Thursday, October 26, 2017

Odd woman out

A relative newcomer to our congregation has been driving me nuts--she keeps citing midrashim as if they were the words of the Torah itself.  When we read Parshat B'reshit two weeks ago, she spouted some far-fetched midrash about Kain having killed Havel (Abel) because they were fighting over a woman.  What woman?  According to the text itself, there weren't any women other than Chava (Eve) at the time.

Finally, I'd had enough.  Describing my own surprise when I discovered that the story of Avraham Avinu (Abraham Our Father) breaking the idols was nowhere to be found in the actual written Torah, I challenged this midrash-lover to read the weekly Torah reading (parshat hashvuah) every week, explaining that she'd never know what was written in the Torah and what was rabbinic interpretation unless she actually read the Torah.  I even referred her to the list of weekly readings in Wikipedia and to a website displaying the entire written TaNaCh so that she could read the weekly Torah reading (translated into her native language) on her smartphone.

I was quite taken aback by her response--she looked at me as if I had four heads.  Apparently, her idea of studying Torah is to jump from video to video.  Reading?  What's that?

And my favorite Seudah Shlishit study-session sparring partner undermined my point, thereby shooting me in the foot, when he expressed surprise that the story of Avraham breaking the idols was nowhere to be found in the written Torah.  @#$%^&*!!!

It didn't occur to me until much later that my sparring partner had also shot himself in the foot.  Here's a guy who insists that one can't understand the Torah without reading rabbinic commentary and/or midrashim and accepting them as true, which is one of the main reasons why we're always sparring.  And he's just proven the truth of a recent realization of mine:  One of the few advantages that I have in not being so well acquainted with rabbinic commentary and/or midrashim is that I almost never lose sight of the written text.  Seriously, he's probably been studying Torah for much longer than I, so how could he not know that the story of Abraham breaking the idols is not in the written Torah?

In other news, a funny thing happened to me on the way to a meeting.  My supervisor's newest staff member is both younger and, due to his higher level of education and the nature of his position, higher in rank than the rest of us.  I didn't realize how much higher until I noticed that, while a couple of us were setting up for a meeting (bringing in documents and food), he was taking a seat at the conference table to participate in the meeting.  Seeing him take a seat at the table reminded me of my realization that Senator Elizabeth Warren, who's probably going to run for President, is the same age as I.  My unavoidable conclusion:  If I'm not rich and/or famous by now, I never will be. 

Courtesy of Genesis Rabbah 38.13 R. Hiyya via Wikipedia, here's the midrash (rabbinic interpretative story) about Avraham Avinu (Abraham Our Father) breaking the idols.


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