- to pierce, perforate, bore, appoint
- to pierce, bore
- to prick off, designate
- (Niphal) to be pricked off, be designated, be specified
- (Qal) to curse, blaspheme
- to pierce, perforate, bore, appoint
Sifra: Composed: Talmudic Israel/Babylon, c.250 - c.350 CE
Sifra (“The Book”) is a halakhic (legal) midrash on the Book of Leviticus, frequently quoted in the Talmud. Compiled in the early talmudic period, the identity of its compiler has been subject to debate since medieval times. Most of the work is written in the style of the school of Rabbi Akiva, while two sections - one about forbidden relations and the other on the dedication of the Mishkan - are written in the style of the school of Rabbi Yishmael.
Excerpts from Professor Wendy Zeirler in A Tribute to the Blasphemer’s Mother: Shelomit, Daughter of Divri, in The Torah.com.
....given the context of Israelite enslavement in Egypt, is it not possible that Shelomit, like so many African American slaves who were raped and impregnated by their masters, might have been abused and used by a slavemaster or overseer, and that is how she came to give birth to the son of an Egyptian man?
According to this reading, Shelomit bat Divri was a struggling ex-slave and single mother, who labored against all odds to raise her son and shield him from the prejudices of the surrounding community. Alas, the son—whom the text presents as a בן, a “son” or “boy,” rather than an איש, a “man,” hinting, perhaps, at his not-yet or barely emergent manhood—went out of his mother’s tent and discovered that the world around him was not what he expected. He saw that he was a second-class citizen in a society of former second-class citizens, that he was not wanted among his would-be brethren. His mother may have attempted to counter and to diffuse his youthful anger when it flared. Befitting her name, Shelomit—from shalom, “peace”—she may have tried on any number of occasions to bring peace and calm and to shore up her son’s bifurcated identity.
But when איש הישראלי, a full-fledged “man of Israel,” told her son he didn’t belong, and when Moses ruled that the son’s status as perpetual outsider was ordained by God, the son succumbed to rage and cursed the God who had banished him from his assumed place among the Israelites. As Bat Divri, a daughter of speech, Shelomit may have endeavored, just like the daughters of Zelophehad, to speak up, defend her son, and demand justice for him. But tragically, she failed in her bid to save him. https://www.thetorah.com/article/a-tribute-to-the-blasphemers-mother-shelomit-daughter-of-divri
“If a חלל—challal is found in the land… (Devarim 21:1). Challal refers to a human corpse and, based on the context, specifically to a murder victim, as Targum Onkelos and Yonatan translate it. Human life is holy, and therefore the murder of a person is an act of desecration which is implied by challal whose root is חול—profane or devoid of holiness (Rabbi David Kimchi, Sefer Hashorashim). Challal also means space or vacuum and may be a reference to the idea that the dead body is empty, lacking its soul, and is therefore like a spiritual vacuum (Rabbi Moshe Shapiro).
The Talmud is the textual record of generations of rabbinic debate about law, philosophy, and biblical interpretation, compiled between the 3rd and 8th centuries and structured as commentary on the Mishnah with stories interwoven. The Talmud exists in two versions: the more commonly studied Babylonian Talmud was compiled in present-day Iraq, while the Jerusalem Talmud was compiled in Israel.
Tearing the Fabric of Existence
Commentary from ContemporaryTheologian Rachel Adler:
What did it mean in ancient Israel to blaspheme? The verb nun-kuf-vet suggests that cursing God is an act of violence. The name YHVH, derived from the verb "to be" may mean "The One Who Is" or "Was-Is-Will Be" or "Being" or "Becoming" (see Exodus 3:14). This is the name that is associated in Rabbinic texts with the attribute of mercy (see Sh'mot Rabbah 3:6). In ancient Israel, as in many cultures, the name partook of the reality it represented. Hence, the blasphemer who tears a hole in the Divine Name, tears a hole in the integrity of all that exists, all that the One Who Is Being called into being.
The name of the parashah, Emor, means "Say." The entire section is about the divine sayings to Moses that establish an Israelite universe of meaning: regulations about fitness for the priesthood, fitness for sacrifice, sacred times of Sabbath and festivals, regulations about the sacred place, the Mishkan. The man who utters the blasphemy, it is hinted, is an "un-sayer." His mother is the daughter of Dibri, which can mean "the speaker." To blaspheme is to abuse language, the building blocks with which God created the universe. To blaspheme is to unspeak the world of meaning that one's community inhabits, hurtling it toward chaos and unmeaning.
We moderns have ideals we do not want to hear blasphemed but the name of God is not one of them. We no longer understand insulting God as insulting the wellspring of being itself nor do we understand how we tear holes in the world of meaning we inhabit, although we are constantly lamenting the drain of meaning and the proliferation of meaninglessness. Nevertheless, for millennia, Jews have preserved this name for God that we do not speak, a name whose inarticulable consonants overflow with meanings waiting to be revealed. In English as opposed to Hebrew, we use the name of God so lightly that it has become almost emptied of meaning. Go on Facebook, and you confront the ubiquitous OMG (oh my god) in entry after entry, a meaningless verbal tic analogous to "like" and "uh." Would any of us want our own names used this way?
A return to executing blasphemers is obviously undesirable. Yet we live in a universe constituted by words. With lies, deceptions, threats, and curses we break and unmake the power of words to connect and sustain us. Names of God capture sustaining truths about the Divine. In a world of broken language, they are both infinitely powerful and infinitely fragile. How can we protect the name of God? I suggest two ways: first, by truly learning what God's names mean and growing within ourselves the human equivalents of divine attributes; second and paradoxically, by continuing to surround one unfathomable name with an eloquent silence.
Rachel Adler is professor of Modern Jewish Thought and Judaism and Gender at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. She was one of the first theologians to integrate feminist perspectives and concerns into the interpretation of Jewish texts and the renewal of Jewish law and ethics.
- See more at: http://www.reformjudaism.org/tearing-hole-being#sthash.QksySTs5.dpuf
Sources and Resources: