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Archive for the ‘Haftarah’ Category

Second take on Parasha Nitzavim/Vayelech

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 7, 2007


Torah Portion, Nitzavim Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30:20

My first focal point:
Chapter 30:1-6

1. And it will be, when all these things come upon you the blessing and the curse which I have set before you that you will consider in your heart, among all the nations where the Lord your God has banished you, 2. and you will return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you this day you and your children, 3. then, the Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you. 4. Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there, and He will take you from there. 5. And the Lord, your God, will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you [too] will take possession of it, and He will do good to you, and He will make you more numerous than your forefathers. 6. And the Lord, your God, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, [so that you may] love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, for the sake of your life.

And Hashem your G-d will return your captives: Rashi: It should have said “v’haishiv (meaning: will cause to return) your captives” Our Rabbis learned from this that the Holy Spirit, so to speak, dwells with Israel in their distress in exile and when they are redeemed, He writes redemption for Himself! – that He will return (from exile) with them. Another interpretation (of the use of “v’shav” – He will return): It can be said that the day of the Ingathering of the Diaspora is great and very difficult. It is as if He Himself will have to take the hand of each individual from his place (and bring him back from exile). As it says (Isaiah 27:12) “And you will be gathered one by one, you Children of Israel” And even by the other nations we find similarly (Jeremiah 48:47) “And I have retuned (Hebrew: “v’shavti”) the captives of Moav”.

It is very interesting to note that v. 3 implies that G-d Himself goes with Israel into exile, and is the One who brings them back as well – it is even more interesting to note that v.1 takes for granted that the pendulum of blessings and curses will indeed happen, and that this in itself will cause Israel to return, it leads the thoughts to ponder if this cause and effect back and forth is not something that is intended, and if read on a global individual scale it also implies that in fact, G-d cannot be found without trial and error? That we have to encounter both the blessings and the curses in order to be able to make a healthy choice? In that case v. 3 makes even more sense – in order to be found, G-d has to be right there, so He can return with us? We have to need Him in order for Him to be found? That would explain why G-d needs redemption as well – it’s a two way street. We need G-d, or we can’t keep going with the Program, but G-d has to be redeemed within us, to be of any use to us – so when we finally find what is our understanding of G-d, what has happened is G-d’s redemption and we are, together with G-d ready to return to sanity… I like that idea, the idea of us having to explore spirituality and ridding ourselves of false images of G-d and unearth within us OUR individual understanding of G-d and redeem G-d before trusting and turning our lives over to Him.

My second Focal Point:

Haftarah Isaiah 56:1-8

1 Thus said the Lord:
Observe what is right and do what is just;
For soon My salvation shall come,
And my deliverance be revealed.

2 Happy is the man who does this,
The man who holds fast to it:
Who keeps the sabbath and does not profane it,
And stays his hand from doing any evil.

3 Let not the foreigner say,
Who has attached himself to the Lord,
“The Lord will keep me apart from His people”;
And let not the eunuch say,
“I am a withered tree.”

4.For thus said the Lord:
“As for the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths,
Who have chosen what I desire
And hold fast to My covenant —

5 I will give them, in My House
And within My walls,
A monument and a name
Better than sons or daughters.
I will give them an everlasting name
Which shall not perish.

6 As for the foreigners
Who attach themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him,
And to love the name of the Lord,
To be His servants —
All who keep the sabbath and do not profane it,
And who hold fast to My covenant —

7 I will bring them to My sacred mount
And let them rejoice in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
Shall be welcome on My altar;
For My House shall be called
A house of prayer for all peoples.”

8 Thus declares the Lord God,
Who gathers the dispersed of Israel:
“I will gather still more to those already gathered.”

I love this passage, because it speaks in very simple terms about the simplicity of how G-d regards both His Torah and the human condition. No-one is excluded, and the demands are very simple – not necessarily easy, but simple:

1 Thus said the Lord:
Observe what is right and do what is just;
For soon My salvation shall come,
And my deliverance be revealed.

2 Happy is the man who does this,
The man who holds fast to it:
Who keeps the sabbath and does not profane it,
And stays his hand from doing any evil.

This is echoed in Micah 6:6-8:

6. With what shall I come before the Lord, bow before the Most High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? 7. Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriad streams of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8. He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; but to do justice, to love loving-kindness, and to walk discreetly with your God.

That’s it. Nothing we cannot do. In fact this is what the 12 Steps lead to – a close relationship with G-d, where it really doesn’t matter where we come from or what is our prior experience – what matters is that we walk with G-d one day at a time, and in the end we will all be ok. Really, we will all be ok.

Posted in Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30, Dvar Torah, Haftarah, Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Parasha Nitzavim, Parasha Nitzavim-Vayelech, Torah | 4 Comments »

Nitzavim-Vayelech – Teshuvah – A New Beginning

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 4, 2007


Torah Portion: Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 31:30 Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10 – 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8

I have decided to try an weave two of my most precious life-lines together – Torah and the 12 Step Program of Recovery – there really is no better place to start that challenge than on the second Last Shabbat before Roshashana and Yom Kippur.

So this weeks Dvar Torah is dedicated to my friends in Recovery – you all know just who you are 🙂

Focal Point Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:6-14

Then the L-rd your G-d will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live. The Lord your G-d will inflict all those curses upon the enemies and foes who persecuted you. You, however, will again heed the L-rd and obey all His commandments that I enjoin upon you this day. And the L-rd your G-d will grant you abounding prosperity in all your undertakings, in the issue of your womb, the offspring of your cattle, and the produce of your soil. For the L-rd will again delight in your well-being, as He did in that of your fathers, since you will be heeding the L-rd your G-d and keeping His commandments and laws that are recorded in this book of the Teaching — once you return to the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul.

Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. impart it to us, that we may observe it?”

  1. We admitted we were powerless over [insert your drug, process of choice here], that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d as we understand G-d.

Did you know that in the original “order” of the 12 Steps [which were actually 6], steps 1, 2 and 3 were baked into one?

Why was that? Because realizing that we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable can be very overwhelming, and more often than not there are behaviors we need to stop right away if we are to save our very lives, so we need to move from powerless and unmanageable without anywhere to go, to powerless and unmanageable with not only hope of a place to go, but to a place where we can actually be restored to some resemblance of sanity – and that my friends happens in step 3.

See, step 1 won’t tell you anything but that your are powerless and unmanageable, step 2 will only tell you that sanity is possible – but neither of them will actually provide sanity so being confronted with steps 1 and 2 is rather harsh – that’s why, originally, people were asked to take the 3 first steps as one, because step 3 will restore sanity on a daily basis, because step 3 is where we give up trying to control ourselves and the world around us and let G-d (as we understand G-d)take control of us one day at a time.

“But I don’t believe G-d loves me, that He cares about me or that He even exists!”.

One of my sponsors once told me that it doesn’t matter what I believe – it matters what I do. So my beliefs is immaterial, because if I tell G-d every morning that I turn my life over to Him (whoever or what ever He is) He will do the work as long as I do my footwork – go to meetings and check in with my sponsor. Did I believe it would work? No. But I did it because it was my last way out of a life that had brought me to the abyss where I was seriously staring suicide in the eyes. I was in so much pain that I would probably have done acrobatics if my sponsor had told me it would work.

But the simple wisdoms “Act as if” and “Fake it till you make it!” is actually in Torah: “And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot/Exodus 24:7)

Children learn through mimicking what adults do – they do before they understand what they are doing. Torah tells us that, in regards to a functional life (because that is what living according to Torah leads to) this is the attitude we need to take – learning/understanding through doing what we need to learn/understand.

So, I can work Step 3 even if I don’t believe it, just because I need to, and eventually it will be something I believe, something I do with faith and hope and trust that G-d as I understand Him, is restoring me to sanity on day at a time.

So how is this all connected to Torah and being Jewish?

Well, for one working step 1 is a natural part of the Jewish Path – every year, with the start of Elul, Jews all over the World begin a process of self-reflection, self- examination that will eventually lead them to identification of areas in their lives where they are out of control and need to do Teshuvah (return to Torah and G-d). Hope is also built into the Jewish Path – that G-d will restore that which was broken and bring sanity, because when the Gate closes on Yom Kippur all of Israel has been forgiven and a new beginning is declared.

“In all their troubles He was troubled, And the angel of His Presence delivered them. In His love and pity He Himself redeemed them, Raised them, and exalted them All the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9)

Step 3 is just a natural sequel to all of this in Judaism – Teshuvah – Forgiveness – Renewed Observance. All in the manner that fit each of us and our recovery.

Here’s a Jewish Prayer that fit perfectly to say at the end of any 12 Step Meeting:

Adon Olam

The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.

And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.

And He is one, and there’s no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs dominion and power.

And He is my G-d, my living G-d.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.

To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
G-d is with me, I shall not fear.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in 12 Step Program, Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30, Faith, Haftarah, Hope, Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Isaiah 61:10 - 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Parasha Nitzavim-Vayelech, Recovery, Seeking G-d, Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Teshuvah, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Leave a Comment »

Parasha Shoftim – Just Leadership

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 16, 2007


Weekly Parasha (Torah Reading) Shoftim Devarim 16:18-21:9Haftarah Isaiah 51:12 – 52:12

Focal Point Devarim 17:14-20

14. When you come to the land the Lord, your God, is giving you, and you possess it and live therein, and you say, “I will set a king over myself, like all the nations around me,”
15. you shall set a king over you, one whom the Lord, your God, chooses; from among your brothers, you shall set a king over yourself; you shall not appoint a foreigner over yourself, one who is not your brother.
16. Only, he may not acquire many horses for himself, so that he will not bring the people back to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, for the Lord said to you, “You shall not return that way any more.”
17. And he shall not take many wives for himself, and his heart must not turn away, and he shall not acquire much silver and gold for himself.
18. And it will be, when he sits upon his royal throne, that he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah on a scroll from [that Torah which is] before the Levitic kohanim.
19. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord, his God, to keep all the words of this Torah and these statutes, to perform them,
20.
so that his heart will not be haughty over his brothers, and so that he will not turn away from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, in order that he may prolong [his] days in his kingdom, he and his sons, among Israel.

This text is about Leadership – the Leadership of Israel, and what G-d expects of it. Earlier in this Parasha we find Dev 16:20 “Justice, justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” which clearly envisions what is the basis for the existence of the inheritance. Justice.

To get a king is not formulated as a command – it’s a prediction – there will come a time when the People of Israel will say I will set a king over myself, like all the nations around me…” when the People will want what the rest of the world wants, and that is a rejection of G-d.

1 Samuel 8:7 And the LORD said unto Samuel: ‘Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not be king over them.

The People is supposed to be ruled by G-d, through Elders/Judges who expound on Torah and apply it to every day life. That’s the IDEAL.

In reality it is quite different. G-d takes into account that the People will want a King, and then states what this King is to be like. Those statements are commands:

He may not be a foreigner, he may not acquire means to bring the People back into slavery, he may not have many wives or hoard riches, and above all, he must write a Torah scroll and read it every day of his life, so he can keep it.

I have been scourging the State of Israel in my Divrei Torot lately, and I suppose this isn’t going to be any different.

Civil Government is not ideal for the People of Israel – in fact it’s supposed to be governed by G-d and Torah, not by elected officials. Elected Officials will always pose a risk and a possibility for corruption, but G-d has made provision for this eventuality in Torah. Commands that very clearly stipulates under what conditions those elected officials are to rule. Above all they need to keep Torah. They need to be so well acquainted with Torah that they have in fact written an entire scroll for themselves, so that they can keep it with them at all times.

I doubt the current Leaders of Israel have done that, or are anywhere near such close proximity of Torah. In fact, one only has to look at the recent additions to the Legislation of the State of Israel to realize that they are in fact very far from what G-d states is the obligation of a Just Leadership:

A Racist Jewish State

On a more local level – how do we exercise Leadership? Do we accept Community Leaders that do not know Torah, that discriminate against converts, bnai teshuvah, that honor the rich and the “powerful” for aliyah? How about Leaders that accept and encourage prejudice and violence against those that do not belong to their specific Community? Does your community hide rabbis that abuse their position to violate children sexually, beat their wives. Are your Leaders on the forefront when it comes to safe-guarding civil and human rights in Society?

If they are – congratulations! If they are not, you need to do something about it.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Devarim 16:18-21:9, Haftarah, Parasha Shoftim | 2 Comments »

Parasha Re’eh – “other gods whom you have not experienced”

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 6, 2007


Parasha Re’eh Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17 – Haftarah (Readings from the Prophets): Isaiah 54:11-55:5

 

“In this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, Moses warns the Israelites against giving in to the temptation to worship “other gods whom you have not experienced” (elohim acherim asher lo-y’datam.) Even if that urging comes from “your brother, your own mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your closest friend” — if any of these dear people entices you to worship another god “whom neither you nor your fathers have experienced,” Just Say No.Like most of Torah, this text presumes that other gods exist; they’re just not appropriate loci for worship. (Ah, monolatry.) “Pray to the God you know,” Moses seems to be saying. “Pray to the God Who brought you out of Egypt — the one your ancestors knew, the one you know so intimately and so well.””(The God we know- Radical Torah)


It’s good to see that there are others that acknowledge the idea of Judaism originally being Henotheistic or Monolatrist.To me that is the solution to a problem that originally cause me to seek out Judaism – it makes it possible for me to be tolerant.Here’s an essay I wrote on the matter of Henotheism in Tanakh. It falls right into the above quest and this weeks Parasha.

Is there support for Henotheism in Torah and Tanakh?

My Problem

When G-D speaks about ‘other g-ds’ at Har Sinai He says:” Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:3) This sentence presents me with a logical problem – why would G-d command Israel not to worship other g-ds, if in fact no such g-ds exist? Why would worship of other g-ds be the major Problem G-d is faced with throughout the History of His People? If you were G-d, and the only existing at that, would you worry about sharing the devotions of your People with something that does not exist?

My intention

I have no illusions about coming up with any revolutionary findings or theories about G-d – my sole intention with this is to attempt to show that while Judaism today may be considered Monotheistic, it has not always been so, and that there is room in Torah and Tanakh for a Henotheistic view of G-d. A view that accepts the existence of other G-ds, but in practice excludes those other G-ds from personal belief and worship.

My search for answers

Five years ago, I was studying on-line with a Rabbi on-line – he suggested I study the 613 mitzvot and explain them one by one, to formulate my own understanding of the Foundation of Jewish Law and Thought. The first Positive Mitzvah (According to Maimonides Sefer HaMitzvot) is: “Know that there is a G-d” – this comes in Rambam’s list with a reference to Ex. 20:2; and Deut. 5:6: “I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” – I wondered how this could be read as a command to know/believe that there is a G-d, and started searching for more appropriate references – I eventually found Devarim 4:39 “know this day, and lay it to thy heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else.”. While I was searching the Scripture I discovered that Torah and Tanakh again and again make references to ‘other g-ds’ – in reference as well as by name – and it wasn’t random, it was systematic. It seemed to me that Torah and Tanakh were suggesting that Judaism was not entirely, what we would call Monotheistic.

Could it be that Judaism, despite its Monotheistic coat, had room for the acceptance, even acknowledgment, of the existence of other G-ds than Hashem?

To answer the question I had to look at the context – where did the Jewish People originate? What were its cultural and sociological roots? What was the religious soil like, in which the seed of Judaism was planted and grew to fruition?

Most scholars agree that the area, which we today call the Middle East, was comprised of loosely connected City States and Nomadic Tribes that each had their own pantheons of deities that varied in function and in importance. Some were powerful Head Deities that were worshiped by a larger number of people, others were very localized Semi-deities that drew a few worshipers. We know their names, both from Biblical accounts and extra-Biblical accounts.[1]

Having this in mind I was struck by another question: Is it logical to draw the conclusion that a small, nomadic People in an area that is full of Deities, would come up with the novel Idea that there is One Single Deity that Rules the entire Universe and no other Deities exist at all? It did not seem logical to me – on the contrary, it became highly unlikely that such a clearly Monotheistic thought would spring out of such a religiously diverse area. Furthermore – if Judaism and the Tanakh were strictly Monotheistic, why would Tanakh give account of the very names of these Deities? Especially since Torah actually prohibits the mentioning of the names of ‘other g-ds’. “And in all things that I have said unto you take ye heed; and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” (Ex. 23:13)

The Shema (Devarim 6:4) states: “Hear Israel, the LORD OUR G-D (Adonay Eloheynu[2]) is One!”[3] – It would have been sufficient to state – The LORD G-D (Adonay Elohey/Elohim) is One! It would still have been a valid ‘preamble’ to the Treaty between G-D and the Jewish People, so why this emphasis on making sure Israel HEARD that G-D is OUR G-D, if there exists only ONE G-d? There would be no reason, unless this was not true in the mind of Tanakh.

There I was, trained to think of Judaism and the Tanakh as strictly Monotheistic – “One G-d, One People, One Twofold Law”, and it did not make sense to me.

This confusion was further elevated when I read Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith:

2. I believe with perfect faith that G-d is One. There is no unity that is in any way like His. He alone is our G-d. He was, He is, and He will be.

“He alone is our G-d” – I noted this ‘alone is our’ and thought it odd that Maimonides would say this – it would have been sufficient to simply state: “G-d is One. There is no unity that is in any way like His. He was, He is, and He will be.” So why emphasize that G-d alone is our G-d, unless it has some sort of significance?

Judaism is fundamentally Henotheistic or least Monolatrist! Well, at least it has been during some time of its history, and that is why Tanakh refers to ‘other g-ds’.

Henotheism/Monolatrism suggested within the Tanakh

Tanakh uses two words to designate ‘g-ds’: Elim and Elohim (and forms of these two) – the latter is also used to designate G-D – especially throughout Torah (Bereshit/Genesis – Devarim/Deuteronomy).

“Who is like unto Thee, O LORD, among the mighty? Who is like unto Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? (Ex. 15:11)

Mi-chamocha ba’elim Adonay mi kamocha ne’edar bakodesh nora tehilot oseh-fele.”[4]

Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:3)

“Lo yihyeh lecha elohim acherim al-panay”[5].

It is clear from the text that Tanakh differentiates between ‘g-d, g-ds’ (el, elim, elohim, eloheyhem) and ‘idols’ (el-ha’elilim – lit ‘a nothing’, giluleychem – lit. ‘logs’, etc) or ‘images of these ‘g-ds’ (matsevoteyhem – lit standing [sacred] stone or pillar). The repeated warnings against worshipping ‘other g-ds’ cannot have been warnings against merely ‘inanimate things’. Tanakh clearly reckognizes the REALITY behind those ‘inanimate things’ – this becomes clear in f.i Ex. 23:24 where the text first speaks about ‘g-ds’ (eloheyhem) and then goes on to enumerate the practices surrounding these ‘g-ds’:

“Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their doings; but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and break in pieces their pillars.”

“Lo-tishtachaveh le’eloheyhem velo to’ovdem velo ta’aseh kema’aseyhem ki hares teharsem veshaber teshaber matsevoteyhem”[6]

Some translators make a couple of additions, that seems to be intended as clarification with a theological slant –

“Do not bow down to their gods and do not serve them. Do not follow the ways of [these nations]. You must tear down [their idols] and break their sacred pillars.”

I might be wrong, but it seems to me that the text is speaking not about the ‘ways of the nations’ worshiping these g-ds, but about the religious practices associated with the ‘g-ds’ mentioned at the beginning of the verse. I am basing this on how it reads. The first ‘their’ is referring to ‘the Seven Nations’ enumerated in verse 23, but the rest is logically referring to the ‘g-ds’.

Before Har Sinai

The first time we encounter a G-d that is revered, but not worshipped, by anyone significant in the Tanakh, is in the story of Avraham and Melchizedek. It says:

“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was priest of God (the) Most High. And he blessed him, and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God (the) Most High, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.’ And he gave him a tenth of all. (Gen 14:18-20)

“U’Malki-Tsedek melech Shalem hotsi lechem vayayin vehu chohen le-El Elyon. Vayevarechehu vayomar baruch Avram le-El Elyon Koneh shamayim va’arets. Uvaruch El Elyon asher-migen tsareycha beyadecha vayiten-lo ma’aser mikol.[7]

Who is this El-Elyon – G-d Most High? It’s not Avraham’s G-d, the One that introduces Himself as El Shadday in Gen. 17:1 and Who has been spoken to as Y-wh, by Noach in Gen. 9:2 – but He is clearly someone Avraham or at the very least the Text of Tanakh accepts as a Deity to be revered. It is also interesting to note that El Elyon is mentioned in a way that does not entail the usual paraphernalia associated with ‘other g-ds’ in Tanakh, standing stones, pillars, trees and such, yet is explicitly said to have a ‘resident priest’ who speaks and acts on his behalf. A Deity that is significant enough to be mentioned together with the Greatest of the Patriarchs. However, He is not the same as Avraham’s G-d:

Gen 17:1 states:

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him: ‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou wholehearted.”

“Vayehi Avram ben-tish’im shanah vetesha shanim vayera Adonay el-Avram vayomer elav ani El-Shadday hithalech lefanay veheyeh tamim.”[8]
He specifically says, “I am G-d-Almighty.” Ani El-Shadday.

From the text about Noach and later text we are informed that the G-d calling Himself G-d-Almighty is identical with the G-d that introduces himself to Moshe as Y-wh, so who ever wrote the text thought of or knew El-Shaday and Y-wh to be the same G-d – but not El-Elyon – what makes me draw that conclusion? Through context and the explicit text.

In Gen 14:18-20 El-Elyon is spoken of in third person as an entity that is being referenced in association with a priest that is clearly not of the Hebrew tribe – while in Gen 17:1 and Ex 3:6, 14, El-Shaday/Y-wh is an active speaker, interacting directly with the person He is speaking to, and that person is a Hebrew. Moreover, in Ex.3 the G-d speaking is identifying as the G-d of Avraham, whom we already know to be El-Shaday, and he later also identifies as Y-wh. The two G-ds El Elyon and El-Shaday/Y-wh, are very clearly two different Deities. Another thing that differentiates these two is the fact that, at least as much as I can deduce from context, is that the former is resident in Shalem, while El-Shaday/Y-wh appears to different persons at different locations.

It is interesting to see how some translators have sought to obscure the textual fact that we are looking at two different Deities. King James Version render Gen 14:18-20 like this:

“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.”

At first glance, it does not seem that much of a difference – but it is in fact an act of transformation – by changing ‘most high’ to an adjective form and putting ‘the’ in front, the translator has changed what is obviously a NAME to an ATTRIBUTE ascribed to this G-d. King James Version does the same to Genesis 17:1

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.”

Thus making it appear as if El Elyon and El Shadday are one and the same – which they are not.

Jewish translations from Hebrew to English takes this into consideration and does render, in most cases, the NAME as a NAME without the addition of “the” or a reversal of the order of the words.

As I went about exploring Tanakh for references to ‘g-ds’, ‘idols’, I also decided to look for references to ‘false g-ds’, because this was what I had been trained to think that ‘other g-ds’ meant. The funny thing was I found none – not in JPS nor in King James version – despite their obvious ‘attempts’ to, through the translation of the text, teach that any reference to ‘other g-ds’ automatically meant those were not g-ds in the Hebrew mind and therefore the Hebrews were Monotheists. I did find ONE such reference – in the American Standard Version – Jer. 18:15! That does speak volumes, at least to my mind.

At Har Sinai

As I said in the beginning of this document, what caused my problem was the statement made by G-d in Ex 20:3 :”Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” – so who were those ‘other g-ds’? I have identified one: El-Elyon. But there are more, throughtout Tanak. Here is a list of some of them:

Baal and Aserah (a g-d and consort) – Num. 25:3, 5; Deu. 4:3; Jdg. 2:13; 6:32; 8:33; 9:4; 1Ki. 16:31, 32; 18:21, 26; 19:18; 22:53; 2Ki. 1:2, 3, 6, 16; 10:18, 19, 20, 23, 28; 17:16; 21:3; 23:4, 5; 1Ch. 4:33; 9:36; Psa. 106:28; Jer. 7:9; 11:13, 17; 12:16; 19:5; 23:27; 32:29; Hos. 2:16; 9:10; 13:1. Many place names in Tanakh starts with ’Baal-’ which could be either an indication that a ’Baal-’ was worshiped there, or that Baal is just a Title and the second part is the actual name of the g-d – in that case the list of references is not complete, as I have removed those references that ‘seemed to be’ a place name.

Moloch – Lev. 18:21; 20:2, 3, 4, 5; 1Ki. 11:7; 2Ki. 23:10; Jer. 32:35.

Chemosh – Num. 21:29; Jdg. 11:24; 1Ki. 11:7, 33; 2Ki. 23:13; Jer. 48:7, 13, 46.

It is also clear from the references that these g-ds were the g-ds of the peoples living either with the People or in the neighboring Nations, such as the ones mentioned in Ex 23:24.

Those were regarded as REAL g-ds by the People and their neighbors at one time or other – and they were definitely considered ’competition’ by G-d.

So when G-d says:” Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” He is demanding that The People reserve their devotion for Him alone – as He consider Himself to be THEIR G-d.

“And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My People” (Lev 26:12)

And the Jewish People have since then answered: HEAR, O ISRAEL: THE LORD OUR GOD, THE LORD IS ONE.

How to reconcile…

How does one reconcile other passages in Tanakh, that speak of G-d’s Omnipotence, describe Him as the Creator of the Universe and so on and so forth?

There are several options available.

One is to read the Tanakh in its cultural/sociological and religious/geographical context, and assume that when Tanakh f.i speak of ‘Elohim’ in Genesis as the Creator, it is in fact speaking of a congregation of g-ds, all somehow participating in the creation process. Which then would be indicated by the use of words like ‘Let us’,‘our image’ and ‘our likeness’ (Gen 1:26) This way of reading could also be supported by Psa 82:1 which states: “God stands in the assembly of the mighty; He judges in the midst of the gods.”. And Y-wh then becomes another Tribal G-d among other Tribal G-ds, Whose quest for a People to call His Own ensues straight after Man is expelled from Gan Eden.

Another is to see the text of the Tanakh as an account exclusively meant for the Hebrews – and that they, just as the other peoples did with their g-ds, viewed G-D, by Avraham, Yitzchack, and Yaakov known as El-Shadday and by Moshe as Y-wh as their National G-D, and to them there is no other G-d worthy of their devotion and worship – they all have ‘Property of Y-wh’ stamped on their foreheads and wrote the account from that perspective. This would account for f.i the pasuk (verse) in Deut 4:39. “…there is noone else…” (‘for us…’ is implicit.)

A third is to accept that both Henotheism and Monotheism is present in the Tanakh and thus equally as true, which is, in my thinking, always the case when Tanakh ‘contradicts’ itself – this is after all not uncommon in Judaism. Talmud are full of Sages that contradict each other yet are held as equals in their rulings. This way the Tanakh leaves room for those of us who are faint at heart and prefer not to offend others with claims that our G-D is the Only One Universally – just the Only One for us.

Finally let’s contemplate what the prophet Micah says about what it will be like when the Moshiach comes:

Micah 4:5 “For let all the peoples walk each one in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.”

Shema Yisrael, Adonay Eloheynu, Adonay ECHAD! Amen!

Dov



[1] http://www.class.uidaho.edu/ngier/henotheism.htm

[2] Hebrew text and transliteration: http://bible.ort.org

[3] שׁמע ישׂראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד

[4] מי־כמכה באלם יהוה מי כמכה נאדר בקדשׁ נורא תהלת עשׂה פלא

[5] לא יהיה־לך אלהים אחרים על־פנ

[6] לא־תשׁתחוה לאלהיהם ולא תעבדם ולא תעשׂה כמעשׂיהם כי הרס תהרסם ושׁבר תשׁבר מצבתיהם׃

[7]ומלכי־צדק מלך שׁלם הוציא לחם ויין והוא כהן לאל עליון

ויברכהו ויאמר ברוך אברם לאל עליון קנה שׁמים וארץ׃

וברוך אל עליון אשׁר־מגן צריך בידך ויתן־לו מעשׂר מכל׃

[8] ויהי אברם בן־תשׁעים שׁנה ותשׁע שׁנים וירא יהוה אל־אברם ויאמר אליו אני־אל שׁדי התהלך לפני והיה תמים׃

Posted in Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17, Haftarah, Henotheism, monolatry, other gods..., Parasha Re'eh, Torah, Weekly Parasha | 4 Comments »

 
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