Saturday, June 10, 2006


Naso Blogging

A few questions/comments leap to mind regarding this week's portion (Numbers 4:21-7:89, Judges 13:2-25):

* The "unclean" and "impure" were not supposed to contaminate the encampment of the Israelites: how ought religious communities today receive those who have sinned? how should those who have sinned, even those who are somehow repentent, but in a major way such that the people they have hurt can never recover, be received in a religious community?

* Judaism has abandoned the Temple-dependent ability to take vows to become a Nazir. Many in Judaism may desire a sort of monastic life, if only for a short period -- such desires are frankly not well accomodated by Judaism. Should Judaism reintroduce the Nazirite vows in some for to accomodate this spiritual yearning? Is the lack of a monastic tradition in post-Temple Judaism one of Judaism's flaws or is it a feature?

* As many have pointed out, the story of Samson can be read as a cautionary tale against leading the Nazorite lifestyle for an entire life (cf. the previous point -- although, presumably Judaism would not have, even if it introduced monasticism, people be monks from birth) ... I would go a step further and read it as a cautionary tale for not living life to the fullest and against keeping yourself too sheltered: if you don't have an opportunity to face temptation from the get-go, when temptation comes at a particularly perilous point in your life/vocation, you might succumb precisely when it is the worst time to do so. I wonder what the "will someone think of the children" branch of the religious right would think of this lesson from Judges? Or would they just focus on the Bible viewing Samson as a Nazir from in utero and consider that an example of how the Bible is anti-abortion after all (even though, by that reasoning, life begins, according to this passage, before conception) all the while taking this story as a cautionary tale about the evils of being seduced by women and furriners? Of course, the tale might not be cautionary at all -- after all, the angel didn't say Samson would finish the job, only that he would start it (cf. Pirke Avos on finishing the job).

* Somehow I must intuitively believe in some sort of critical position regarding Biblical authorship -- the Book of Judges somehow always seemed to me more hoary than the Books of the Torah. But does this reflect the more primative nature of the c. 1100 BCE "dark ages" the book of Judges is describing relative to the higher civilazation of the periods of the Torah?

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