Sibble Sunday: All I Really Need to Know I Learned at Mount Sinai (Exodus 21:1–24:18)

OK, running really quite late here, but it was the first week of classes, and I was working on some administrative stuff, so it’s all been a bit flurried, and better late than never, I suppose.

This is פָּרָשַׁת משפטים (“Civil Laws” portion), wherein we start getting into nitty-gritty administrative details of the Jewish state. The presumption is that, ahving given ten big laws of civil society, God simply continues talking, detailing everything else worth mentioning about how he expects the nation to be run.

The quick snarky summary: You can own slaves, but you have to free your male slave and make an honest woman of your female slave. People can be put to death for a staggering variety of crimes, some of them rather mild. Theft, assault, and zoophilia are bad, if you didn’t know that already. The sale and hire of livestock have all sorts of associated provisos. It’s nice to be compassionate. And stay the fuck away from foreign gods.

No, really, he means it about the foreign gods

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Wibble Wednesday: Legalese (Exodus 18:1–20:23)

Last week I was frantically hosed getting some things ready for primetime, and let the Wibble fall by the wayside. Particularly since some interesting stuff happens in this one, I figured it deserved some full attention. So here it is, one week late.

We come now to פָּרָשַׁת יתרו (“Jethro” portion), one of a fairly small number of parshot whose name is taken from a character therein (the other four characters who earn this dubious honor are Sarah, Korach, Balak, and Pinchas; the middle two are unequivocally regarded as villains, so it’s not nearly as fine a thing as it seems).

The quick snarky summary: Moses’s in-laws come to visit and tell him, in traditional in-law fashion, that he’s doing everything all wrong. They journey to a mountain, and have laws delivered them in fire and darkness and drama. These laws, although very impressively presented, are in large part the kind of thing that every remotely moral society had long since figured out for themselves.

I wonder why the name “Jethro” is nowadays mostly associated with Appalachian mountain men and Ian Anderson.

Wibble Wednesday: Redemption Songs (Exodus 13:17–17:16)

And we finally see the last of those pesky Egyptians, moving into the wandering-and-laws portion of Exodus. This is פָּרָשַׁת בשלח (“When he sent them” portion), getting us deep into this book. And no, I’m not pursuing some sort of long-term Bob Marley theming, but he’s just worked well for the last two weeks’ wibble titles.

The quick snarky summary: God charts out a safe route and provides physical protection to the fleeing people. The Israelites, having escaped Egypt with wealth and creature comforts, commence whining and do not stop for the next forty years. None of them lift a finger to help, although they do sing songs of thanks at one point.

If I hear one more word out of you kids I’m turning this Cloud of Glory around and going back to Egypt!