Thursday, March 31, 2005

LutheranShiksa Studies Torah (and Makes Soup)

I'm just beginning my online class on "Torah, Talmud and Mishnah"...mastering the challenge of reading the Tanakh, even an English translation, from right to left, and learning about the Oral Torah, the body of laws and commentaries used in concert with the Tanakh. Among other things, it enhances my appreciation of Jesus' essential Jewishness -- the way he tells stories, the way he explains himself. Read this rabbinical parable:

B. Seder Eliyahu Zuta 2:
[A heretic asserted that] Scripture was given to us from Sinai, but not Mishnah. [Elijah answered him thus:] My son, were not both Scripture and Mishnah given by the Almighty? Does the fact that they are different from each other mean that both cannot have been given by Him? By what parable may the question be elucidated? By the one of a mortal king who had two servants, whom he loved with perfect love. To one he gave a measure of wheat, and to the other a measure of wheat; to one a bundle of flax, and to the other a bundle of flax. What did the clever one of the two do? He took the flax and wove it into a napkin. He took the wheat and made it into fine flour by sifting the grain and grinding it. Then he kneaded the dough and baked it, set the loaf of bread on the table, spread the napkin over the bread, and left it to await the coming of the king.
But the foolish one did not do anything at all.
After a while the king came into his house and said to the two servants: My sons, bring me what I gave you. One brought out the table with the loaf of bread baked of fine flour on it, with the napkin spread over the bread. The other brought out his wheat in a basket with a bundle of flax over the wheat grains.
What a shame! What a disgrace!
So, too, when the Holy One gave the Torah to Israel, He gave it as wheat to be turned into fine flour and as flax to be turned into cloth for garments.

This is great stuff; I'm looking forward to digging deeper in the weeks to come.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that, as I am writing this, a huge pot of chicken soup is simmering in the kitchen. Here is my recipe (I don't measure, so you're on your own; relax, don't stress, taste as you go, it'll be fine): I take meaty chicken parts; chicken broth; a few peppercorns; salt; chopped onion, a generous amount of garlic, celery, carrot and maybe some other root veggies like parsnips and turnips to make things a little more interesting. I put all this in a pot, top it off with water, bring it to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer it until the chicken is cooked through. I add a generous amount of dillweed (fresh if you can get it, which -- alas -- one cannot here in Outer Podunk) and a generous handful of parsley toward the end of the cooking. If you want chicken and rice soup, that's the time to add some rice. Or you can pour the soup over cooked noodles of your choice. Tonight I'm making spaetzle -- the little freeform dumplings -- and dropping them in the simmering soup.

This soup will cure most things that ail you, and it will also make your house smell wonderful. So make it already -- you look thin. Mazel tov!


bls said...

Sounds very interesting. It's wonderful to read about our much-further-back heritage, and as you say, it makes our own understanding of the Gospels and to Jesus that much clearer and closer.

I read a wonderful book awhile back: "The Discovery of God: Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism," by a fairly conservative Jewish writer, David Klinghoffer. (Of course by conservative Christian standards, he's a wide-eyed, raving lunatic leftist.) Anyway, some wonderful deep-background stuff on the earliest stories in the Bible, and a beginners'-level (for me, I mean) discussion of the oral vs. the written traditions - something I'd like to know much more about.

The oral tradition sheds much light on the Torah, and contains material totally unknown to most Christians.

LutheranChik said...

Ah, another book! My hometown bookseller thanks you very much for his support.;-) (I'm his very bestest friend now...he just grins whenever I walk in and automatically hauls out his special-order forms.)

One of the books I'm reading is "Return to the Sources," edited by Barry Holtz, an anthology of commentaries on the classic Jewish texts. One of the things that appeal to me about the Jewish approach to studying Scripture is the looseness and openness to continuing revelation -- a mindset that, unlike the "me and Jesus under the blanket with a flashlight" subjectivity of some sectors in Christianity, works because it coexists with a religious culture centered on community discernment -- people hashing ideas out together. And coming from a church culture that is very cerebral, very "thinky," much inclined to dissection of Scripture, I appreciate gaining the balance of this other, more intuitive's like a communal lectio divina.

Yeah...I'm very interested in the oral tradition as well. And Jesus would have been steeped in all of this, not just the Tanakh.

bls said...

(I should add that, as I recall, Klinghoffer did attempt to advance the "Bible does not contradict itself" position. So if you're put off by that, you may not like the book and may want to brain me for suggesting it. So I'm CMA here.

Me, though, I "take what I need and leave the rest" these days. IOW, he's a crackpot on that point, so I ignore it and look at all the really interesting scholarship.

Know what I mean?)

bls said...

Thanks for that soup recipe, BTW. Love the soup, and gonna try it sometime.

LutheranChik said...

Speaking of taking what you can use and leaving the rest...I recently found out, to my dismay, that Braaten and Jenson, the two theologians I referred to in my post about going back for Mary, participated in a letter drafted by, I think, 17 ELCA theologians who object to full inclusion. My first thought was, "Oh, crap." My second was, as my pastor likes to say, "Have you ever been wrong about anything?"