Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Near the End--Torah

We're nearing the end of our first time through the Torah as a group. In the parashah we discussed last night, Ki Tavo, Moses foretells the "future" for the assembled new generation of Israelites that stands before him. According to a knowledgeable member of the group, the book was written after the Babylonian captivity, a holocaust rivaling the 20th century one, in which a formerly prosperous community of Jews living under the aegis of Babylonian rule were destroyed, taken captive, and reduced to cannibalism because they got uppity and refused to pay the taxes levied on them by their rulers. Thus, the book has two implicit audiences--the Israelites about to enter the Land of Israel without the guidance of Moses, who will die after he delivers his message, and the post-Exile community, looking for a way to explain their fate.
Unlike earlier books, where blessings more than balanced out curses, this book was dark and angry, full of graphic and horrible curses and savage ironies. The most famous of these involves the assertion that even the most "dainty and tender" mothers would not only eat their infants, but withhold this dubious source of nourishment from the rest of their families. Since this had in fact already come to pass, the warning implied here was all the stronger.
We discussed how this book became the root for the infamous railings of t.v. preachers eager to blame Katrina, 9-11, or whatever source of suffering one can name on some individuals who stray from God's law. However, in contrast to these vindictive condemnations, this part of the Torah pins the blame squarely on the entire community. Whatever secret sins its individuals can be blamed for, it is the community that is ultimately responsible here.

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