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This week we complete the reading of Sefer Shemot, known in English as the Book of Exodus, with Parshat Pekudei  (Exodus 38:21–40:38). It documents in great detail the completion of the miskan, or tabernacle. The special maftir (additional reading) is known as Parshat Shekalim (Exodus 30:11-16) which describes the commandment for every Jewish household to contribute 1/2 shekel to support the communal mishkan or temple service.

This week's reading can seem particularly confusing. There is little detail in Parshat Pekudei that was not mentioned in Parshat Terumah or Parshat Tetzaveh, read 3 and 4 weeks ago. And Parshat Shekalim is the beginning of Parshat Ki Tisa, read 2 weeks ago. The Sefer HaChinuch (literally The Book of Education, anonymous, Spain, 13th century) identifies no specific mitzvot in Parshat Pekudei. Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak, 11th century, northern France), the most prolific Bible and Talmud commentator, has little to say on the text of Parshat Pekudei. What is the point?

The Torah is not just a book of detailed commandments. Nor it is just a book of cute legends. It is God's teaching us how to live. In fact, the very word Torah in Hebrew means teaching, not law, as the inaccurate translations into most languages claim. (Law would be chok, din, or mishpat.) And while traditional Jews consider all of the commandments in the Torah, as interpreted by the rabbinic tradition, to be binding, the Torah contains much more than that. And in this week we learn two lessons regarding the relationship of people to their government, and vice versa.

The very title of the parsha, Pekudei, implies an accounting. אֵלֶּה פְקוּדֵי הַמִּשְׁכָּן is how the parsha begins and the typical translation is always something like "These are the accounts of the tabernacle" going all the way back to Onkelos famous translation into Aramaic, probably written about 1800 year ago. In Parshat Terumah and Parshat Tetzaveh, we learn what is supposed to be done to create the tabernacle, and the details of the uniforms to be used by the priests while performing the service. Here, we have the detailed accounting of the work, and the Book of Exodus closes with a narrative that describes the completion of the mishkan.

It may surprise many, but these details are telling us about the importance of transparency in public service, i.e. government! As usual, the rabbinic tradition provides the details. The Midrash Rabbah is a rabbinic commentary on the Chumash and it offers a surprising take to the beginning of the Parsha:

שנו רבותינו אין ממנין שררה על הצבור בממון פחות משנים, והרי אתה מוצא שהיה משה גזבר לעצמו, וכאן אתה אומר אין ממנין פחות מב' אלא אע"פ שהיה משה גזבר לעצמו הוא קורא לאחרים ומחשב על ידיהם

Our rabbis taught that we do not establish authorities with the power to tax the community unless there are two people. But here we find that that Moshe collected money on his own, and you just said that we do not collect unless we have two! Rather, we see that even though Moshe collected money on his own, he would call to others and do an accounting through them.

Even Moses, who if anyone should be above suspicion, practiced transparency in his actions as a community leader! And that is the meaning of the details of the accounting. While there is no specific commandment here, the Torah is teaching public servants of the importance of transparent, open government! (Another example of openness is in tax collection and distribution of communal charity funds; see this comment for details.)

In parshat Shekalim we have the commandment for all Jews to support the central mishkan's operation. It is sufficiently short that I can include it in its entirety:

יא וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר.  יב כִּי תִשָּׂא אֶת-רֹאשׁ בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל לִפְקֻדֵיהֶם וְנָתְנוּ אִישׁ כֹּפֶר נַפְשׁוֹ לַיהוָה בִּפְקֹד אֹתָם וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה בָהֶם נֶגֶף בִּפְקֹד אֹתָם.  יג זֶה יִתְּנוּ כָּל-הָעֹבֵר עַל-הַפְּקֻדִים מַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ  עֶשְׂרִים גֵּרָה הַשֶּׁקֶל מַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל תְּרוּמָה לַיהוָה.  יד כֹּל הָעֹבֵר עַל-הַפְּקֻדִים מִבֶּן עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וָמָעְלָה יִתֵּן תְּרוּמַת יְהוָה.  טו הֶעָשִׁיר לֹא-יַרְבֶּה וְהַדַּל לֹא יַמְעִיט מִמַּחֲצִית הַשָּׁקֶל לָתֵת אֶת-תְּרוּמַת יְהוָה לְכַפֵּר עַל-נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם.  טז וְלָקַחְתָּ אֶת-כֶּסֶף הַכִּפֻּרִים  מֵאֵת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְנָתַתָּ אֹתוֹ עַל-עֲבֹדַת אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וְהָיָה לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְזִכָּרוֹן לִפְנֵי יְהוָה לְכַפֵּר עַל-נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם.
   {פ}

11 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 12 'When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel, according to their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them. 13 This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary--the shekel is twenty gerahs--half a shekel for an offering to the LORD. 14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the offering of the LORD. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when they give the offering of the LORD, to make atonement for your souls. 16 And thou shalt take the atonement money from the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for your souls.' {P}

In the Mishnah, and Talmud Yerushalmi, tractate Shekalim, the details of how the money is collected, and what is done with this money,  are spelled out in great detail. Tax day was 1 Adar -- this Shabat!  Communal authorities, (i.e., the government,) are charged with maintenance of interurban roads, of water supplies, of the physical plant of the temple, and of cemetaries, and of continuing the communal offerings in the temple, and of cemeteries. Those who were neglectful in paying their half shekel faced confiscation of their property. Later rabbinic enactments provided for public support for education (see Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 21a) and the poor (as previously referenced in this comment). While the half-shekel was what we would now call a "flat tax", the tax for the communal charity fund was not. Tractate Shekalim also includes transparency provisions to prevent even the hint of corruption. Ancient historians report that the participation in the paying of the half shekel was near universal, and Maimonides in the 12th century wrote that he had never heard of a Jewish community that did not have a communal charity fund.

The bottom line is that paying taxes for the good of a community is a commandment, and a critical part of being a part of the community! Not for no reason did Ayn Rand object to religion!!! Furthermore, even the hint of the possibility of corruption is absolutely forbidden and the Torah and the Rabbis set into place mandates to further this purpose. The idea that taxes are theft is completely foreign to Judaism, and at least for financial matters everything that government does is supposed to be completely open and transparent. We in modern democracies have not done as well and we can be inspired by this week's readings to push for better.

Originally posted to charliehall2 on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 09:03 AM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets , Elders of Zion, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hmmm (3+ / 0-)

    A flat tax.  1/2 shekel for everybody.

  •  Drachmae and Fish (4+ / 0-)

    The half-shekel Tabernacle Tax comes up in a strange and obscure little story in the Gospel of Matthew.  A  couple tax collectors from the Temple asked whether or not Jesus paid the tax, at that time called the "two drachma tax" because that was the value of the tax in the currency of the time.

    "Of course he does!" Peter replied, but Jesus's reply was a little more interesting.  He said that technically speaking, he really shouldn't have to, that he ought to be exempt -- to which I can imagine a lot of Church folk saying "Damn straight!"

    BUT -- Jesus doesn't leave it there.  He tells Peter to go down to the lake and go fishing.  The first fish he catches will have a four-drachma coin in it's mouth.  Jesus tells Peter to use that coin to pay the tax for the both of them "...so that we may not give offense."

    (I guess the other eleven disciples were on their own).

    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at http://www.kurtoonsonline.com/

    by quarkstomper on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 04:05:51 PM PST

  •  Ancient taxes used for the poor (7+ / 0-)

    Mishnah Shekalim 2:5 describes how the 1/2 shekel tax was to be spent.  Most of the Mishnah describes the Temple sacrifices the tax money was to pay for, but then concludes:  

    The funds appropriated for the poor are to be used for the poor, but funds contributed for the relief of a specified poor person must be given to that poor person.  Funds appropriated for the ransom of captives are to be used for the ransom of captives, but funds contributed for the ransom of a particular captive must be given to the captive.  Funds appropriated for the burial of the dead are to be used for the burial of the dead, but funds contributed for the burial of a specific dead person are to be given to the heirs. . . .  Rabbi Natan says, funds contributed for the burial of a specific dead person are to be spent on a monument over the person's grave.
    Mishnah Shekalim also states that on the 25th of Adar they set up tables in the Temple to collect the 1/2 shekel tax from those who hadn't yet paid, and to make change when the person brought in a coin of a higher denomination - bring in a 1 shekel coin to the Temple and the money changer would give you a 1/2 shekel coin in return and record you as having paid your 1/2 shekel tax.   Of course, all four Gospels record the scene of Jesus chasing the money changers out of the Temple, a scene that puzzles us Jews who have studied Talmud Shekalim.  No doubt today Jesus would have been arrested for interfering with lawful tax collection.

    "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

    by Navy Vet Terp on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 05:48:02 PM PST

    •  my guess about J & the $changers has been that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whaddaya

      alongside those who were functionaries of the Temple for financial exchanges, perhaps others were also there for the purposes of changing foreign currency into local currency?  the temple courtyard might have been both the one place all men coming to jerusalem would definitely stop by as well as perhaps the only reasonably secure place, providing safety both to those changing currency for 'customers' and safety for the 'customers'.

      just a speculation - i tend to see ancient things very much as having a context that would have to operate on a daily basis in order to have any reality.

      curious to know, 'tho, if there's any basis for this particular idea or whether it would have been a prohibited activity within temple precincts?

    •  Caveat Vendor (4+ / 0-)

      I'd always been told, and maybe I'm wrong, that the Temple had it's own coins, so that the Temple treasury would not be defiled with currency bearing the image of that pagan emperor.  And that there was livestock for sale for people who needed to present a specific animal for sacrifice (such as the two doves Mary brought for her purification after the birth of Jesus).  So yes, there was certainly a need and a place for some amount of commerce on the Temple grounds.

      But I suspect that since the worshipers at the Temple amounted to a captive customer base, that the guys running the business end made sure that the exchange rates and livestock prices were as profitable as possible.

      But what probably pissed Jesus off the most was the guy hawking the "I Went to Temple Mount and All I Got Was This Crummy T-Shirt" t-shirts.

      Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at http://www.kurtoonsonline.com/

      by quarkstomper on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 01:23:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Jesus and the Temple disturbance ..... (4+ / 0-)

      In Mark's version of the disturbance at the Temple, Jesus "began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. "  These actions probably represent a symbolic "destruction" of the Temple as having been compromised by collaboration with the occupying Roman authorities to such an extent that it could not be undone.

      Possibly other especially fervent Jews in the time of Jesus could have also have performed such an action. Perhaps an Essene or even an type of absolutely observant Pharisee?

      At any rate, In my view it certainly was not an attempt by Jesus to "cleanse"  the Temple as I have often heard it referred to by Christians.

      Sometimes you have just had it and a demonstration is necessary. I am thinking of some of the acts during the Civil Rights era and especially during the Viet Nam war -- people who cared deeply being driven to act in some way that horrified the authorities. This is the way that I see the Temple disturbance.

      Responses to my comments are hoped for!

  •  Another diary about Moses have great (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whaddaya

    morals when it comes to economic questions?

    "Even Moses, who if anyone should be above suspicion, practiced transparency in his actions as a community leader!"

    And once again I observe that if this person really lived and if he actually did all the things the OT or any other books say he did, then I think his immorality when it came to dealing with justice and human rights far outweighs anything else he did.

    "The Torah is not just a book of detailed commandments. Nor it is just a book of cute legends. It is God's teaching us how to live." Not sure about the 's after the word God, however, the bigger question is WHICH of the teachings does "God" want everyone to follow?  And when rabbis or others make changes in the original teachings and throw some stuff out or add stuff, is that done with God's approval?

    •  Care to discuss specifics (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mettle fatigue, Navy Vet Terp

      of what you claim is immorality?

      •  Oh geez.... (0+ / 0-)

        That would take hours, and I'm actually surprised that you don't seem to know what I am referring to?

        How about the treatment of people during the many battles Moses was directed to go into? The massive slayings, the taking of women for pleasure, the killing of children, etc. etc.   Or how about just one single example.... the slaughter of the first born sons of the Egyptian families... why did Moses stay silent on that one?  And then there are the bazillion laws that he endorsed, like being able to stone your son to death for being a drunkard.  I mean, really!

        Here's any easy way to see the list.... go to the website for Skeptics Annotated Bible and pick a topic for the Old Testament like "violence". It will help you see what I am talking about in an easy verse by verse context.

        •  I've said this before to you again and again (0+ / 0-)

          In Judaism the "official text" of the Torah is in the rabbinical footnotes.  In Judaism, you read the text without the rabbinical gloss only as literature.   With your first two points, you have a point - and many rabbinical authorities from the Talmud through to today would agree.  I did a diary once on this - you may recall.

          With the latter, you do not.  The rabbis construed the text so that parents could never have their son killed.  It could only happen within 6 months of the child's 13th birthday (I forget if before the birthday or after - I'm pretty sure before, 12.5 years to 13), both mother and father would have had to have warned the child, twice, speaking together, in front of at least two witnesses.  A one word deviation between the morther and the father's warnings eliminates the death penalty.

          "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

          by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 05:45:03 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The author of this diary wrote (0+ / 0-)

            "The Torah is not just a book of detailed commandments. Nor it is just a book of cute legends. It is God's teaching us how to live."

            Forgive my confusion, but if the original law as written says that you can stone your drunkard son to death, but then the rabbis in the Torah commentaries figured out a way around that law by making it impossible to follow, then doesn't this illustrate the fact that "God" or "Yahweh" is by nature immoral, and it takes moral human beings to correct his flaws and his laws?

        •  Sorry Fishtroller (0+ / 0-)

          I didn't see your below comment.  Guess I did exactly what you accuse me of doing, but Ramara is right.  We are dealing with a part of the Bible that is a Bronze Age document, and based on similar documents (e.g. Iliad) it was a bloody time, you can cherry pick this and you can cherry pick that.  Faith is based on cherry picking the good and explaining away the bad, with the constant "updates" Ramara is referring to.

          "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

          by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 05:51:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No problem. I know it is hard to hear (0+ / 0-)

            criticism of one's religious beliefs. It helps to think of them as no different than politcal beliefs.

            What you and others are describing to me is the same conundrum that liberal Christians have. They in effect have to become rabbis of Christianity in order to still hold up the bible as an authority.  They cherry pick the heck out of those texts, ignore the immoralities in them, re-explain them in a whitewashed narrative, and then ignore the fact that Jesus endorsed eternal torture and that salvation is a divisive cosmic system. Then they turn around and point fingers at the conservative views within their own faith who are simply doing the same thing with the texts... cherry picking and interpreting.  

            Here's an idea... everybody put the books down (or on that shelf next to the Iliad) and move on.  Surely people can live moral lives and come up with moral laws and ways of dealing with each other without the complication of considering these texts to be something they are not (holy).  And I include the Koran and the Book of Mormon in this also.  Just dreaming I guess....

            •  Thanks for your reply (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mettle fatigue

              I and probably every Jew in America teenage and older have had fundy Christians try to convert us, telling us we will burn in eternal hell if we don't accept Jesus as Lord.  They show a total disrespect IMO for our faith and traditions - even an ignorance thereof and make no attempt to understand our faith.  Their telling me I was going to burn in hell didn't bother me, it was the disrespect for my faith that did.  But when Christians and others respect my faith, then I respect theirs - to do otherwise we Jews would consider a chillul haShem - profaning the Divine Name.

              You have to admit you cherry pick too.  Cherry pick the bad and ignore the good.  We are starting Leviticus this week for the weekly readings and chapter 19 is one of the great moral teachings anywhere, but you will ignore that and cherry pick the bad.  At least we have an ancient compilation that dissects an even more ancient text not just word by word but Hebrew letter by Hebrew letter and thereby construes what may seem the bad into the good.  I have studied the Talmud for decades and as there are over 6,000 pages I have barely started to pierce the surface.  The arguments are often very difficult to follow, the shorthand the stenographers they used back in the year 300 left only the barest of each rabbi's statement, and the rabbis were always going on tangents.  It makes for very slow and very difficult reading.  It's obviously not for everybody, but I believe it contains so much good that it should not be stuck on a shelf and forgotten.

              I know you had a very bad experience with your Catholic upbringing and I cannot put myself into your shoes, but in my own life I would not turn my own personal experience into a hatred for all religious belief, or an across the board hatred of anything else.

              "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

              by Navy Vet Terp on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 05:11:48 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Very interesting... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Navy Vet Terp

                I don't know where you got the idea I was raised Catholic. I was raised as a Protestant in rather "liberal" churches. We moved around, so my parents would look for whatever local church seemed  to have the type of people they were comfortable with (Presbyterian, Methodists),  but I was confirmed in a good old midwestern Lutheran church which was not really into evangelism.  I had a good experience there and was fond of the people in that community.

                It was actually something said to me by some conservative evangelical friends that set me off on a path of questioning the whole thing. That path took me about thirty years to get to the point of my current atheism.  Most of it I spent reseraching what I believed and why I believed it, the history of Christianity, etc. etc.

                I don't have a "hatred" for religious people or religions themselves. And I don't ignore the "good" parts of their teachings. But I have come to realize that people are certainly able to get to morality without these texts and there is nothing in them that is original anyway.  An example of that would be the "do unto others" idea. It's way older and culturally broader than Judaism or Christianity.   I just don't like to see people told that unevidenced ideas (like gods) and mythologies represent reality.  It's like watching children say "under God" in the pledge, which has the effect of kids assuming that since everyone around them, including their supposedly secular government, says there is a "god" then there must be one.  

                Again, I do approach these texts as a reader unburdened by all the vast piles of discussion. It seems the gods depicted do not care how they are presented in the texts, and it has been up to mankind to apply morality to them.  For example, the character called Jesus who said "love one another" also said that people who don't want to hear his teachings should go to hell.  The god of the OT contradicts himself so much in word and deed that it is nearly impossible to untangle all of it (which obviously is what you are telling me has been the job of the rabbis down through the ages).  The problem is the basic belief in this god.  Why is it still there? If the rabbis have to re-write the laws of this god to make them moral, why keep the original god at all? Based on the texts, it sure puts humans in a bad spot to have to apologize for the god that is in those mythologies.

                Anyway, I have to admit that "respecting" a faith is a difficult task since every individual has their own mental line drawn on where the respect ends and the disrepect begins.  I'm sure I cross that line here and there for different individuals with my questions, comments and observations, but since I can't manage those lines, I just say what I say.

                Thanks for taking the time for a thoughtful reply. I do appreciate it.

    •  as to "WHICH of the teachings," (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ramara, Navy Vet Terp

      Hillel famously said to the challenge of a Gentile who wanted the Torah explained in as brief a time as the Gentile could balance himself on one foot]...:

      "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and study/learn."
      Where one goes to study is likely to make a difference in what one learns, i.e., who one's teachers are, their own backgrouns, and what are those teachers particularly strengths are. May I ask where you've studied and what your teachers backgrounds were, and where you're studying now?
      •  Again, I really appreciated our last (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp

        conversation.   But what seems to be going on here is he same thing I discovered about what the Catholic institutions did with the gospel texts. They spun so many interpretations around them that they made them off limits for the simple reader.   I have read the entire Old Testament, not from a Jewish point of view and not even from a Christian pov because I was already on my way out that door.  And I took all those stories at face value, as a simple reader, who is also an intelligent person.  However, every time I question something, I am told that these stories are only supposed to be read with a pair of interpretation glasses that someone else or some long line of "scholars" devised. If I don't use those glasses then my comments or questions are to be dismissed or I'm given a pat on the head and a sympathetic "well you just don't understand because you are an outsider".    That is a realy handy way of protecting these ideas from scrutiny or criticism.  It's similar to the catholic church telling people that they need priests to interpret the texts for them.  In fact, most catholics have never read much of the bible.

        If I ask whether Moses was a real person, I hear "maybe".  If I ask if the tales told really happened, I hear "maybe".  And sometimes if I ask if God is real, I hear "maybe".  It all seems to depend on which learning tradition you were born into or which rabbi you follow. The one thing that seems to be agreed upon is that that outsider is wrong. It's like playing soccer with an invisible ball that only a few players are allowed to see.

        And I don't see how the tales of violence and misery visited upon the peoples of that ancient world by Moses and his tribes is in any way demonstrates Hillel's simple distillation of the Torah.  

        Who am I studying with right now you ask? My answer is "with the D"Var Torah group at Daily Kos.

        •  I'm sorry (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Navy Vet Terp

          we are so wishy-washy. But faith is not the main requirement of Judaism, action is.

          You are right that there are stories of horrible things in the Bible. I have read the histories (not OT histories - our histories are Joshua, Judges, Samuel I and II, Kings I and II) and some of the stories are sickening.

          These are stories from more than one long oral tradition before they were written down - we're talking Bronze Age. And every thousand years or so someone comes along and updates it - this is what the Talmudic sages did, what Rashi did, what Maimonides did, and what rabbis today do - they adapt the laws to suit modern times - 2000 years ago was modern once.

          I really am glad you've stuck around, by the way. We really aren't as exclusive as you've described, are we?

          Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

          by ramara on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 09:15:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, you aren't.... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ramara

            I have had some tense moments with members of the group, but that's probably because I tend to challenge ideas and sometimes that causes a defensive reaction. I've also had some of the best interactions from D'Var Torah members too.

            I guess this all boils down to the fact that there seems to be such broad interpretation of this religion there is no way to really get a grasp on it.  While you say that faith is not as important as action in Judaism, I can think of actions of many within the faith that I find abhorrent, so I guess this all depends on the definition of "action" too.

            So carry on with Moses. He still really bugs me, but I guess that's the way it goes.

            By the way, there is a comics writer in England who does the Jesus and Mo series. The main characters are Jesus, Mo(hammed) and an atheist female bartender, but once in awhile their pal Moses pops in for a visit.  If you have an open mind to religious humor, I'd really recommend looking it up.

            •  One gets a grasp on Judaism (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ramara

              not by trying to figure out the motivations of Moses but by starting to follow the commandments, like keeping kosher and observing Shabat. And learning, learning, learning. The Babylonian Talmud alone is almost 2,700 pages of very dense Hebrew and Aramaic; it took me 7 years and five months to get through it and that was too fast a pace. I can guarantee that there will be parts that will cause you to jump up and down and shout from the rooftops that you are glad to be Jewish, and there will be other parts that will make you want to run as far as you can from the religion! The Bible cannot begin to be understood without the voluminous rabbinic commentaries, some, but not all of which, address the kinds of concerns you have. It is of course impossible to address everything in this kind of forum; maybe we should have more divrei Torah that do?

          •  Not exclusive at all (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ramara

            The most important Torah commentaries, and the entire Babylonian Talmud, has been translated into English, and in every traditional Jewish community there are lots of classes at every level. Some of the most famous sages of our history grew up without much background. The most important Talmud translator of our time, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, did not come from a religious background!

            And it is never too late to start. I give an 89 year old holocaust survivor rides to and from synagogue in the morning. He started learning Talmud, a page a day, 14 years ago and only awful weather and his wife's untimely passing last year has ever interrupted him since!

  •  An excellent diary (3+ / 0-)

    which started an interesting discussion. A fine way to start the Sabbath. Thanks.

    Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

    by ramara on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 01:59:34 PM PST

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