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Understanding Revelation—What is “Jewish” Divine Love?

Tanakh | Ex 19:16 On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightning, and a
dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn; and all the people who were in
the camp trembled. 17 Moses led the people out of the camp toward God, and they took their
places at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for the LORD had
come down upon it in fire; the smoke rose like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain
trembled violently. 19 The blare of the horn grew louder and louder. As Moses spoke, God
answered him in thunder. 20 The LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the
mountain, and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain and Moses went up. 21 The
LORD said to Moses, “Go down, warn the people not to break through to the LORD to gaze, lest
many of them perish. 22 The priests also, who come near the LORD, must stay pure, lest the
LORD break out against them.” 23 But Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to
Mount Sinai, for You warned us saying, ‘Set bounds about the mountain and sanctify it.’” 24 So
the LORD said to him, “Go down, and come back together with Aaron; but let not the priests or
the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest He break out against them.” 25 And
Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.
‫ל־ה ָהר וְ קֹל שׁ ָֹפר ָחזָק‬ ָ ‫וּב ָר ִקים וְ ָענָן ָכּ ֵבד ַע‬ ְ ‫ישׁי ִבּ ְהיֹת ַהבּ ֶֹקר וַיְ ִהי קֹלֹת‬ ִ ‫ַיְהי ַביּוֹם ַה ְשּׁ ִל‬
ִ ‫ ו‬19:16Ex | BHS
‫ַצּבוּ‬ ְ ‫ַיִּתי‬
ְ ‫ן־ה ַמּ ֲחנֶה ו‬
ַ ‫ת־ה ָעם ִל ְק ַראת ָה ֱאל ִֹהים ִמ‬ ָ ‫ַיּוֹצא מ ֶֹשׁה ֶא‬ ֵ ‫ ו‬17 ‫ל־ה ָעם ֲא ֶשׁר ַבּ ַמּ ֲחנֶה׃‬ ָ ‫ֶח ַרד ָכּ‬ ֱ ‫ְמאֹד ַויּ‬
‫ֶח ַרד‬
ֱ ‫ַעל ֲע ָשׁנוֹ ְכּ ֶע ֶשׁן ַה ִכּ ְב ָשׁן ַויּ‬ ַ ‫ָרד ָע ָליו יְהוָה ָבּ ֵאשׁ ַויּ‬ ַ ‫ וְ ַהר ִסינַי ָע ַשׁן כֻּלּוֹ ִמ ְפּנֵי ֲא ֶשׁר י‬18 ‫ְבּ ַת ְח ִתּית ָה ָהר׃‬
‫ֵרד יְ הוָה‬ ֶ ‫ ַויּ‬20 ‫ַענֶנּוּ ְבקוֹל׃‬ ֲ ‫הוֹל ְך וְ ָחזֵק ְמאֹד מ ֶֹשׁה יְ ַד ֵבּר וְ ָה ֱאל ִֹהים י‬ ֵ ‫שּׁוֹפר‬ ָ ‫ וַיְ ִהי קוֹל ַה‬19 ‫ל־ה ָהר ְמאֹד׃‬ ָ ‫ָכּ‬
‫ֹשׁה ֵרד‬ ֶ ‫ֹאמר יְהוָה ֶאל־מ‬ ֶ ‫ ַויּ‬21 ‫ַעל מ ֶֹשׁה׃‬ ַ ‫ַיִּק ָרא יְהוָה ְלמ ֶֹשׁה ֶאל־רֹאשׁ ָה ָהר ַויּ‬ ְ ‫ל־הר ִסינַי ֶאל־רֹאשׁ ָה ָהר ו‬ ַ ‫ַע‬
‫יִת ַק ָדּשׁוּ ֶפּן־יִ ְפרֹץ‬ ְ ‫ָשׁים ֶאל־יְהוָה‬ ִ ‫ וְ גַם ַהכּ ֲֹה ִנים ַה ִנּגּ‬22 ‫ָפל ִמ ֶמּנּוּ ָרב׃‬ ַ ‫ֶה ְרסוּ ֶאל־יְהוָה ִל ְראוֹת וְ נ‬ ֶ ‫ָה ֵעד ָבּ ָעם ֶפּן־י‬
‫י־אַתּה ַה ֵעד ָֹתה ָבּנוּ ֵלאמֹר ַהגְ ֵבּל‬ ָ ‫ל־הר ִסינָי ִכּ‬ ַ ‫ֹא־יוּכל ָה ָעם ַל ֲעלֹת ֶא‬ ַ ‫ֹאמר מ ֶֹשׁה ֶאל־יְהוָה ל‬ ֶ ‫ ַויּ‬23 ‫ָבּ ֶהם יְהוָה׃‬
‫ֶה ְרסוּ ַל ֲעלֹת‬ ֶ ‫אַהרֹן ִע ָמּ ְך וְ ַהכּ ֲֹה ִנים וְ ָה ָעם אַל־י‬ ֲ ְ‫אַתּה ו‬ ָ ‫ית‬ ָ ‫־רד וְ ָע ִל‬
ֵ ‫ֹאמר ֵא ָליו יְהוָה ֶל ְך‬ ֶ ‫ ַויּ‬24 ‫ת־ה ָהר וְ ִק ַדּ ְשׁתּוֹ׃‬ ָ ‫ֶא‬
‫ֹאמר ֲא ֵל ֶהם׃ ס‬
ֶ ‫ל־ה ָעם ַויּ‬ ָ ‫ֵרד מ ֶֹשׁה ֶא‬ ֶ ‫ ַויּ‬25 ‫ץ־בּם׃‬
ָ ‫ֶאל־יְהוָה ֶפּן־יִ ְפ ָר‬

• What is the emotional effect of this text?

• What is its spiritual/metaphysical impact?
• What theological agenda is the author trying to convey?

Tanakh | Ex 24:3 Moses went and repeated to the people all the commands of the LORD and all
the rules; and all the people answered with one voice, saying, “All the things that the LORD has
commanded we will do!” 4 Moses then wrote down all the commands of the LORD. Early in the
morning, he set up an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of
Israel. 5 He designated some young men among the Israelites, and they offered burnt offerings
and sacrificed bulls as offerings of well-being to the LORD. 6 Moses took one part of the blood
and put it in basins, and the other part of the blood he dashed against the altar. 7 Then he took
the record of the covenant and read it aloud to the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has
spoken we will faithfully do!” 8 Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people and said, “This
is the blood of the covenant that the LORD now makes with you concerning all these commands.”
9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel ascended; 10 and
they saw the God of Israel: under His feet there was the likeness of a pavement of sapphire, like
the very sky for purity. 11 Yet He did not raise His hand against the leaders of the Israelites; they
beheld God, and they ate and drank.
‫ל־ה ָעם קוֹל ֶא ָחד‬ ָ ‫ַען ָכּ‬ ַ ‫ל־ה ִמּ ְשׁ ָפּ ִטים ַויּ‬
ַ ‫ל־דּ ְב ֵרי יְהוָה וְ ֵאת ָכּ‬
ִ ‫ ַו ָיּבֹא מ ֶֹשׁה וַיְ ַס ֵפּר ָל ָעם ֵאת ָכּ‬24:3Ex | BHS
‫ַיִּבן ִמזְ ֵבּ ַח‬
ֶ ‫ַשׁ ֵכּם ַבּבּ ֶֹקר ו‬ ְ ‫ל־דּ ְב ֵרי יְהוָה ַויּ‬
ִ ‫ וַיִּ ְכתֹּב מ ֶֹשׁה ֵאת ָכּ‬4 ‫ַע ֶשׂה׃‬ ֲ ‫ר־דּ ֶבּר יְהוָה נ‬
ִ ‫ל־ה ְדּ ָב ִרים ֲא ֶשׁ‬ַ ‫ֹאמרוּ ָכּ‬ ְ ‫ַויּ‬
‫ַעלוּ עֹלֹת‬ ֲ ‫יִשׂ ָר ֵאל ַויּ‬
ְ ‫ַע ֵרי ְבּנֵי‬ ֲ ‫ וַיִּ ְשׁ ַלח ֶאת־נ‬5 ‫יִשׂ ָר ֵאל׃‬ְ ‫וּשׁ ֵתּים ֶע ְשׂ ֵרה ַמ ֵצּ ָבה ִל ְשׁנֵים ָע ָשׂר ִשׁ ְב ֵטי‬ ְ ‫ַתּ ַחת ָה ָהר‬
7 ‫ל־ה ִמּזְ ֵבּ ַח׃‬
ַ ‫ָרק ַע‬ ַ ‫ַח ִצי ַה ָדּם ז‬ ֲ ‫ָשׂם ָבּאַ ָגּנֹת ו‬ ֶ ‫ וַיִּ ַקּח מ ֶֹשׁה ֲח ִצי ַה ָדּם ַויּ‬6 ‫וַיִּזְ ְבּחוּ זְ ָב ִחים ְשׁ ָל ִמים ַליהוָה ָפּ ִרים׃‬
‫ת־ה ָדּם‬
ַ ‫ וַיִּ ַקּח מ ֶֹשׁה ֶא‬8 ‫ַע ֶשׂה וְ ִנ ְשׁ ָמע׃‬ ֲ ‫ר־דּ ֶבּר יְהוָה נ‬
ִ ‫ֹאמרוּ כֹּל ֲא ֶשׁ‬ְ ‫ַיִּק ָרא ְבּאָזְ נֵי ָה ָעם ַויּ‬ ְ ‫ַיִּקּח ֵס ֶפר ַה ְבּ ִרית ו‬
ַ ‫ו‬
‫ַעל מ ֶֹשׁה‬ ַ ‫ ַויּ‬9 ‫ל־ה ְדּ ָב ִרים ָה ֵא ֶלּה׃‬ ַ ‫ם־ה ְבּ ִרית ֲא ֶשׁר ָכּ ַרת יְ הוָה ִע ָמּ ֶכם ַעל ָכּ‬ ַ ‫ֹאמר ִהנֵּה ַד‬ ֶ ‫ל־ה ָעם ַויּ‬ָ ‫וַיִּזְ רֹק ַע‬
‫ וַיִּ ְראוּ ֵאת ֱאל ֵֹהי יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל וְ ַת ַחת ַר ְג ָליו ְכּ ַמ ֲע ֵשׂה ִל ְבנַת‬10 ‫יִשׂ ָר ֵאל׃‬ְ ‫ַא ִביהוּא וְ ִשׁ ְב ִעים ִמ ִזּ ְקנֵי‬
ֲ ‫ָדב ו‬ָ ‫אַהרֹן נ‬
ֲ ְ‫ו‬

ְ ‫ֹאכלוּ ו‬
ְ ‫ת־ה ֱאל ִֹהים ַויּ‬
ָ ‫ֶחזוּ ֶא‬
ֱ ‫יִשׂ ָר ֵאל לֹא ָשׁ ַלח יָדוֹ ַויּ‬
ְ ‫ילי ְבֵּי‬
ֵ ‫־א ִצ‬
ֲ ‫ וְ ֶאל‬11 ‫וּכ ֶע ֶצם ַה ָשּׁ ַמיִ ם ָלט ַֹהר׃‬
ְ ‫ַה ַסּ ִפּיר‬
• Priests were ordained by splashing the blood of sacrifices on them. What is the
intention of Moses’ splashing blood on “all the Israelites?
• How does the people’s responses to Moses’ question convey their embrace of the
• Why does the text describe the elders’ experience of a personal epiphany
(appearance of God)? How does the meeting with 70 elders reflect on the sealing
of the covenant?

From “How to Read the Bible” by James Kugel

But now, with God's offer to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai comes the promise of
some steadier, more defined interaction. "You," God says to Israel, "will be My treasured
possession from among all peoples . . . a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." To
understand the second half of this promise, it is essential to know that throughout the
ancient Near East, the priests of any given people were the ones who were uniquely
privileged to be in touch with their gods. The priests' job consisted of caring for the god's
house (that is, his temple), offering sacrifices in front of his image, and in general serving
him in the place where he was deemed to reside. By saying that Israel would become a
kingdom of priests, God seemed to be bypassing this common arrangement. He was
saying, in effect: You will all be My intimates—just keep these simple rules that make up
My covenant with you.
From “How to Read the Bible” by James Kugel

• What does it mean to be an “intimate” with God?

• How is the covenant an expression of God’s intimacy with Israel?

The Evening “Eternal Love” Prayer

• How does this prayer connect the covenant with God’s love?
• What is our responsibility for affirming that love? (What is our reciprocity?)
• What is the effect of God’s love on us? (What does it give us?)

The Morning “Great Love” Prayer

• What does God’s love of our ancestors have to do with God’s love for us?
• What is the effect of observing and understanding the mitzvot on us?
• How does “choseness” relate to God’s love for us? How does God show
that we are chosen?

What are the similarities and differences between the Jewish understanding of
God’s love and the Christian version as expressed in this classic text from John:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have
everlasting life" (John 3:16)

Mordechai Kaplan on Torah

Throughout the past this is what the Torah did for the Jew: It set up definite standards of
behavior. Conformity with its tenets and practices made one a good Jew, and the
reverence in which the Torah was held made one wish to earn that title. In the course of
his Jewish studies, the Jew should nowadays be fully apprised of the causes which have
rendered the Torah, in its traditional form, largely irrelevant to his needs. This knowledge
would clear the ground for that process of reinterpretation which would make the Jewish
tradition a means of stimulating our people to resume its quest for a good life. It should
be the purpose of adult Jewish study to train the Jew in that process of reinterpretation, so
that the tradition of his people, even if not infallible, might function as a potent influence
in shaping the ethical and spiritual ideals which alone can render life worth living.
Mordecai Kaplan, The Future of the American Jew, p. 476

• How does this text from Kaplan redefine the meaning that Torah has for us?
• How does the idea of God’s love find a place in Kaplan’s ideology?