Mar 22, 2008

Tamar and Judah

April 10,2008,  Class #6 

We are studying Tamar because of the verse Ruth 4:12  “may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah”

Here are a couple early texts about Judah to review.

Texts in Genesis
  • 29:35   Judah (Alter)  This time I shall sing praise to the Lord.  (she no longer expresses hope of winning husband’s affection – just gives thanks to God for her offspring)
  • 37:26/7            Judah says what do we gain by killing him – sell him to the Ishmaelites
    • (Alter 5) “A dubious expression of brotherhood, to sell someone into the ignominy and perilously uncertain future of slavery”

Then read Gen 38 2-30 carefully.   We talked about some of the following

Rachel and Leah continued and sources

March  27, 2008 Class #5 

These are the notes I used for the class.   Because some may like to know the sources, I’ve left some of them in.  Bibliography at the end.   What is listed are the ideas I brought to the class, but in many cases people brought up other interpretations, and we did not necessarily discuss everything here.   However, this is useful for anyone who would like to review the texts or go over the class in their mind.

Introductory ideas
  • Bible as literature – stories are carefully crafted for a purpose – human beings are messy – they will never be God – this is monotheism, but God has to work through messy humans (Alter)
  • Stories show conflict between divine and human, between ordered plan and messy working out in history – like the two stories of Creation.  Look for the tension in our story
  • The Rachel/Leah story is revealing of personal feelings through the namings – what will the speeches show us – either about Rachel and Leah’s feelings, or about what the authors think.
  • Dialog in Bible is most important way to convey action and character.  Yet we almost never see direct dialog between women – only Lot’s daughters, Rachel/Leah, Naomi/Ruth. (Alter) 
  • What are the components of building the house of Israel (question to discuss at the end).  Human beings in all their faults working out divine destiny


Review and Rachel and Leah

March 6, 2008 Class #4 

Rather than try to recapitulate our discussion, I am posting my lesson plan, so as to give an idea of what we went over.  

We did an overview to date:

  • Looking at texts with our own eyes
    • Filters - how it is not possible to approach the texts objectively, but that we have filters, such as feeling that women in the bible are mistreated.  In fact, every author we read has filters. The key thing is to try and be aware of filters as we study.
    • Having a prejudice against Rivka the trickster – nasty female tricks, and Sarah – mean to her slave.
      • Do we readily accept these readings because we have been conditioned to these attitudes?
      • Ask everyone, what is your impression of Br’er Fox – and discuss
  • When individual male family heads are supreme, often the women can have considerable influence.   When society is tightly bound with legal hierarchies, women are not so able to be effectual.
    • What emerges is picture of women who are not different from men in essence, who have the same capabilities of leadership, trickery, partnership and conversations with God as men do.   Women emerge as – yes- certainly secondary socially, and subject to the rule of the male family head – but not as inherently inferior.  This is an important discovery.
  • Women effectuating continuance of blood line
    • Lots’ daughters –strong feminine/ odds with Moabites
    • Sarah
    • Rivka 
      • The only woman of the Bible

Women as critical ancestors and tricksters

February 21, 2008, Class #3 

How did Rachel and Leah build up the House of Israel?  Why is it Rachel and Leah and not Rifka and Sarah.    This is a question to keep in the back of our minds.

Today we looked at women as critical ancestors and the trickster.  These are aspects of the role of women in building up the House of Israel.  We saw that women also do their thing and disappear

Thematically we first introduced Abraham the trickster - Gen 12:13-20 -  Abram asks Sarai to lie.  She is in Pharaoh’s harem – not a good position for Sarai to be in.

Then we looked at Sarah’s role in ensuring the line of succession and in ensuring God’s will be done.
·         We noted that initially God promises Abram a heritage through his issue, but does not mention through which woman.  Some texts we referred to

Lots Daughters; Ezra and Nehemiah

Here are a few points from our class on February 7, 2008. 

I owe thanks to the works that I am currently studying, including Women’s Bible commentary by Carol Newsom and Sharon Ringe and Women of the Bible and In the Wake of the Goddesses, both by Tikva Frymer Kensky.  My teachers at Hebrew college are very helpful, in particular Professor Judith Kates and Rabbi Natan Margalit.

I would recommend that everyone read the Book of Ruth.   We will not get to it for a while, but you may wish to have some knowledge of it as we go along.   It’s quite short.

1          We talked first about filters - how it is not possible to approach the texts objectively, but that we have filters, such as feeling that women in the bible are mistreated, or that the bible is nonsense, or that it's important to identify with our ancestors, or that it doesn't matter.  In fact, everything author we read has filters  We identified some of our personal filters.  The key thing is to try and be aware as we study of filters. 

2.         Review of last week:  Note that Lot’s daughters did not use sexual wiles – we rally don’t see that until the book of Judith, definitely written under Greek influence.  The story can support different meanings and it’s good to be able to hold several points of view.   Maybe the story tries to provide a reason why Israelites are at odds with the Moabites, maybe the story supports  the idea of there being a strong feminine guidance of Israel’s destiny.  My hope is that people will not in general go away from class thinking that we have all found “the answer” together.

3.         We studied some of Ezra- Nehemiah in order to see an extreme case of not intermarrying with foreign women.   

Introduction to Biblical Women Series

Here are a few salient points from our class on Jan 24 2008.   If anyone has questions or comments, whether you  attended or missed please let me know.
Note that after talking to a few folks after class, I have moved the start time to 7:30.
Next class will be Feb 7.  Class schedule is on the second page.

Our focus of study will be the women of Ruth, so that in the month of May we can study the book of Ruth in preparation for Shavuot.   A hoped for outcome of the class will be that those students who wish to will present a teaching at our community Shavuot celebration.   Rabbi Liza is looking forward to presentations on the women of Ruth.   We’ll talk more about this later.  Beth will help with that preparation..

We will try and cleanse our palettes of rabbinic and modern commentary so that we can come at the biblical text with fresh eyes.

Penina distributed a biblical family tree and we discussed it.  This family tree will remain a useful tool as we continue our studies.  Later, in Deuteronomy, the men heed a council – here the patriarch reigns supreme.  Abraham kicks out all his kids but Isaac.  In Deut, a man is not allowed to favor any son over the first born.  When individual patriarchs are supreme, often the women can have considerable influence.   When society is tightly bound with legal hierarchies, women are not so able to be effectual.

Our first class focused on the branch from Lot, leading through the Moabites to Ruth.