For thou shalt bow down to no other god; for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God;

טו פֶּן-תִּכְרֹת בְּרִית, לְיוֹשֵׁב הָאָרֶץ; וְזָנוּ אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶם, וְזָבְחוּ לֵאלֹהֵיהֶם, וְקָרָא לְךָ, וְאָכַלְתָּ מִזִּבְחוֹ. 15 lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go astray after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and they call thee, and thou eat of their sacrifice;

טז וְלָקַחְתָּ מִבְּנֹתָיו, לְבָנֶיךָ; וְזָנוּ בְנֹתָיו, אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶן, וְהִזְנוּ אֶת-בָּנֶיךָ, אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶן. 16 and thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go astray after their gods, and make thy sons go astray after their gods.

Yep, even back in Bible times, our ancestors were worried about intermarriage.  :(  You’ll notice, though, that the concern was only that pagan women would lure away Israelite men—there’s no concern expressed regarding pagan men luring away Israelite women.  Just sayin’.

As for (Ashkenazi) Haftarat Ki Tisa (1 Kings 18:1–39), I don’t think that the liquid that Eliyahu HaNavi/Elijah the Prophet had his assistants pour on the altar was water, though I can’t remember what the television show that I saw on the subject said could have caused spontaneous combustion.  Apparently, Eliyahu HaNavi was a chemist.  :)

Conservadox presents the view of some commentators that the census was part of the preparation for a military draft.

Mechon Hadar’s Rav Shai Held discusses The Importance of Character, Or: Why Stubbornness is Worse Than Idolatry.


Blogger Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Just a couple of quibbles:
1) Not nepotism. According to the Midrash the tribe of Levi did not worship idols in Egypt, nor were they enslaved. As a result they had an abhorrence for idols and a zealous nature to avenge God's honour that the other tribes, slaves who had worshipped idols until just before the Exodus, would not have had.
2) Of course the Torah worries about Jewish women being seduced by non-Jewish men but since the halacha is that the child follows the mother a Jewish woman who intermarries still has Jewish children, not so for the Jewish man who marries out.

Wed Feb 12, 10:25:00 PM 2014  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Garnel, there's an old joke that a Jew answers a question with another question. :) So I'm going to respond to your quibbles with a couple of my own:
1) My understanding is that one is not required to believe Midrashim, and I don't--while I often find them very interesting, I often take them with a grain of salt. Nowhere in the Torah itself does it say that the tribe of Levi was not enslaved in Egypt.
2) I think that your statement "the halacha is that the child follows the mother" is anachronistic. I believe that it was the ancient rabbis ("CHAZAL"?) who interpreted the law regarding a child's religious identity in that manner--and the Written Torah precedes CHAZAL. The Written Torah/Torah Sheh-B'chtav seems to indicate that a woman, and consequently, her children, followed the religion of her husband. So while it's true that Bible-era Hebrew men who were led astray would have ended up with pagan children, the same would also have been true of Bible-era Hebrew women, judging by what I see in the Torah Sheh-Bi-ch'tav.

Thu Feb 13, 04:40:00 PM 2014  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Perhaps the issue reflected in the Torah text is that a Bible-era woman simply had less opportunity to be led astray, since she was under her father's control.

Thu Feb 13, 05:30:00 PM 2014  
Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

Another angle - we have the story of Dinah to let us know that the scion of the tribe was prone violent zeal. I suspect this is why they gather round Moses.

If you would say that Shim'on was also involved in the vengeance of Dinah, I would refer you to the end of Balak which in which a Shim'onite behaves badly with an idolatrous woman, and the Levite Pinchas - the prototypical zealot - skewers them for it.

Fri Feb 14, 12:17:00 AM 2014  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

That's an interesting point, Reform BT.

Fri Feb 14, 10:55:00 AM 2014  
Anonymous Garnel Ironheart said...

Shira, in both cases the Midrash bases itself on a precise reading of the Torah text.
In the case of Levi not being enslaved we see that Moshe and his family never seemed to work. Moshe's mother was home to look after him in the first three months of his life even though she wasn't officially on mat leave. Miriam didn't have anything keeping her from watching Moshe in the river until Pharoah's daughter found him. And Aharon was able to come and go from Egypt at will, not exactly the behaviour of a slave.
As for my second point, a careful reading shows that we're worried about the children of a Jewish woman only, not those of a man which is where matrilineal descent comes from.

Sun Feb 16, 03:57:00 AM 2014  

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