Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hayyai Sarah: A deeper look!

First off, mad props to Blogger for finally setting up the blog-o-sphere so that comments can be tracked (I was really bad about going back to places I'd left comments to see if there was a response, not to mention that CoComment did weird things to my browser, so I got rid of it).

Secondly, I seem to have this weird problem. There's another Jewish woman in my office. I'm nearly positive she's Orthodox, though I'm pretty sure she's Modern Orthodox. The problem is that we never talk. I mean, we should have things to talk about, right? I don't mind saying "Yo! I'm Jewish!" to other people, but for some reason, things are not as easy with this gal. We were both in the copy room today for like 10 minutes together and nothing beyond "How are you?" "Fine, and you?" "Fine, thanks" was said. How awkward ... anyone have any icebreakers for Jews?

Thirdly, and most importantly, I find myself reading Torah very differently than I did even a year ago. This week's Torah portion is Hayyai Sarah, which is one I recognized immediately. It's the portion where Sarah dies, she's buried, and Abraham sends his servant out to find Isaac a wife and he comes back with Rebekah and then Abraham dies and is buried with Sarah. It's pretty basic and there isn't a whole lot of depth to the portion -- but I gather that this is because several things I might question (the oath by genitalia, love after marriage, the discrepancy in the storytelling in each version) I questioned last year in my blog and thus answered. I also find that I question things differently; I ask questions in the style of the sages in Talmud! I think this is a reflection of reading Rashi's Daughters, as the amount of commentary and discussion that takes place is too much to count! I say this because the questions I derived from my Torah study this evening were not answered in my chumash, like many of the basic question's answers are. Thus, these provide more room for exploration, which makes me wish I were a Talmud chacham. I find myself exceedingly jealous of the children raised Jewish with Talmud learning and especially Rashi's daughters, who were so learned ... jealousy!

My queries on Hayyai Sarah:
  • At the beginning of the portion, how did Abraham choose the land to buy in which to bury Sarah on? He very quickly and explicitly chose the cave on the land of Ephron, but what was the significance of the spot? We know that the purpose of buying the land was to establish residency so he would no longer be a stranger in the land, and also because he knew that the land would someday be theirs, as given by G-d ... so establishing a sense of ownership was important. But why the cave on the land of Ephron? What was special about this space?
  • In Gen. 23:10, did Abraham inadvertently violate the law that says one may not approach the land owner directly, but must first deal with the "people of the land"? I ask this because when Sarah dies and Abraham is talking to the Hittites about needing to procure land, he says he wants the cave on the land of Ephron. Without knowing it, Ephron is in the crowd and responds to Abraham. However, this violates the law I guess. But what are the repercussions? If any? (There were none in the Torah, of course, but I'm speaking about the "what if" here.)
  • How much land was there with the cave in the deal Ephron made? It was a 400-shekel deal, but there was no speculation in my chumash about the size of the land. It also didn't discuss what the land was used for. Was it worked by the Hittites? Was it barren? If there's all this land with a cave amid the community, wouldn't it be used for something?
  • In Gen. 24:16, and throughout the story of the servant and Rebekah, there is a discrepancy of the well versus the spring. I imagine the two words could be interchangeable, as a spring is a source of water from the ground and a well is a hole dug to create a water source. But in this verse it says that Rebekah "came up" from the spring ... would one have to "come up" from a well? Maybe I'm not familiar with biblical well-going, but that seems awkward. I suppose it could be chocked up to different authors or translations?
So that's my Torah babble for this week. Stay tuned ...