This week’s Torah parshah, as you can tell from the title, is Ha’azinu, or Deuteronomy 32:1-52. This is Moses’ final speech to the Israelites before he ascends Mount Nebo to die. It is traditionally associated with Yom Kippur and read somewhere very close to it (when exactly depends on the year). The reasons for this association should become obvious as we continue.
In the parshah, Moses describes how, even in the Promised Land, the Israelites will continue to be idolatrous, thus disobeying their deity and bringing divine wrath upon themselves. From what I have already discussed in past blogs about the history of the Torah’s composition, clearly the exiled Israelites in Babylonian sought reasons for that exile; in traditional Isrealite fashion, they made sense of their current circumstances by reasoning whose disobedience was to blame.
Continue reading “Ha’azinu and Models of the Divine by Ivy Helman.”
In my last blog post, I explained what we lost when the Israelites became monotheists. That post looked at the move to monotheism from a more historical, feminist perspective. In this post, I want to understand monotheism from a more modern, feminist lens. Using the Shema as a starting point for modern Jewish monotheistic thinking, my question is: how do we honor the deity based on who we understand that deity to be? In my opinion, Jewish monotheism requires we honor G-d by moving away from one-sided gendered depictions of the deity and think about how we act in light of the interconnectedness of life.
Judaism highlights the Shema as the description of the divine. It reads, “Hear, O Israel! The L-rd is Our G-d, The L-rd is One!,” (Deut. 6:4). The key aspect of this verse is twofold. First, we have a relationship with the deity hence the description of the deity as “our,” and, second, this deity is one.
Oneness used to imply that no other deities count, and perhaps also that no other deities literally exist. For example, if one were to read the Torah, one would understand the deity differently. On the one hand, the deity is one of many possible deities one could worship. On the other, it is quite clear that no matter what the deity is called, there is one specific deity that chose to help the Israelites. In the Torah, the divine is always referred to as he, using only masculine pronouns for the deity. In addition, he is often called king, lord, and master. G-d is depicted as powerful, wrathful, jealous, and even scary. Continue reading “Monotheism and the Shema: Lessons on Oneness and Unity by Ivy Helman”