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Archive for the ‘Parasha Re’eh’ Category

Parasha Ki Tavo – Deuteronomy 26:1 – 29:8

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 29, 2007

Blessings and Curses – the course of Action and Consequences

Focal Point: Devarim 26:12; 27:26; 28:2-6

“When you have set aside in full the tenth part of your yield — in the third year, the year of the tithe — and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat their fill in your settlements…

Cursed be he who will not uphold the terms of this Teaching and observe them. — And all the people shall say, Amen.

All these blessings shall come upon you and take effect, if you will but heed the word of the Lord your God:

Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the issue of your womb, the produce of your soil, and the offspring of your cattle, the calving of your herd and the lambing of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be in your comings and blessed shall you be in your goings.”

I am going to continue on the idea of the not so obvious matters. This Parasha starts with the command to offer First Fruits, and then it moves on to Tithing. Tithing in Torah is a simple Tax collection system that is supposed to guarantee that the entire People have what they need for their daily lives, regardless of what they can or cannot accomplish within the Community.

This Parasha seems to be almost a continuation directly from Parasha Re’eh. In Devarim 15 Torah states some rather contradictory things about the poor and needy – Devarim 15:4, 7, 11:

There shall be no needy among you — since the Lord your God will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a hereditary portion”

If, however, there is a needy person among you, one of your kinsmen in any of your settlements in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman.”

For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your land.”

How’s this possible? The answer lies in the conditional nature of Blessings and Curses, Action and Consequences.

Devarim 15:4 is the Ideal – it is based on the condition that The People of Israel indeed do Observe Torah to a tee.

Devarim 15:7 acknowledges the possibility that the Ideal is not going to be prevalent, and commands the proper attitude in the face of the “less than ideal”. If we fail at the provisions in Devarim 15:4, it can still be amended, through an attitude adjustment.

Devarim 15:11 accepts the fact that we are going to “miss the target” and commands the proper action in the face of this reality. If the attitude adjustment fails – then we need to take direct action and act regardless of the attitude.

It is this reality that Parasha Ki Tavo picks up and makes provisions for – The Tithe.

Another point here, before I move on to the less obvious matters, is within Devarim 15:11 – Torah tells us to be prepared for the reality of different people being in need of assistance at different times, and that those in need will not always be in the same kind of need. It also taps into the idea that a Society needs to take into account the cost of being a Society – we need to be financially responsible as a Society and make provisions for the needs of Society as such. There will always be a need for Societal finances.

But what about those of us who do not generate financial means that can be tithed? Well, I sort of think that Tithing doesn’t just cover our money. I think it covers ALL our resources, all that we are. So I need to give a tenth of my time, a tenth of my attention, a tenth of all my resources, a tenth of that which is not material, just like Parasha Ki Teitzei commands me to return anything lost to its proper owner, including a Lost Faith. We so often think in material terms, and disregard the power of immaterial things, love, attention, faith, care, art, music, unique skills, teaching etc as something there might be a need for.

Ok, on to the Blessings and Curses. We usually think of the Blessings as the norm, which is why we mention the Blessings first in common interactions. We never ask people to count their curses, though we might benefit from doing that too, to get an idea of just how much we are off target, as a way to take stock of ourselves on a regular basis. Torah has it the other way around. Torah assumes that we will fail at living up to it’s demands, and warns against it by mentioning the Curses first. In a way Torah thinks of the Curses as the norm. Why warn against something it assumes we will do anyway? To get our attention. To shake us up and make us mindful of our own actions, so we don’t go about life unaware of the impact we have on ourselves and others. Torah wants to make sure that we realize that we are not islands, isolated from each other or indeed ourselves.

Parasha Ki Tavo is a tough Parasha. But I rather like to think of it in terms of “for every action there is an equal re-action” – what I do has consequences. Good and Bad. It’s the Spiritual equivalent of Newton’s Third Law: All forces occur in pairs, and these two forces are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.

Cool, isn’t it – Torah applied the Laws of Physics… long before they were common knowledge 🙂

Torah consider action and re-action to be a natural law – do we?

Shabbat Shalom!

This article, including artworks and photos in this Blog is Copyright © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain – unless otherwise specified.


Posted in Blessings, Parasha Ki Tavo, Parasha Re'eh, Tithing, Torah | 2 Comments »

Second Take on Re’eh – Devarim 11:26-16:17

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 9, 2007

Focal Points: 12:8-10 and 13:1-8

8. You shall not do as all the things that we do here this day, every man [doing] what he deems fit. 9. For you have not yet come to the resting place or to the inheritance, which the Lord, your God, is giving you. 10. And you shall cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, and He will give you rest from all your enemies surrounding you, and you will dwell securely.

I commented on a friend’s Blog the other day about an allegorical “time-line” within Torah and Tanakh.

“Perhaps this is another part of the “growing up” thing? If one reads the Tanakh as an allegory of Human Life reality – we are conceived (Creation), we are born (Expulsion from Gan Eden) we learn the elementaries of Human Life and build our first relationships – that to our parents and family as well as a fundamental relationship to G-d (The Patriarchs) we go to school and learn the intermediaries of Human Life along with the difficult adolescent years of rebellion and acquiring new values and “graduate” to the next part of life – responsibility over a home of our own (The Exodus and Conquering) in which we then expected to grow further, and part of this is realizing that although Mom and Dad are still there for us, they won’t come running just because we skin a knee or want them to be there ASAP – they need to be considerate of their own lives and we need to learn detachment as well as how to function without constant supervision (The Prophets and Writings).”

A Child’s life is in a way a time for trial and error – because it’s still learning – The time in the Desert was a time when The People was still learning, still doing it as “he deems fit” and what it seems on an individual level, for the sake of personal gratification perhaps, at the very least, to hear Mom or Dad, say “Well done!” or “You can do better than that!” or “Your Grounded!” Moshe was definitely Grounded big time! – The entire older generation was Grounded 🙂 It is clear that The People had been doing things quite differently during their travels on the Sinai Peninsula – not just in regards to the Mishkan (Tabernacle), but basically on a little of all issues… And now, that they are about to cross over into The Land – G-d tells them that this cannot be IN The Land. Uhuh, Sir, gotta shape up! Gotta get those rule down pat, Yessir!

To continue the allegory – the Child eventually grows up into a young adult, leaves Mom and Dad behind and have to fend for him/herself, in a new home, new apartment, that is all his/her own and that living will be based on what he/she was taught up till that point.

“Now, why on earth should I keep kosher – the Gentiles have been eating pork and shrimp and mixing milk and meat for millennia, and they are still around, so what’s big deal, any way? You don’t see them wearing weird pieces of clothes with strings on them, or cover their heads, or wrap leather straps around their heads and arms, and they sure don’t pray three times a day, they can have sex whenever they please and work on Saturdays to their hearts content, so why shouldn’t I be able to do just that?”

Because those are not the Tradition, Mitzvot and Torah of your forefathers. Those are the ways of those who did not hear the Torah on Har Sinai, who did not say: “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot 24:7)

“1. Everything I command you that you shall be careful to do it. You shall neither add to it, nor subtract from it. 2. If there will arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of a dream, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,3. and the sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you happens, [and he] says, “Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us worship them,” 4. you shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the Lord, your God, is testing you, to know whether you really love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul. 5. You shall follow the Lord, your God, fear Him, keep His commandments, heed His voice, worship Him, and cleave to Him. 6. And that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death; because he spoke falsehood about the Lord, your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeemed you from the house of bondage, to lead you astray from the way in which the Lord, your God, commanded you to go; so shall you clear away the evil from your midst. 7. If your brother, the son of your mother, tempts you in secret or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your embrace, or your friend, who is as your own soul saying, “Let us go and worship other gods, which neither you, nor your forefathers have known.”8. Of the gods of the peoples around you, [whether] near to you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth;”

They say that practice makes perfect, and in the 12 Step Programs they say “Fake it, till you make it” Torah says that if we DO, we will eventually understand “hear”.

Pretty simple, right? So if we have a G-d – which we do, somehow anyway, then keeping in touch with the Traditions, the Mitzvot, Torah, we will get closer to G-d. How do we keep in touch with Tradition, Mitzvot and Torah? By DOING THEM.

“It’s arguable that within mainstream Judaism, direct experience of God isn’t the point — and it certainly isn’t a prerequisite for Jewish practice. We do what we do because it is the Jewish path. Whether or not we feel confident that actual access to God is the endpoint, we follow the mitzvot anyway. Belief arises through action. If we waited until we felt called to act Jewishly, we might never get there — but if we act Jewishly even absent that “call,” we can bring the call into being for ourselves.

For many Jews today, though, that answer may serve as a distancing factor that keeps us from engagement with the tradition in the first place. Our culture privileges direct experience; it makes sense that in this area of our lives, we feel a particular longing for something we can access in our hearts. We want God to be at the center of our practice. We want our practice of mitzvot to follow from a preexisting closeness to God, not the other way around. We want, as this week’s Torah portion suggests, to be in relationship with a God Who we already know.”

For each time I put on my tzitzit, my tefillin, say my Prayers, eat kosher, and celebrate Shabbat, I bring myself closer to G-d. No matter what else my circumstances are, at least I will be right before G-d. To me it cannot get any better than that.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17, Parasha Re'eh, Shabbat, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Leave a Comment »

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!



[2] Hebrew text and transliteration:

[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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