Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Does Abishag the Shunammite belong on the tanach #metoo?

Does Abishag the Shunammite belong on the tanach #metoo?

I put her on the list, and still think I was right, but elsewhere I have been getting some pushback.

Here's her story, in full:
1 Now King David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he got no heat.
2 Therefore his servants said unto him, “Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin; and let her stand before the king, and let her comfort him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat.”
3 So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the region of Israel, and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king.
4 And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king and ministered to him; but the king knew her not.
To me this sounds like someone used his power to compel a much younger woman to perform an intimate task.

Others are suggesting she consented, and may have been paid, and hey, no sex was involved so how terrible was it?

I am sticking to my guns, but would like to hear your thoughts.

#metoo tanach

Elsewhere many are doing #metoo lists for the women in Tanach... Excluding midrashim this would include:
  •  Daughters of men in Genesis 6
  •  Sara who was taken by Pharo and Abimelech
  •  Hagar who was forced into a non consensual marriage 
  • Lot's daughters, who were offered to a mob and impregnated by their drunk father 
  • Dina who was raped by Shchem
  • Leah, Bilha and Zilpa who were forced into non consensual marriages (and Leah suffered emotional neglect and despite my no midrashim rule I feel I must mention one commentator says Jacob beat her) (And Bilha had to deal with Reuven pestering her after Leah died) 
  • Midianite virgins at the end of Numbers
  • Tamar, one was raped and the other was treated like a sexual commodity by her father in law, and ultimately she had to pose as a sex worker to get her due
  • Pilegesh Bgiva
  • Michal who was used by her father as a prize and forcibly separated from the man who loved her
  • Avigayil
  • Batsheva
  • The ten concubines of David that Avshalom cohabitated with on a rooftop
  • David's companion (the shunamite)
  • Any of Solomon's concubines 
  • Ruth, who had to use her body to get what she was owed (and was encouraged by her mother in law to do so)
  • Esther
I think the list of non #metoo women in Tanach would be shorter....

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Why an Esrog?

Do we know how we, as a people, settled on the esrog as the proper fruit for fulfilling the command found in Leviticus 23:40?

The verse merely tells us to take the foliage of a goodly (or majestic, or gorgeous) tree. No particular tree is specified. And it might be argued that during the time of Nehemiah the people took olive boughs instead. [Nehemiah 8:15] So how did we agree on the esrog?

And if you think the answer is "The esrog was identified as the pri etz hadar in the Oral Torah received at Sinai" let me remind you that the Oral Torah is several different categories of things:

1) halachot le-Moshe mi-sinai
2) Dibre Ḳabbalah which are laws established by the prophets
3) Dibre Sofrim which are laws created by the scribes
4) midrash halacha
5) Takanot
6) gezayrot
7) hilchot Medina

Of this list only #1 and #4 are from Sinai (and rishonim argue about #4)

The decision to use an esrog as the pri etz hadar seems to be either #3 or #5 which means it's perfectly consistent to say that at first many fruits were used AND the choice of an esrog is Oral Law.

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Monday, October 02, 2017

Yom Kippur 2017

Ordinary Yom Kippur here. We started at 8 and finished at three, but due to various lags in the service I think we could have been done about 45 minutes earlier. These lags included a pointless speech and an incompetent Torah reader who may have set a record for shleppy reading. The prayer leaders were solid but they didn't get much support from the very large, very lazy congregation. Had it consented to sing along the service would have been quite nice.

Final meal: Traditional fare, including roast chicken and a chicken soup with kreplach.

First meal: Bagels, eggs potato soup. I know the rabbis say the first meal should be a festive seuda but we're not in that habit.

Oddities: Many of the men didn't wear kittels. I've never seen that before.

Best moment: Another oddity but one so strange I feel it must be unique to this synagogue. For privacy reasons I can't mention it.

Thought on Hashem Hu Elokhim; We say it 7 times, but only because 7 is a magic number. How did that happen? Because the ancients recognized just 7 heavenly bodies: Sun, moon, and five planets.

So, put another way 7 is a magic number only because people didn't have telescopes. If Hashem Hu Elokaynu had been established now we would say it 9 times. And if it was established 20 years ago, before Pluto was dropped, we would say it 10 times.

How was it in your neck of the woods?

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