Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bonus Parsha Notes for Vayerah

These have all been added to the main Parsha Notes post.

A very clever gloss
Rashi, following the midrash, says just one of Lot's daughter's is deserving of praise. The other is criticized because she calls her son Moav, which puns on "from the father." Sforno disagrees (with Rashi and, ahem,  CHZL) and says both women were sinners, both acted for the sake of heaven, and both women were rewarded with offspring who joined the Jewish people ( Na'amah of Ammon marries Shlomo; Ruth of Moav marries Boaz).*  Rav Moshe Feinstein additionally credits the women for not claiming the child was fathered by a god. Instead of prefiguring the Christian claim they told the truth. In the merit of this honesty, the actual moshiach will be from Moav (i.e. the child "from a (human) father")

* This idea of sinning for the sake of heaven was a touchstone of the early Hasidim, i.e., the idea of "descent for the purpose of rising up."

Neat Ideas
- A heh hayediah (the letter hay as definite article) is used in the word ha'kivshan in Genesis 19:28 [He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from the furnace.] Perhaps this is what pointed interpreters to Nimrod's furnace, and the famous story of Abraham's trial. [Support: Why does the midrash say Nimrod threw Abraham into davka a furnace, ie, a kivshan? Wouldn't it have made more sense to burn him at the stake?]

- Genesis says Sodom and the other cities were destroyed with gafris and ash (burning sulfur). When Moshe refers to the event in Deuteronomy 29 he says the cities were destroyed with gafris v'melach (salt and sulfur.) Could this be an early example of intra-biblical interpretation on the part of Moshe? In the Torah, salt is only mentioned in reference to Mrs. Lot.

- The men/angles were provided with food and water. The water was brought by someone else and Abraham offered only a small amount (Yukach noh m'at mayim); meanwhile the meal, which he prepared with his own hands, was superfluous. Lesson: Don't overwork people for your own glory.

- Abraham moves to the isolated southern part of Canaan in anticipation of his son's birth, yet he's also a resident of Grar. (Vayeshev bein kodesh u'vein Shur v'yagar b'Grar) Though he wishes to protect his son from Caananite influences, its not Abraham's plan or desire to entirely shield his child. From time to time they visit Grar. Lesson: You can't raise a child in a bubble. You have to show him the word, and teach him how to respond to it. [Source: SRH]

Bogus BibCrit
Did Abraham actually kill his son? Some solid observations on the part of the critics produce an altogether specious conclusion.

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