Mar 22, 2008

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 whose birth is recorded - child of destiny and agent of God’s promise
      • lineage passing from Abraham AND Sarah, to Rivka, who will then, through her own efforts, ensure the fulfillment of God’s wish that Jacob inherit.  Isaac seems to fall out of the loop.
      • Like Abraham – ● inherit  ● trip ● hospitality  ● also trickster in a way
    • Note the change from Genesis to Exodus, where Moses talks about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
      • Ilana Pardes pg 57:  While Yahwistic texts permit a certain dramatization of the struggle between the sexes, one intertwined with the human-divine conflict, Priestly traditions avoid conflict just as they avoid narrative.
      • There are very important women at beginning of Exodus but the issue of sons of Israel overrides family heritage – this is the Priestly way.
      • After they join Joseph in Egypt, there are 600,000 male heads of households and their entourage.  Moses leads the People, not a family.  
      • Still, all the stories of women are preserved, because they are important in the Abrahamic and Davidic lineages, to forward the lines.
      • Even they are highlighted at Holy Days – Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur etc.
  • Look at Sefat Emet on breshit and discuss importance of the patriarchal/matriarchal stories.
    • Why do we have laws and also stories?   Why do the stories come first?

Start on Rachel and Leah. 
  • Mention Ruth 4:11  “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built up the House of Israel.  I said we would come back to this.  Talk about House of Israel in light of Rachel and Leah
  • Rachel and Leah are more complex, more personal, and yet less effective perhaps?  The next step in the destiny of the Israelites is to build the house.
    • Remember Rivka inherits from Sarah and Abraham, even looks a bit like Abraham – and is strong in her own right.   At the well she carries all that water, she carries the story to her mother (Bethuel seems to have disappeared), and she is asked if she would be willing to go right away.   She does not have the choice not to go at all, of course
      • Gen 24:28  The maiden ran and told all her mother’s household
      • Gen 24:51:  Here is Rebekah – take her
      • Gen 24:58:  I will go with them – this is not negotiated on her behalf by the men.
    • Rachel does not have so much strength it would seem
    • Note that it takes a pair of matriarchs to supply the huge number of progeny for bnei Israel.
  • Look at meeting of Jacob and Rachel
    • After the initial meeting, Jacob and Laban take over – this is very different from Rivka.
      • Gen 29:12:  Rachel runs and tells her father.
      • Gen 29; 14-21 Laban and Jacob negotiate the taking of the wife
  • Yet, they speak up in rebellion as they are leaving their father’s house – he has sold them -
    • Gen 31: 4-16 – the departure – Rachel speaks before Leah
    • makar = selling, otherwise used only in Bible for selling humans into slavery, selling of Joseph, selling one’s daughter into slavery
    • Sister’s complaint in remarkably critical  “stranger women” and “sold”
    • still, sisters set aside feud to reinforce the word of God to husband

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