August 6, 2009

Re’eh: A Path to Follow

This portion uses the phrase elohim acheirim asher lo-y’datem: “other gods” (Alter, Fox, JPS translations) or “gods of others” (Stone) “which/that you did not know” (Alter/Stone), “whom you have not known” (Fox) or “whom you have not experienced” (JPS). (See below for citations*.)

As noted in Re’eh: Language and Translation, The Torah: A Modern Commentary* discusses this phrase, pointing to the prophetic book of Hosea as an example of the sexual-intimacy use of the verb “[yod-dalet-ayin].” But Hosea is not alone in speaking of God and the people together in the desert as in an intimacy akin to a honeymoon. For example, we hear in Jeremiah of our long-gone “bridal days”:

And the word of HASHEM was upon me, saying: “Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus said HASHEM: I remember for your sake the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, your following after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.'” — Jeremiah 2:2 (from the Stone Chumash*

This verse appears in the first prophetic reading (haftarah) for the mournful period of “the Three Weeks”. Beginning with this reading (Jeremiah 1:1-2:3, haftarat Matot), images of intimacy with God — and of intimacy lost — are commonly invoked in the haftarah readings of the final weeks of the Jewish calendar. It is interesting to compare these images with Moses’ description of the God-People relationship throughout Devarim/Deuteronomy.

For further exploration, consider “Brit Ahuvim: A Marriage Between Subjects,” in Rachel Adler’s Engendering Judaism. While the chapter is ostensibly about Jewish marriage law, her discussion of Hosea — and his view of God and the People as an (unhappily) married couple — is interesting in its own right.


* Source Materials includes detailed citations, with publishers’ links, to referenced Torah translations and to Adler’s book. The Stone Chumash and The Torah: A Modern Commentary include haftarah readings: Alter, Fox and A Woman’s Commentary do not.

The readings are:
Jeremiah 1:1-2-3
Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4; 4:1-2
Isaiah 1:1-27
Isaiah 40:1-26
Isaiah 49:14-51:3
Isaiah 54:11-55:5
Isaiah 51:12-52:12
Isaiah 54:1-10
Isaiah 60:1-22
Isaiah 61:10-63:9.

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Devarim, Hosea, Jeremiah

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