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Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5776 - Are we ready to stand at Sinai?

Women of Temple Beth Hillel

Source Sheet by Eleanor Steinman
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Created June 5, 2016 · 460 Views · נוצר 5 June, 2016 · 460 צפיות ·

  1. (ז) וַיָּבֹ֣א מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַיִּקְרָ֖א לְזִקְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וַיָּ֣שֶׂם לִפְנֵיהֶ֗ם אֵ֚ת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוָּ֖הוּ יְהוָֽה׃ (ח) וַיַּעֲנ֨וּ כָל־הָעָ֤ם יַחְדָּו֙ וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ כֹּ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה נַעֲשֶׂ֑ה וַיָּ֧שֶׁב מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֥י הָעָ֖ם אֶל־יְהוָֽה׃ (ט) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהוָ֜ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י בָּ֣א אֵלֶיךָ֮ בְּעַ֣ב הֶֽעָנָן֒ בַּעֲב֞וּר יִשְׁמַ֤ע הָעָם֙ בְּדַבְּרִ֣י עִמָּ֔ךְ וְגַם־בְּךָ֖ יַאֲמִ֣ינוּ לְעוֹלָ֑ם וַיַּגֵּ֥ד מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֥י הָעָ֖ם אֶל־יְהוָֽה׃ (י) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהוָ֤ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֙ לֵ֣ךְ אֶל־הָעָ֔ם וְקִדַּשְׁתָּ֥ם הַיּ֖וֹם וּמָחָ֑ר וְכִבְּס֖וּ שִׂמְלֹתָֽם׃ (יא) וְהָי֥וּ נְכֹנִ֖ים לַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֑י כִּ֣י ׀ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֗י יֵרֵ֧ד יְהוָ֛ה לְעֵינֵ֥י כָל־הָעָ֖ם עַל־הַ֥ר סִינָֽי׃ (יב) וְהִגְבַּלְתָּ֤ אֶת־הָעָם֙ סָבִ֣יב לֵאמֹ֔ר הִשָּׁמְר֥וּ לָכֶ֛ם עֲל֥וֹת בָּהָ֖ר וּנְגֹ֣עַ בְּקָצֵ֑הוּ כָּל־הַנֹּגֵ֥עַ בָּהָ֖ר מ֥וֹת יוּמָֽת׃ (יג) לֹא־תִגַּ֨ע בּ֜וֹ יָ֗ד כִּֽי־סָק֤וֹל יִסָּקֵל֙ אוֹ־יָרֹ֣ה יִיָּרֶ֔ה אִם־בְּהֵמָ֥ה אִם־אִ֖ישׁ לֹ֣א יִחְיֶ֑ה בִּמְשֹׁךְ֙ הַיֹּבֵ֔ל הֵ֖מָּה יַעֲל֥וּ בָהָֽר׃ (יד) וַיֵּ֧רֶד מֹשֶׁ֛ה מִן־הָהָ֖ר אֶל־הָעָ֑ם וַיְקַדֵּשׁ֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם וַֽיְכַבְּס֖וּ שִׂמְלֹתָֽם׃ (טו) וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־הָעָ֔ם הֱי֥וּ נְכֹנִ֖ים לִשְׁלֹ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֑ים אַֽל־תִּגְּשׁ֖וּ אֶל־אִשָּֽׁה׃ (טז) וַיְהִי֩ בַיּ֨וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֜י בִּֽהְיֹ֣ת הַבֹּ֗קֶר וַיְהִי֩ קֹלֹ֨ת וּבְרָקִ֜ים וְעָנָ֤ן כָּבֵד֙ עַל־הָהָ֔ר וְקֹ֥ל שֹׁפָ֖ר חָזָ֣ק מְאֹ֑ד וַיֶּחֱרַ֥ד כָּל־הָעָ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּֽמַּחֲנֶֽה׃ (יז) וַיּוֹצֵ֨א מֹשֶׁ֧ה אֶת־הָעָ֛ם לִקְרַ֥את הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים מִן־הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֑ה וַיִּֽתְיַצְּב֖וּ בְּתַחְתִּ֥ית הָהָֽר׃ (יח) וְהַ֤ר סִינַי֙ עָשַׁ֣ן כֻּלּ֔וֹ מִ֠פְּנֵי אֲשֶׁ֨ר יָרַ֥ד עָלָ֛יו יְהוָ֖ה בָּאֵ֑שׁ וַיַּ֤עַל עֲשָׁנוֹ֙ כְּעֶ֣שֶׁן הַכִּבְשָׁ֔ן וַיֶּחֱרַ֥ד כָּל־הָהָ֖ר מְאֹֽד׃ (יט) וַיְהִי֙ ק֣וֹל הַשּׁוֹפָ֔ר הוֹלֵ֖ךְ וְחָזֵ֣ק מְאֹ֑ד מֹשֶׁ֣ה יְדַבֵּ֔ר וְהָאֱלֹהִ֖ים יַעֲנֶ֥נּוּ בְקֽוֹל׃ (כ) וַיֵּ֧רֶד יְהוָ֛ה עַל־הַ֥ר סִינַ֖י אֶל־רֹ֣אשׁ הָהָ֑ר וַיִּקְרָ֨א יְהוָ֧ה לְמֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶל־רֹ֥אשׁ הָהָ֖ר וַיַּ֥עַל מֹשֶֽׁה׃ (כא) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה רֵ֖ד הָעֵ֣ד בָּעָ֑ם פֶּן־יֶהֶרְס֤וּ אֶל־יְהוָה֙ לִרְא֔וֹת וְנָפַ֥ל מִמֶּ֖נּוּ רָֽב׃ (כב) וְגַ֧ם הַכֹּהֲנִ֛ים הַנִּגָּשִׁ֥ים אֶל־יְהוָ֖ה יִתְקַדָּ֑שׁוּ פֶּן־יִפְרֹ֥ץ בָּהֶ֖ם יְהוָֽה׃ (כג) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶל־יְהוָ֔ה לֹא־יוּכַ֣ל הָעָ֔ם לַעֲלֹ֖ת אֶל־הַ֣ר סִינָ֑י כִּֽי־אַתָּ֞ה הַעֵדֹ֤תָה בָּ֙נוּ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר הַגְבֵּ֥ל אֶת־הָהָ֖ר וְקִדַּשְׁתּֽוֹ׃ (כד) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֵלָ֤יו יְהוָה֙ לֶךְ־רֵ֔ד וְעָלִ֥יתָ אַתָּ֖ה וְאַהֲרֹ֣ן עִמָּ֑ךְ וְהַכֹּהֲנִ֣ים וְהָעָ֗ם אַל־יֶֽהֶרְס֛וּ לַעֲלֹ֥ת אֶל־יְהוָ֖ה פֶּן־יִפְרָץ־בָּֽם׃ (כה) וַיֵּ֥רֶד מֹשֶׁ֖ה אֶל־הָעָ֑ם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֲלֵהֶֽם׃ (ס)

    (7) And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which YHVH commanded him. (8) And all the people answered together, and said: ‘All that YHVH hath spoken we will do.’ And Moses reported the words of the people unto YHVH. (9) And YHVH said unto Moses: ‘Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and may also believe thee for ever.’ And Moses told the words of the people unto YHVH. (10) And YHVH said unto Moses: ‘Go unto the people, and sanctify them to-day and to-morrow, and let them wash their garments, (11) and be ready against the third day; for the third day YHVH will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. (12) And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying: Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it; whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death; (13) no hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live; when the ram’s horn soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.’ (14) And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their garments. (15) And he said unto the people: ‘Be ready against the third day; come not near a woman.’ (16) And it came to pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a horn exceeding loud; and all the people that were in the camp trembled. (17) And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. (18) Now mount Sinai was altogether on smoke, because YHVH descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. (19) And when the voice of the horn waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice. (20) And YHVH came down upon mount Sinai, to the top of the mount; and YHVH called Moses to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. (21) And YHVH said unto Moses: ‘Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto YHVH to gaze, and many of them perish. (22) And let the priests also, that come near to YHVH, sanctify themselves, lest YHVH break forth upon them.’ (23) And Moses said unto YHVH: ‘The people cannot come up to mount Sinai; for thou didst charge us, saying: Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.’ (24) And YHVH said unto him: ‘Go, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee; but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto YHVH, lest God break forth upon them.’ (25) So Moses went down unto the people, and told them.

  2. 15. "[the men among] you should not go near a woman." In vv. 14-15, Moses implements the instructions received in vv. 10-13. He repeat's God's charge to the Israelites to stay pure and launder their clothes, while he adds the command not to approach a woman. The prohibition seems to concern sexual intercourse (based on how the synonymous verb k-r-v is used in Leviticus 18:14; 20:16; Deut. 22:14; Isa. 8:3). According to Lev. 15:18, sexual intercourse renders both parties ritually impure, so that they may not have access to the Sanctuary or objects deemed holy. By specifying a common action that would preclude individuals from participation in the sacred event of revelation, Moses amplifies God's directions to ensure the purity of the people. ...

     

    Some scholars infer from this that Moses spoke only to the men; they argue that if women were included in the covenant community, Moses would have phrased his warning in mutual terms, something akin to: "Men and women do not go near each other." However, this suggestion can be challenged by the fact that biblical Hebrew rarely addresses sexual relations in mutual terms. Instead, references to sexual relations usually contain a masculine subject and a female subject: a man "knows" a woman, "lies" or "lies with" her, "approaches" her, or "comes to" her. This language presents the male as the active figure and the female as the passive party. Although this linguistic pattern is problematic for contemporary readers, it means that the address to men in this verse cannot be used to argue that women were excluded from revelation at Sinai.

     

    Note on Ex. 19:15 from The Torah: A Women's Commentary, pp. 414-415.

     

  3. Read from a feminist perspective, Yitro contains one of the most painful verses of the Torah. At the formative moment in Jewish history, when presumably the whole people of Israel stands in awe and trembling at the base of Mount Sinai waiting for God to descend upon the mountain and establish the covenant, Moses turns to the assembled community and says, "Be ready for the third day: do not go near a woman" (19:15). Moses wants to ensure that the people are ritually prepared to receive God's presence, and an emission of semen renders both a man and his female partner temporarily unfit to approach the sacred (see Lev. 15:16-18). But Moses did not say, "Men and women do not go near each other." Instead at this central juncture in the Jewish saga, he renders women invisible as part of the congregation about to enter into the covenant.

     

    These words are deeply troubling for at least two reasons. First, they are a paradigm of the treatment of women as "other," both elsewhere in this portion and throughout the Torah. Again and again, the Torah seems to assume that the Israelite nation consists only of male heads of households. It records the experiences of men, but not the experiences of women. For example, the tenth commandment--"You shall not covet your neighbor's wife" (20:14)--presupposes a community of male hearers.

     

    Second, entry into the covenant at Sinai is not just a one-time event, but an experience to be reappropriated by every generation (Deut. 29:13-14). Every time the portion is chanted, whether as part of the annual cycle of Torah reading or as a special reading for Shavuot, women are thrust aside once again, eavesdropping on a conversation among men, and between men and God. The text thus potentially evokes a continuing sense of exclusion and disorientation in women. The whole Jewish people supposedly stood at Sinai. Were we there? Were we not there? If we were there, what did we hear when the men heard "do not go near a woman"? If we were not there originally, can we be there now? Since we are certainly part of the community now, how could we not have been there at that founding moment? ...

     

    Several lessons can be drawn from this. One is the inseparability of revelation and interpretation. There is no revelation without interpretation; the foundational experience of revelation also involves a crucial act of interpretation. Second, we learn that the process of interpretation is ongoing. What Moses does, the Rabbis in this case seek to undo. While they reiterate and reinforce the exclusion of women in many contexts, they mitigate it in others. Third, insofar as the task of interpretation is continuing, it now lies with us. If women's absence from Sinai is unthinkable to the Rabbis--despite the fact that they repeatedly reenact that absence in their own work--how much more must it be unthinkable to women and men today who function in communities in which women are full Jews? We have the privilege and the burden of recovering the divine words reverberating behind the silences in the text, recreating women's understandings of revelation throughout Jewish history.

     

    Excerpt from "Contemporary Reflection" by Dr. Judith Plaskow The Torah: A Women's Commentary, p. 423.

  4. We All Stood Together by Merle Feld

    for Rachel Adler

    My brother and I were at Sinai

    He kept a journal

    of what he saw

    of what he heard

    of what it all meant to him

    I wish I had such a record

    of what happened to me there

    It seems like every time I want to write

    I can't

    I'm always holding a baby

    one of my own

    or one for a friend

    always holding a baby

    so my hands are never free

    to write things down

    And then

    as time passes

    the particulars

    the hard data

    the who what when where why

    slip away from me

    and all I'm left with is 

    the feeling

    But feelings are just sounds

    the vowel barking of a mute

    My brother is so sure of what he heard

    after all he's got a record of it

    consonant after consonant after consonant

    If we remember it together

    we could recreate holy time

    sparks flying

    a spiritual life: a jewish feminist journey, p. 205

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