THE OLD TESTAMENT MODIFIED

When Carol and I were raising our children, we would tell them jokes that we heard. If they were to risqué, we would modify them to suit their ages. I believe both of our children do the same thing to their kids. I am sure that many parents do a similar thing.
Our Rabbi is on sabbatical. That means that at Friday night services, we civilians take turns at running services. At a certain point in the service, there is a place for commentary of the bible portion for the week. The portion is usually called a parsha. There are many interpretations over 3000 years of what the
Rabbis and philosophers have written about almost every single part of the bible. There are even those who derive mystical numerations from each book of the torah. If you look at the first word, “In the beginning ( Breached) and the last word Israel and put them together, you get a certain meaning. It is almost enough to drive you crazy if you read a bunch of them.
It was my turn to do the commentary this week. It is Chapter 37 to Chapter 40 of Genesis. Although I was not leading the service, those who did, asked me to do the commentary. I had not even looked at that part of the bible in many years. Not that I am a biblical scholar, but I did go to yeshiva (Jewish parochial school) until I was eleven. I can even read some Aramaic and Yiddish (thirteen century German with Hebrew thrown in).
I was not prepared to comment on this section of the bible. It is filled with things that children should not hear and it is filled with casual violence and sexual misdeeds. I knew that the Old Testament had these things in them, but not to the extent that these four chapters did. Jacob tells his favorite son, Joseph to spy on his other brothers. How about beginning with the almost murder of Joseph by his brothers? How about they sell him to some wandering tribes of Ishmaelite or Midionites into slavery.
How about the brothers of Joseph Dan and Nephtali slaughtering a whole town for something one person did to their sister? How about God striking down Judah’s sons Er and Onan- one because he could not impregnate his wife and the other for not wanting to raise his brother’s children, even though he would be impregnating his sister-in-law. Yes, he spills his seed upon the ground. How about teaching that in Sunday school?
How about Judah (another of Joseph’s brothers), losing his wife and then, “by accident” copulating with his daughter-in-law (disguised as a strumpet), and gives her two children. He also tries to have her burned alive for her misdeeds till he finds out that he was the one she was “misdeeding” with.
Although there are many other parts of the old testament that are pretty darned violent. This portion kind of got to me. I can handle God doing away with whole cities, nations, and the entire world (Noah), but this section is so much more detailed in the violence manner. I must remember that we are not talking about contemporary society. We don’t do those things any more, do we?

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