Monday, December 19, 2016

Miracle Gift To the World From Abraham: Moses and Torah

Nadene Goldfoot                                                
The awesome Torah. which we all received through Moses, is the biggest miracle of all.  Moses was Abraham's gggggrandson through his parents of Amram and Jochebed, grandfather Kohath, ggrandparents Levi and Milkah, gggrandparents Jacob-Israel and Leah, ggggrandparents Isaac and Rebeccah, and gggggrandparents Abraham and Sarah of the 2nd millennium BCE.  Abraham was born in c1948 BCE and Sarah was his niece.  So Moses is Abraham's direct descendant.  He  carried  the Cohen gene, for he made his brother Aaron the 1st Cohen, and must have been carrying the J1 haplogroup, the male line of their DNA.

So in the 15th paragraph, Abram, for that was his original name, was told about his descendants by G-d.  They shall be aliens in a land not their own, and they will serve them and will be oppressed by them for 400 years.  His descendants would not be able to take the land G-d was giving to them until after the 400 years of oppression.   That nation G-d shall judge who oppressed them, and afterwards your descendants will leave with great wealth.  The 4th generation (here one generation may mean 100 years)  shall return to where we stand, and then he speaks of the Amorites' wickedness, yet to come.  
Moses on Mt Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments
A list of to-dos and not to-dos to a people for the 1st time
Our history says that G-d dictated this phenomenal piece of literature, history, genealogy and legal  laws to follow a moral code and be a people others would want to emulate.  It is something we could not by ourselves create even in this day and age, and this was written over 3,328 years ago,  started  when Moses was 80 years old.  We figure Moses was born in 1391 BCE and died at age 120 in 1271 BCE, so this was written in the 40 years of the Exodus leading 650,000 from Egypt to Canaan.  That would place the writings starting in about 1311 BCE and concluding in 1271 BCE when Moses died.  The Torah thus was started 3,328 years ago                                              
First of all, it would have been no easy matter for Moses to journey back to Egypt after being gone for 60 years and start this trek at age 80 over desert lands.  Hopefully he had a camel and lots of food and water with him packed up on those humps.  Then the journey out of Egypt with the leadership of  the 12 tribes of Jacob and other freed slaves of other people and sorting out the organization, food, disciple and rules on the way must have been exhausting.

We know it tried his patience at times, and his anger is written into the Torah when he struck a rock, or dealing with people yearning for food they did not find on the road.  What road?  That's another matter.  There was no road.  They were traveling on ground not traveled on before and could not lose their way.  Yet it took them 40 years to move 603,550 people to their destination.  The distance was only about 480 miles and a car could have driven it in 9 1/2 hours on route 90 in today's world not even as a crow flies, but in a distance from Egypt to Eilat and then up north to Israel.

He had only  601,730 people with him when he arrived at Canaan after traveling 40 years having lost 1,820 after these 2 generations went by.  The older generation died on the way and he arrived with a new generation who had not experienced slavery, only walking or riding the distance.  That's what was expected and needed to happen.
Moses needed to educate anyone who would read about our history, so he started at the beginning with Genesis (Bereishis).  Brilliant. What an introduction!   Nothing would make sense when he started to tell us how to become a great society that would be the most moral this planet had ever seen if we didn't have a beginning of this story.    Moses had been educated as a prince of Egypt and could have heard of histories found on clay tablets in Ur, today's Iraq.  Egyptians would have had to travel 1,072.1 miles and by car it would take more than 21 hours on route 90 to get there to obtain some of these tablets.  A camel traveled about 15 miles a day back then.  It would have taken a caravan 2 months of traveling to get to Ur. The Creation story is but a small fraction of the Torah.  He tells us the creation of the mountains and valleys and the creation of the people who give meaning and purpose to the universe they live in. This 1st of the 5 books tells how this family  became the Chosen People.  It tells us how events in the lives of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were portents for the future history of their descendants.   As the chosen, we were the ones to accept the responsibilities, a hard position to be in, but we did.  

The themes of Genesis are: Making Choices, winnowing through them  and the tests we met..  This universe is a mixture of good and evil, and it is each one's responsibility to choose the good and spurn the evil.  We see Noah as an example of not following the crowd in a corrupt society.  Abraham stood tall when everyone else failed.  Isaac and Jacob win over Ishmael and Esau.  Jacob's family carries on the legacy of the Patriarchs.  A great person must overcome adversity, and we see Abraham tested.  

The clay tablets told a story similar to Genesis.  "Sumerian cuneiform, dating back to the Third Dynasty of Ur, which ruled southern Iraq more than 4,000 years ago.
"Much of the Hearst Museum collection of tablets - heavy on the recording of animal sales and grain purchases - was long considered "kind of garbage can, mundane stuff," said Carnahan. Scholars were more interested in finding tablets that told epic tales and myths.

On clay tablets at Ur was found the 7th Century BCE Gilgamesh flood myth of ancient Mesopotamia  dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur (circa 2100 BC)..  It  is a flood myth in the Epic of Gilgamesh.  Many scholars believe that the flood myth was added to Tablet XI in the "standard version" of the Gilgamesh Epic by an editor who utilized the flood story from the Epic of Atrahasis.   A short reference to the flood myth is also present in the much older Sumerian Gilgamesh poems, from which the later Babylonian versions drew much of their inspiration and subject matter. " This story told on clay tablets parallels our account Moses tells in the Torah.  My belief, and many others' feelings are that stories like this are based on fact.  People had reason to explain to their children how some things came about.  Moses heard it from G-d, and he may have heard of the story in his Egyptian classes as well, though it was certainly not an Egyptian tale amplifying their unique religious beliefs.  

"Mesopotamia was known in antiquity as a seat of learning, and it is believed that Thales of Miletus (known as the 'first philosopher') studied there. As the Babylonians believed that water was the 'first principle' from which all else flowed, and as Thales is famous for that very claim, it seems probable he studied in the region. Intellectual pursuits were highly valued across the region, and the schools (devoted primarily to the priestly class) were said to be as numerous as temples and taught reading, writing, religion, law, medicine, and astrology. 
Chaos Monster and Sun G-d 
There were over 1,000 deities in the pantheon of the gods of the Mesopotamian cultures and many stories concerning the gods (among them, the creation myth, the Enuma Elish), and it is generally accepted that biblical tales such as the Fall of Man and the Flood of Noah (among many others) originated in Mesopotamian lore, as they first appear in Mesopotamian works such as The Myth of Adapa and the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest written story in the world. The Mesopotamians believed that they were co-workers with the gods and that the land was infused with spirits and demons (though `demons’ should not be understood in the modern, Christian, sense)."  
How the world was created
Noah and the flood
After the creation story, Moses gets right into the genealogy  and story of our people in Genesis.  His writing is concise but to the point.  After all, he had to bring along on the trip sheepskins all rolled up to use as paper was not invented in those days yet.  That would have been heavy and bulky, as it had to last a long time, or he would have had to use skins from sheep they had killed for meat, and go through the trouble of preparing them.  Thus, the story of the flood was an historic event that had happened long before Moses' time and was recorded by others in Mesopotamia and Babylon.  The 5 Books of Moses was not a book of fairy tales but honest accurate reporting and recording.   Genesis ends with the Patriarchal family becoming a nation that has been purified and is noble, ready to withstand a terrible exile in Egypt and follow Moses to Mount Sinai.  

Then he told about the Exodus (Shemos) itself in detail.  The nation of Israel takes shape and learns about faith.  Where the family had entered Egypt as a family of the viceroy, Joseph, and felt very privileged for that, Egypt resented the growth of this immigrant people and it became their undoing being they were made slaves.  This chapter has the miracles that Moses performed to sway the Pharaoh to release them after 400 years.  It's a chapter of Redemption.  The climax is the construction of the Tabernacle (Temple), the resting place for G-d's Presence, of overpowering holiness.  
After Exodus the 3rd chapter was named Leviticus (Vayikra), about the offerings to bring to the one G-d.  It covers information about the Cohens or Priests and laws of the Temple service with them.  It's about sacrifices, but by bringing an offering, comes closer to G-d and elevates his level of spirituality.  We modern people reading this are the product of 19 centuries of living without the Temple in our life and this part seems odd to us.  Wherever the Torah speaks of offerings, it uses the 4 letter name of G-d that signifies His mercy.  The offerings are the way He gives us to rejuvenate ourselves, to bring ourselves to elevation and purity into our lives.  Maybe its just as simple as in sacrificing our time to think of G-d.  
Numbers (Barnidbar) is the 4th chapter of the Torah and tells in detail about the wandering in the Wilderness that took place and problems in entering the land once again that Jacob's 70 people had left due to a famine for Egypt 400 years previously.  It has the counting procedure that Moses used and the sum of the people in the census taken. It tells how the children emerged strong and courageous and ready to claim their destiny as heirs to the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  
Foreseeing Solomon's Day and making wise choices
Deuteronomy (Devarim) is the 5th and final chapter of the Torah.  This summary of the story, and is what makes the organization of the Torah so special and modern, was also referred to as the Repetition or Review of the Torah by the Mishneh Torah.  it was the prophet Moses' last will and testament to his beloved people where he warned them of potential pitfalls and inspired them to rise to their calling.  This was Israel's introduction to the new life they would have to forge in Eretz Yisrael.  They would plow, plant, and harvest.  They would have courts and a government.  They would have social relationships and the means to provide for and protect the needy and helpless.  They would need strong faith and self-discipline to avoid the problems and temptations of their pagan neighbors and false prophets.  

The function of the Torah was reemphasized with the laws and Moses' appeals to the conscience of the people.  This chapter didn't review everything he taught but went over things needed for Israel's new life in its land.
Deuteronomy  was heard from the mouth of Moses.
Moses told it using the type of words like the prophets would use who came after Moses. They also heard G-d speaking and then would tell the nation of Israel the next day.  They heard the prophet's comprehension of the words heard by them.   It ended as all good literature should, rounding up what was told throughout this book of Moses.    

People today act bad enough.  I can't imagine how bad bad was before the flood.  The killing that went on at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE was horrendous.  Romans stood by unnerved by the smell of death, the starvation and the blood running in the streets.  So they are also today at the slaughter in Aleppo, Syria when so many have been killed, women and children alike.  Those very people of the Middle East who dished it out to the Jews and others have been on the receiving end as refugees fleeing their destroyed land.  No, people have not yet learned or changed much since the days of Moses.  The science has evolved but the people have not kept up with it.  Their genes do not mutate very fast for understanding to evolve.  Only education will bring it on, like Moses proved, by changing a nation over 40 years after 400 years being held down as slaves.  Moses, however, had help from the higher power of G-d.  

Update: 12/20/16 1:00pm G-d telling Abram the future of his descendants, critique by Elisheva Pickthorn
 Resource:Torah, Stone Edition, ArtScroll Series by Rabbis Scherman, Zlotowitz.

1 comment:

  1. Being my Christian friend brought up Enoch, Judaism, views this differently than Chrisianity and LDS do. "According to Rashi[14] [from Genesis Rabba[15]] Jewish biblical commentator, “Enoch was a righteous man, but he could easily be swayed to return to do evil. Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, hastened and took him away and caused him to die before his time. For this reason, Scripture changed [the wording] in [the account of] his demise and wrote, ‘and he was no longer’ in the world to complete his years.”
    Wikipedia; Artscroll Torah, Genesis 5: 21-25; father of Methuselah