Who was the servant that Abraham sent away to find a bride for Isaac? The bible itself does not say, but out of habit I referred to him as Eliezer when I posted about the text on Facebook. Both Jewish and Christian sources agree that Eliezer, a man otherwise mentioned only once in Genesis 15, was the servant that Abraham entrusted the future of his line to.
This post is brought to you thanks to the generous help of Jeremy from Study With Jeremy. I’ve misplaced my copy of Genesis Rabbah and he was kind enough to delve into the original Hebrew to help bring this mystery to a satisfactory conclusion.
So, who was this Eliezer fellow anyway? Sounds like a great mystery! Read on for more.
Continue reading Is Eliezer Abraham’s Servant in Genesis 24?
Some of my favorite things about the Torah are the snippets of legends that the early Jews knew so well that they didn’t even need to write down. Passing references and later commentary are the only ways that we know figures like Enoch and Nimrod. Genesis 34 marks the transition between Abraham’s and Isaac’s stories, ironically with a sidebar where neither are protagonists. More on that later, but this scene also marks the second mention of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. Nahor may not be a prominent biblical figure, but this verse in Genesis 24 caught my attention:
Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor.
How can you not want to learn more about a man who is the brother of a patriarch and has a town named after him? More after the break. Continue reading Nahor, Abraham’s Brother
Lot is the Rodney Dangerfield of early biblical figures: he really gets no respect. Only a few verses after Lot flees from the burning ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, his story ends. Not with a triumph. Not even with any dignity. No. Lot gets raped by his daughters who, apparently, are tremendous idiots.
More after the break.
Continue reading Va-Yera – Lot’s Final Indignity
Where we left off, Abraham and Ishmael had just been circumcised, accepting the covenant with God. The following chapters (summary after the break) paint a complex story of punishment, of two men’s relationships with God, and how sometimes a weaker man can do more than a strong one.
This story also marks a turning point: The first time that a man (Abraham) argues with God and wins. It is also the moment where it appears that God’s vision of justice begins slowly to turn from the clan- or family-based justice to individual justice. It won’t get there until the Book of Ezekiel, but it’s a good start. More on that in the next post.
But what do you say about a man who selflessly puts his own butt on the line (rather literally) while trying to save a group of strangers from a rape gang? If he’s Lot, you call him a buffoon.
More after the break…
Continue reading Va-Yera – A Tale of Two Dinners
For those new to my blog, I am closing each portion with some observations I make as I read Rashi’s commentary on the portion. While I cannot properly summarize, or probably even understand, some of the subtle theological and traditional points he makes, there are many observations and stories that I can relate. Many of them are serious. Some of them I find quite funny!
Unlike modern textual criticism, Rashi was coming at the text with the belief that it was perfect. Every word and punctuation mark was critical, and the text had to be considered in the light that adding or removing any word would have to change the meaning. As so Rashi sometimes concocts fanciful explanations why a specific word means a specific thing. These don’t appear to be the minimal explanations – he was no fan of Occam’s Razor – and he is pulling some of these stories and legends from other traditional sources.
Here’s an example: one of the kings that Abram tussles with is King Shember, the king of the Zeboiim. Rashi tells that Shember was a biblical Icarus; he built a set of artificial wings which he wore that allowed him to fly.
Lots more after the break…
Continue reading Rashi on Lech-Lecha
Abram may be one of the most important men in three religions, but the text of the Torah says surprisingly little about him.
We know, first of all, that he is 75 when God spoke to him and commanded him to go forth to Israel. We don’t know whether God spoke to him prior to that time; if He did, it wasn’t documented. We know that his father was Terah, a man who lived to a ripe old age of 205. We also know that it was Terah, not Abram, who started the march of his family from Ur to Canaan, but they stopped part-way, in Haran. Could it be that God also spoke to Terah and commanded him on his march? Could it be that the reason Abram received his call is because Terah gave up and didn’t complete the journey. The bible, of course, doesn’t say.
Continue reading Lech-Lecha – Abram Who?
I’m now unapologetically behind: there’s just more to learn in each portion than you can possibly learn in a week. So at this point, I will continue at my own pace and see where I get. With luck, I’ll catch up to the calendar once we get out of the dense stories of Genesis and into the long legal tractates. Not very likely, but why not dream?
This portion, only the third one, is notable for the introduction of the First Family of Judaism (and the other Abrahamic religions): Abram, his wife Sarai, her maid Hagar, his nephew Lot, and his first son Ishmael. But more importantly than that, the title of this portion is the first reference to the undisputed focus of the Torah: Israel.
Continue reading Lech-Lecha – Go! Go! Go!