Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bob's log and Sufficiency now blogging at Me afar (out)

Please update your links and readers to's where I will be posting 95% of the time - one person one blog till I run out of room again.  I am working through the Song of Songs - No one should miss a verse or be averse to correcting me if necessary.

Monday, March 15, 2010



There are tons of tafs in מגילת רות, the scroll of Ruth. Of course it is a grammatical letter and so more common. The first thing to note about this last letter is how it substitutes for a ה when forming a construct. The root of that word above is מגלה, used for example in Psalm 40:7

בִּמְגִלַּת־סֵפֶר כָּתוּב עָלָי

In the scroll of the book it is written of me
מגלה is not a particularly common word (but a related word did occur this past Sunday morning in the lesson from Joshua 5:9,
הַיֹּום גַּלֹּותִי אֶת־חֶרְפַּת מִצְרַיִם מֵעֲלֵיכֶם 
today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you
hence the name Gilgal. (Who says etymology is unimportant - roll-scroll to you!) Note here too that the reproach has been modified from absolute to construct, from חרפה to חֶרְפַּת

This replacement occurs when adding an object pronoun to a feminine ending for a verb - how about this example from Ruth 2:13?
כִּי נִחַמְתָּנִי
for you have comforted me
This taf is a normal part of the second person qal perfect suffix. The additional nun helps identify the remainder of the suffix as a first person object pronoun.

A third suffix in which ת plays a part is the feminine plural (vav-taf or holem/taf ot).  ת is also common in the role of prefix. Remember that א gives us a signal as a first person singular imperfect, ת is a signal as a second or third person singular or plural imperfect. 

The whole of verse 13 illustrates all five of these uses
אֶמְצָא-חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ אֲדֹנִי
כִּי נִחַמְתָּנִי
וְכִי דִבַּרְתָּ עַל-לֵב שִׁפְחָתֶךָ
וְאָנֹכִי לֹא אֶהְיֶה כְּאַחַת שִׁפְחֹתֶיךָ
and she said,
taf prefix signals the third person imperfect (preterite)
let me find favor in your eyes my Lord
for you have comforted me
taf is the second person singular suffix (masculine in this case) qal perfect as is the first taf in the next line
for you have spoken to the heart of your handmaid
שפחה became שִׁפְחָתֶ forming construct from absolute
and I myself am not one or your handmaids
the holem-taf represents the feminine plural - in this case there is no vav with the taf to illustrate as a reading helper.

If we back up a bit to Ruth 1:8, we find another grammatical role for taf in the ending תֶם- for second person plural qal perfect. As noted previously, (Ruth - Vol 7 in The Anchor Bible by Edward Campbell, 1975) this masculine pattern may be a dual. The feminine תֶן is not found in Ruth (at least I could not see one).
כַּאֲשֶׁר עֲשִׂיתֶם עִם-הַמֵּתִים וְעִמָּדִי
Taf does have a number of words where it plays a part in the root. Even some of these like בַּיִת (house) may be derived from a verb in this case בָּנָה in this case ending in ה. As a final letter, it is third in מות, death, though is this a real tri-literal root or is the vav a meter here? The latter, I think.

But this exercise of reading Ruth letter by letter is now declared complete even though it could go on forever!
Time to tend another vineyard. I think I will retranslate the Song - in fact I think I will look at all the megillot and put these into my new/old peculiar Poetry and Flowers blog. I notice that this Sufficiency blog now has a backup larger than 4M so I think I will blog elsewhere. Look for me at the links and please do update your aggretors and stay in touch. Just look at all the grammatical letters here: 8 of 14, > 50%. Can you read this verse?
כַּרְמִי שֶׁלִּי לֹא נָטָרְתִּי

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Essence

Henry Neufeld has posted briefly on Finding and Protecting the Essentials. There is probably a ton of stuff on this subject - essentials and Christianity - on the web ranging from the turgid to the polemical. (In my earlier days, I even wrote on it.) It can be a divisive subject. Perhaps that is why there are as many varieties of Christian denominations in North America as there are varieties of cheese in France. "Come ye out from among them and be separate. Touch nothing unclean." And so on.

I began to wonder though what I do regard as Essence - note the singular. And the capital. This morning there were 5 sermons from five lay women at the parish I used to attend. (Besides some other issues, I can't manage to sing the hymns in that hymn book without getting angry - but that is not the Essence).  My wife was #4 of 5 and she was also singing the alto in the Et in Unum from the B Minor Mass so I decided to skip 'my' church this morning and attend at St John the Divine.

The third sermon was on the creative process of sculpting and was based on the healing of the leper. You remember (Matthew 8:1 and parallel)

"Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." And he stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one
On the creative process, she emphasized the need to wait and in that one word, she communicated waiting on God for the inspiration, the aha moment. After that, she said, there is available all the necessary time for construction and there is no hurry. About this healing, she touched on the beauty of the choice of Jesus in healing the leper, that act of election that I have had coming into my mind these past several months, the freedom of God to act, and the recognition of that freedom in the leper. (Not to mention touch.)

As she said these things, I thought of the essence for me: (that's free association on my part!).

Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (John 6:26 ff). This is part of a poetic chiastic structure which you can see at this link.

Let's see if I can copy it across - yup it's readable...

Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 
    Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.
        Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus then said to them,
            "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Lord, give us this bread always." 
                Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.
                    But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
                        All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out.
                            For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
                                The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus answered them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. 
                            No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.'
                        Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father.
                    Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
                I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.
            I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.
        The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me
    This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.
This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

This is Essence to me - but it can go by many names and it happens by the choice of God, not by my argumentation. As he lives, so I live, come what may. But there are others who do not know him as I have come to know him in part and who do not even know his name, who have no theology of incarnation. He is able to draw them to himself also, without turgidity or polemics. So may it be that the church might not water itself down, but also that it might not engage in defending its essentials with polemics and unreadable prose.

The ark will not stumble.

Ruth and Targum Ruth

Chris Brady is just coming to his presentations of Ruth in the traditions of the Targumim. He writes:

This paper is part of my larger work on Targum Ruth. This summer I will be presenting a paper at IOTS on the character of Boaz in Tg Ruth. But first, we need to consider how Boaz is presented in the biblical text.

It's very timely for me that Chris would write this now. Readers of this blog will know that I have been living with the text of Ruth for more than a year and I am just finishing my bootstrap exercise of hearing the grammar of Hebrew by reading Ruth letter by letter to see how each letter sounds in the story. I was, months ago, particularly struck by 'tet', a letter I have named as scorekeeper for the grammatical first eleven (a cricket metaphor). Tet occurs in the word gleaning and 25% of the uses of this word occur in chapter 2 of Ruth.

When I began reading Ruth, I did immediately notice that it was a story meant to be performed. I imagined sitting around a campfire to hear it. I am hoping to continue telling it as story. It is the first book I attempted to read in Hebrew without helps (it was a failure for me a year ago as I read chapter 1 - now I think I am up to about 50% able to read without helps). It needs to find its audience in this strange time where purpose, poverty, and social relationships are not heard as story.

See also this paper on the use of the scrolls in Jewish Liturgy - the fascinating history related to the canonical order of the 5 scrolls is much later than one might think.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sin /Shin

In contrast to samech, shin and sin are very common, but the grammatical use of shin is comparatively rare. Do we perceive its grammatical usage in Ruth? It is the weakest player on the first 11. It's curious that S in English is a common indicator of possessive and plural, but shin in Hebrew plays only one role as prefix though with several glosses - also, and 'that' which seems at first to be an abbreviation of the relative pronoun asher (very common in later Rabbinic writings - note the frequency here). BDB (p 979) thinks is is an original demonstrative particle. It qualifies for the first team - and it's a better fit than tet as the candidate to fill out the split of the alefbet in two equal halves that Saadya suggested.

Shin as a relative particle does not occur in Ruth but does in several Psalms and other parts of the wisdom literature. E.g. Psalm 122:3-4

יְרוּשָׁלִַם הַבְּנוּיָה כְּעִיר שֶׁחֻבְּרָה־לָּהּ יַחְדָּו
שֶׁשָּׁם עָלוּ שְׁבָטִים שִׁבְטֵי־יָהּ עֵדוּת לְיִשְׂרָאֵל לְהֹדֹות לְשֵׁם יְהוָה
Jerusalem is built as a city which is coupled - belonging to her of his unity
that there the tribes go up, testimony to Israel to give thanks to the name of  יְהוָה

I don't know what to make of the pronouns in that verse. How would you translate it? My Hebrew Latin concordance treats the word at the end of verse 3 almost as a synonym of יחד. For יחד yachad it gives: unitio, coniunctio, unitim, coniunctim (strange endings!). For יַחְדָּו  yachadav it gives: coniunctim, una; simul, eodem tempore; pariter, pari modo; cuncti.

No one seems to translate the pronoun following the pual verb חבר which may be glossed among these: to unite, join, bind together, be joined, be coupled, be in league, heap up, have fellowship with, be compact, be a charmer - or your preference.

There is also a short word yod-shin comprised of the first team letters that might qualify as a grammatical use pointer. Yesh יֵשׁ - 'there is' is the opposite of 'ain אֵין - 'there is not'. I think I would include both as grammatical particles. Ruth 1:12, and 3:12 gives us instances of the former:
יֶשׁ־לִי תִקְוָה
there is to me hope
וְגַם יֵשׁ גֹּאֵל קָרֹוב מִמֶּנִּי
but surely there is a redeemer closer than I

One more post to go on Taf - itself a grammatical letter of considerable interest and importance.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Vengeance and violence

David Ker has a provocative post. I admit I have not been reading all of David's posts - too many cartoons this year. I really am too serious. But this man is a creative writer and he is spending himself for others. And his questions have raised an abnormally 'interesting' conversation.

Why have I come to love the TNK and how do I put up with the fierce God of the OT? And not to mention the purity laws which I do not follow and the clobber texts and the desire for vengeance in the Psalms and the ban in Joshua and so on and on and on.

Over the years I have had various responses to these questions. I read Peter Craigie's The Problem of War in the Old Testament, and though I loved Peter before his untimely death years ago in a car accident, and I am delighted that his son Gregor is our morning show host on CBC Victoria, and though I have read the book twice, I cannot say that I understand the problem as problem or that I need to remember any particular solution. Craigie treats war as parable and stresses that the whole parable must be read to learn its lessons - not just the wars of conquest but also the defeats. His 120 page essay is not to be reduced to a soundbite. There is, however, more than war in the OT. But his suggested approaches are not why I love this human record.

I writing this after a busy and stretched day. I have been stretched in the exercise of rigid logic. How can I pretend to be a theologian or a Biblical interpreter when I understand how easy it is to be wrong. I have spent my life in software. I know bugs and incompleteness and unexpected results and things that won't ever deliver value. If such obvious things are incomplete, how can any reading of Scripture be complete? How can any one of us frame an argument that is without holes? How can the lawyers or the priests or the scribes or the scholars convince us of anything with accuracy?

They can't. Why then, would God be able to do it? He didn't. He lets consequences happen and we interpret within whatever framework we must. This is as true for 'His Word' as it is for any other book or set of books. There are all sorts of incompletenesses, errors, omissions, and things we read that we should not take as good examples.

Re the violence - I used to be an allegorizer. Amalekites are the flesh. Egypt is the world. Of temporizing use perhaps. I.e. only allegorize while you are treading water to catch your breath. In fact, Egypt is loved and so is Amalek. I have heard about Marcion - but the bridle of blood is no less evident in the NT. So how about a universalist absorption of violence? Isn't that what the cross has done? Maybe in part and maybe even theoretically, but practically, in the hands of Christendom, it has a bad reputation. The words won't justify the failure of action and the failure in action. Christendom needed to collapse and it has. Its teachers did not know their own story and did not know the power that this death accomplishes in those who hear. Nor did it acknowledge the rule of God "O'er heathen lands afar", where "thick darkness broodeth yet!" Such talk is colonial. It does not know of what Spirit it speaks.

But I am still stuck - so why do I spend my time reading TNK and that slowly? Not to justify it. But because it points me to a choice I do not seem to have invented, to an anointing not preached to me but which can be found, to a chosen nation and an anointed man, and to the way real things happen and real teaching to a real me as part of this election. This God is free. Free to chose or not. Free to ignore, Free to correct. I will know as I have been known. I have been known so I will know. I will read out and I will read in to these texts in the joy of the knowledge that has been read into me and that speaks in me.

There is so much hurt in this world. You can't move without noticing. How can one 'find words' to bring a hint of the comfort that is available to the elect but that is not yet entered into?

As Craigie writes at the end of his essay:

What is remarkable about the wars of Israel is the religious insight with which they were recorded and understood. God was believed to participate in human history; in this belief, the Israelites were not unique. But from no other Near Eastern nation did there emerge a vision of peace and an anticipation of the redemption of all mankind as there did from the disastrous defeat of the Hebrew people in war.
Perhaps I should have chosen the great lament of Psalm 89, but what occurs to me is the invitation from Psalm 34.

determined I sought יְהוָה and he heard me
and from all my fears he delivered me
him they paid attention to and were radiant
and their faces were not embarrassed
zis poor one calls and יְהוָה hears

Now you must read the whole acrostic diatribe on Psalm 34. David, it seems we have been wrestling with this question of our violence for some time. Don't let go till you are blessed.


Resh is common.It is not grammatical. If it is part of the word, it is part of the root. While it occurs frequently in Ruth, it is the first letter of only a few words, Ruth, famine, see, empty, wash, Ram. Curious, eh?

So if you see that you are empty and hungry, wash and anoint yourself...
אִם רֵיקָם וְרָעֵבָה תִּרְאֶה רָחַצְתְּ וָסַכְתְּ

(that is still all feminine singular - should the adjectives agree with the subject of the verb (you singular feminine)? Empty appears to be indeclinable. Hungry can take a feminine ending e.g. Psalm 107:9, נֶפֶשׁ רְעֵבָה).

We begin with Ruth 1:1
וַיְהִי רָעָב בָּאָרֶץ
famine in the land,

And we have empty twice, once in Ruth 1:21 and once in Ruth 3:17
רֵיקָם אֶל-חֲמוֹתֵךְ
empty to your mother-in-law
Wash is in Ruth 3:3
וְרָחַצְתְּ וָסַכְתְּ
so wash yourself and anoint yourself
פרק spells chapter - three of our most recent letters. And resh occurs many times as second and third letter of a root. So land / earth אָרֶץ above. And שאר bereft (also Ruth 1:5), אשר, the relative pronoun (anagram of bereft), עֶשֶׂר ten (also Ruth 4:2), said (frequent and part of the backbone of the story) e.g. וַתֹּאמֶר נָעֳמִי and Naomi said. Resh has a sad sound - so bitter קְרֶאןָ לִי מָרָא call me Mara, and after אחר. Resh and Dalet are easily confused, especially at lower point sizes. (Test yourself with the lower point sizes on this word.)

But resh is also in the blessing of Ruth 2:4, the origin of our liturgical greetings - how well can you read this without translation? After many grammar and reading lessons, I can do it. My hit rate for a random scriptural passage is about 50% after 3 years. I mean, about half the words I will have to look up - and I still need to stop and read and think. There is no auto-recognition yet.

וְהִנֵּה-בֹעַז בָּא מִבֵּית לֶחֶם
וַיֹּאמֶר לַקּוֹצְרִים
יְהוָה עִמָּכֶם
וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ
יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה

Monday, March 8, 2010



Qof, the second part of minding my p's and q's will take us back over the gleaning - so we won't repeat everything we have covered with tet, a letter that gave more pleasure than expected. We also encountered harvest and reaper in the study of tsade. I have repeated a phrase or two just for eyeball practice. Thinking about sound, it seems really necessary to be able to distinguish with the ear many similar sounding guttural letters: chet, kaf, qof and their interactions with the many sibilants and dentals.

Ruth 1:6-7 - one might almost call qof a letter of hope. It occurs in the movement of the word to rise and in the visit of Hashem to his people and in the place prepared for us

וַתָּקָם הִיא וְכַלֹּתֶיהָ
and she arose, she and her daughters in law
כִּי-פָקַד יְהוָה אֶת-עַמּוֹ
that יְהוָה had visited his people

(place also in Ruth 3:4, 4:10)
וַתֵּצֵא מִן-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר הָיְתָה-שָּׁמָּה
and she emerged from the place where she was

Ruth 1:9, bracket closed in Ruth 1:14 - it occurs in the kiss and in the call
וַתִּשַּׁק לָהֶן
וַתִּשֶּׂאנָה קוֹלָן וַתִּבְכֶּינָה
and she kissed them
and they lifted up their voice and wept

Ruth 1:12 and in old age it is not absent even when expressly negated
כִּי זָקַנְתִּי מִהְיוֹת לְאִישׁ
כִּי אָמַרְתִּי יֶשׁ-לִי תִקְוָה
for I am too old to have a husband
for had I said there is hope for me

Ruth 1:14 (stay close also in Ruth 2:8, 21, 23) - see where else you find it - stay close.
וַתִּשֶּׂנָה קוֹלָן וַתִּבְכֶּינָה עוֹד
וַתִּשַּׁק עָרְפָּה לַחֲמוֹתָהּ
וְרוּת דָּבְקָה בָּהּ
and they lifted up their voice and wept further
and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law
but Ruth stayed close to her

Ruth 1:17 - it is not even absent from burial
וְשָׁם אֶקָּבֵר
and there I am buried

Ruth 1:20 - and in the call of a lament, Hashem does not ignore it
אַל-תִּקְרֶאנָה לִי נָעֳמִי
קְרֶאןָ לִי מָרָא
do not call me Naomi
call me Mara

Ruth 1:21, (also for empty, Ruth 3:17). It embraces emptiness
אֲנִי מְלֵאָה הָלַכְתִּי
וְרֵיקָם הֱשִׁיבַנִי יְהוָה
לָמָּה תִקְרֶאנָה לִי נָעֳמִי
I myself full went away
and empty יְהוָה has returned me
why call me Naomi

Ruth 1:22 and speaks to us of gleaning, harvest,
בִּתְחִלַּת קְצִיר שְׂעֹרִים
at the beginning of the barley harvest
Ruth 2:3 and chance itself
וַתֵּלֶךְ וַתָּבוֹא וַתְּלַקֵּט
 בַּשָּׂדֶה אַחֲרֵי הַקֹּצְרִים
וַיִּקֶר מִקְרֶהָ
חֶלְקַת הַשָּׂדֶה לְבֹעַז
and she went and she came and she gleaned
in the field after the reapers
and she happened to happen
on the part of the field of Boaz

Ruth 2:14 - Its end is feast
 וַיִּצְבָּט-לָהּ קָלִי וַתֹּאכַל
and he heaped her parched grain and she ate

Ruth 2:20 (also Ruth 3:12) - it is in those that are near
קָרוֹב לָנוּ הָאִישׁ
near to us is the man

Ruth 3:1 (also for rest Ruth 3:18) and in rest
בִּתִּי הֲלֹא אֲבַקֶּשׁ-לָךְ מָנוֹחַ
my daughter do I not seek for you rest

Ruth 3:13-14 - and it will be in the morning
 וְהָיָה בַבֹּקֶר
and it will be in the morning

Its sound continues in chapter 4 with several new words as if this is a sound that goes with new things in the completing of the story. Ruth 4:2 (got / took also in Ruth 4:13, 16). It is in the purchase of our body with the field.
וַיִּקַּח עֲשָׂרָה אֲנָשִׁים מִזִּקְנֵי הָעִיר
and he got ten men of the elders of the city
Ruth 4:3
חֶלְקַת הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר לְאָחִינוּ לֶאֱלִימֶלֶךְ
the portion of the field of our brother Elimelek
Ruth 4:4 - This use of buy (here and in Ruth 4:5, 8, 9, 10) is of interest in considering the potential allegory of redemption and harvest in this story.Is this story an allegory of hope?
לֵאמֹר קְנֵה נֶגֶד הַיֹּשְׁבִים
to say will you buy before those sitting here

Ruth 4:16 - the last new word containing qof, unique in Ruth here, is the sound of a mother embracing her child.
וַתִּקַּח נָעֳמִי אֶת-הַיֶּלֶד
 וַתְּשִׁתֵהוּ בְחֵיקָהּ
and Naomi got the child
and set him in her lap

The last qof comes with the hope invested in the Beloved king
Ruth 4:17
וַתִּקְרֶאנָה לוֹ הַשְּׁכֵנוֹת שֵׁם לֵאמֹר
יֻלַּד-בֵּן לְנָעֳמִי
וַתִּקְרֶאנָה שְׁמוֹ עוֹבֵד
הוּא אֲבִי-יִשַׁי אֲבִי דָוִד
and the women neighbours called him a name saying
a son is born to Naomi
and they called his name Obed.
He is the father of Jesse the father of David

Saturday, March 6, 2010

OK what does this mean and why the big letters?

Some letters may also be bolded but the text is too ambiguous to my eyes to be sure. The text occurs at the end of the Psalter. I will make a stab at it (better than Google's!) But I find it strange that there is no version of it on the web.

ח ז ק
סכום פסוקי דספר תהלים אלפים וחמש מאות ועשרים ושבעה.
וסימנו יי׳ אהבתי מעוץ ביתך ומקום משכן כבודך. וחציו
ויפתוהו בפיהם. וסדריו תשעה עשר. וסימנו המשביע בטוב עדיך:

Here's the first cut from Google translate:
Psalm verses sum Desperreau thousand five hundred and twenty-seven.Signaled Yi 'I loved your home and place of the tabernacle of Oz your honor. HalfOiftohu mouths. Arrange nine ten. Signaled Hmsbia well Adich:

Hmm seems to be missing something....
 These words do not appear to be normal Biblical words. Some words I don't recognize so let's go one at a time.
? I can't find this one yet - related to sum? סכום
verse - not in BDB but I can believe it פסוקי
? not this one either but the last three letters are the common word - to recount or a book  דספר
prayers / psalms תהלים
and five וחמש
hundred מאות
and twenty ועשרים
seven ושבעה
and he has marked them וסימנו
Hashem  יי׳
I have loved אהבתי
the habitation of מעוץ
your house ביתך
and the place of ומקום
the dwelling of משכן
your glory כבודך
and its divisions וחציו
and they will open it  ויפתוהו
in their mouths בפיהם
and he has arranged it וסדריו
nine תשעה
ten עשר
and he has marked them וסימנו
the satisfaction - or an imperative? satisfy / promise המשביע
in the good בטוב
of your counsels עדיך
So guessing away -- help --:
To grow strong (or strength)
The sum of the verses in the Book of the Psalms are five hundred and twenty seven and Hashem has marked them. I have loved the habitation of your house and the place of the dwelling of your glory. So its divisions will open it in their mouths and he has arranged it nine and ten. And he has marked them as satisfaction in the good of your counsels.
So I counted the verses - I get 2408 from my database but I better check further... And the sum of the verses as gematria is 41505. And the sum of the chapters 11325 - but who would want to know!

Friday, March 5, 2010


ץ צ
Words ending with tsade are not uncommon. Land or earth is present with us even as a 'borrowed' word in English in the phrase 'eretz Israel'. This letter has a formative potential in the sound of the story. It is repeated in some significant words. The anticipation of the 'ts' is in chapter 1, but it is the major sound of chapter 2 and after the first few verses of chapter 3 it ceases till the mention of Perez in chapter 4. I have not heard this in any reading I have heard but I am convinced it should be there. The reading at Mechon-Mamre is a little too monochromatic for my taste. Maybe some day I will record it in Hebrew. (but not for a while I assure you)

Here is the trailing 'ts' in the first verse, Ruth 1:1. I will leave the greening of the grammatical letters to you.

וַיְהִי רָעָב בָּאָרֶץ
and there was a famine in the land.
Again in Ruth 1:7,
לָשׁוּב אֶל-אֶרֶץ יְהוּדָה
to return to the land of Judah
and twice more in Ruth 2:10 - a related form
וַתִּשְׁתַּחוּ אָרְצָה
and bowed down to the earth
and Ruth 2:11
וְאֶרֶץ מוֹלַדְתֵּךְ
the land of your birth
Ruth 2:15 has another unique word - dipping in vinegar. This story lends itself to allegory. Do you think it will be revealed to me? Maybe I am old enough now not to consume the knowledge foolishly.
וְטָבַלְתְּ פִּתֵּךְ בַּחֹמֶץ
and dip your piece in the vinegar

Ruth 3:13 has the letter again in an allegorically significant word. When we get back to real story, we will hear it.
וְאִם-לֹא יַחְפֹּץ לְגָאֳלֵךְ
and if he is not pleased to redeem you

also 3 times in the proper name פָּרֶץ

There is only one word beginning with tsade in Ruth
Ruth 2:9
הֲלוֹא צִוִּיתִי אֶת-הַנְּעָרִים לְבִלְתִּי נָגְעֵךְ
have I not commanded the lads not to touch you
Ruth 2:15
וַיְצַו בֹּעַז אֶת-נְעָרָיו לֵאמֹר
and Boaz commanded his lads

Used again in Ruth 3:6 
אֲשֶׁר-צִוַּתָּה חֲמוֹתָהּ
as her mother-in-law commanded

There are a number of words that contain the sound, some of them key repetitions or concepts in the tale.
Ruth 1:7, 1:13, 2:18, 2:22 come out
וַתֵּצֵא מִן-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר הָיְתָה-שָּׁמָּה
and she came out from the place where she was
Ruth 1:9, 2:2, 2:10, 2:13 find
וּמְצֶאןָ מְנוּחָה
may you find rest
Ruth 1:18 (once only, also the last letter of this root, אָמֵץ)
וַתֵּרֶא כִּי-מִתְאַמֶּצֶת הִיא
and she saw that she was determined
Ruth 1:22, 2:21, 2:23 harvest
בִּתְחִלַּת קְצִיר שְׂעֹרִים
at the beginning of the harvest of barley
Ruth 2:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 14 reapers - as with gleaning, Ruth has more of these in one place than any other book.
בַּשָּׂדֶה אַחֲרֵי הַקֹּצְרִים
in the field after the reapers
Ruth 2:5, 6 standing - a better gloss is called for
הַנִּצָּב עַל-הַקּוֹצְרִים
standing by the reapers
Ruth 2:9 thirst
וְצָמִת וְהָלַכְתְּ אֶל-הַכֵּלִים
and you thirst, and you go to the vessels
Ruth 2:14 beside and heaped - this is a key part of the story too - Boaz is smitten
וַתֵּשֶׁב מִצַּד הַקֹּצְרִים
 וַיִּצְבָּט-לָהּ קָלִי וַתֹּאכַל
and she herself sat beside the reapers
and he heaped her parched grain and she ate
Ruth 2:16 bundles
תָּשֹׁלּוּ לָהּ מִן-הַצְּבָתִים
draw out for her from the bundles
Ruth 3:3 wash
וְרָחַצְתְּ וָסַכְתְּ
so wash yourself and anoint yourself
Ruth 3:7 another preposition
וַיָּבֹא לִשְׁכַּב בִּקְצֵה הָעֲרֵמָה
and he came to lie down at the end of a heap
Ruth 3:8 and another preposition
וַיְהִי בַּחֲצִי הַלַּיְלָה
and it was the middle of the night

Then the sound stops till we find it in proper names in the middle and at the end.
פֶּרֶץ הוֹלִיד אֶת-חֶצְרוֹן
Perez bore Hetsron

10 Questions from Bishop Alan

This looked like an interesting meme to me so I thought I would try it.I have not read any of the book that Bishop Alan discusses nor will I. Too busy.

Here are the 10 questions
  1. What is the overarching story line of the Bible?
  2. How should the Bible be understood?
  3. Is God violent?
  4. Who is Jesus and why is he important?
  5. What is the Gospel?
  6. What do we do about the Church?
  7. Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?
  8. Can we find a better way of viewing the future?
  9. How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
  10. How can we translate our quest into action?
My short answers
  1. A love song - see the The Song of Songs
  2. Literally but paying attention to all sources of information scientific, literary, cultural, and theological.
  3. No, but we are. And we are very good at justifying violence and retribution and attributing such to God. That is even more a projection than the attribution of love. God has demonstrated non-violence definitively in the person of Jesus.
  4. Jesus exhibits God's character. As Harold Bloom notes The Lord of the Old Testament is anthropomorphic and the Jesus of the New Testament is theomorphic. 
  5. God is love - the anointing Spirit that God shares with us is the proof. Just take God seriously and ask the source of that love.
  6. Rule in the midst of your enemies. (Psalm 110:2)
  7. Yes. See point 1. The lovers are unmarried. Male or female, each of us can find the answer to the question through the anointing Spirit.
  8. We need to work for hope and belonging as our local shelter 'Our Place' has as its motto. I don't know that the future is open to our gaze, but the present has need enough.
  9. With respect. See point 1.
  10. However we are called - so we had better be listening.
While I'm at this, a question that Mark Nanos asked me 4 years ago is still with me: If Jesus is the Messiah, why is the world still in such a state? I found a riposte to that question - not an answer. Why did prophecy cease in Israel? It is an equally loaded question of course and touches on the Muslim claim of Mohammad as the seal of the prophets. I may say I must respect other people's beliefs. But I don't agree with them. Is that possible? It is strange, because I have learned so much through the Jewish scriptures and so little through those of Islam. I often am angry at my own traditions of Christianity also. How can I even come to unity in myself and sing the Schema as I do every week in our Sunday School?

Take my ten answers as ten contradictions.

Habakkuk 3 - a second look

First look is here. How do different parts of Scripture look to me when I get out of the poetry of the writings and read other books? Not impossibly different, but there are variations in words and bits of grammar that are strangely different from what I have so far seen. John Hobbins is hoping for some discussion of Hebrew verb forms and what we would see in them related to tense, aspect, and mood.

Here is one question that I noted on the grammar: what is the personal pronoun at the end of this verse, Habakkuk 3:4?

ד וְנֹגַהּ כָּאוֹר תִּהְיֶה
קַרְנַיִם מִיָּדוֹ לוֹ
וְשָׁם חֶבְיוֹן עֻזֹּה

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another fascinating commentary

This week's commentary from JTS again has much to teach.

Rome and Greece

Beloved, the time has come to return to story. I pull a section from the youth of Gaius in which he tells us of his upbringing at the hands of a tortured man who worked in Seneca's school nearly 80 years ago.

It wasn't just one person or place that influenced me. There were many over many years. I wonder when it was that my ears opened or in some ways when they closed. Discernment is both taking in and refusing to take in. And what content! First Seneca and his school: nine years at an impressionable age - from the fifteenth year of Tiberias until the first of my namesake Gaius Caligula. Such strength of tradition - Roman tradition with its momentum of conquest; Just do the training and you will rise into prominence and power - an understated motto of what was expected - Recti cultus pectora roborant - Right learning would make you strong. The Empire - just born and already corrupt - and it was pretending to know what was right. Nonetheless, it was an influence, this training. It fostered my natural striving. And I had interests to protect - even if only my own self-interest. The stories of that time impress their ignorance on me.

There was some attempt to teach us the conquered cultures. Besides Livy and Virgil for History and Catullus for entertainment, we studied Euclid, Aristotle, Plato, Homer, and some of the Jewish and Babylonian writings. It was necessary to know our borders. These last areas came under the subject of religion - taught on Mondays and Thursdays if I remember correctly. And of course, we had to give lip service to the deity of the Caesars and attend the sacrifices. Such ignorance! You would have thought the teachers would know more than they did but it turned out that our generation had to discover everything for ourselves. I shouldn't be so hard on some of them. They had the same ignorance to deal with as I had and a few did well, better in fact than some of my own generation who reduce some human complexities to a throw of the dice.

Seneca himself was a Stoic and demanded the same considerable self-denial from his staff. If he had not, I expect we would all have been swallowed up by the libertine spirit of the age. But the staff had absolute power over the students and trained us in the use of the same power.

This is a dangerous situation - allowing physical coercion and repressing other powers within the person without an adequate basis for human decisions. Stoicism is no match for the Spirit. A philosophy of denial cannot enable a new creation on its own. Some of us did not escape our childhood. All of us knew that one should avoid - how difficult it is to think back over this - should avoid any semblance of wrong-doing in the presence of one man, a representative of all that can be twisted in this human flesh. I think that there were only a few in each year that he had his eye on - to find them at fault so he could punish them. It was not the beating that was the danger but the method. Punishment was always in the morning before anyone else was awake. You spent the night in fear. The one to be punished had to wake him, then wait in his antechamber while he emptied his bladder. When you are naked on a man's lap absorbing the pain in your behind, you don't notice that he is taking pleasure in the presence of your body.

Of course as boys will, we boasted of our stripes, though they should have been considered shameful. But when you know that the shame is in the one who wields power, even a slave's stripes could be considered a source of pride. We were proud if our welts lasted longer than four weeks.

What foolishness this is, yet consider the knowledge that was in the boys that the master was not aware of. I still wonder how any adult system of discipline can allow the right of punishment to foster such a perverse completeness in a tortured person. It allowed a man to exercise what might have been legitimate correction but did not see that his motivation was based only on his own need for tenderness. This is what conceals a self-justifying lust. There is no doubt in my mind that he was incapable of satisfying his need except through this scheme of punishing others. I expect he was himself produced by similar abuse - but it is certain that he was unaware of any salvation from his condition - though he was the chief tutor in both religion and music. Like most people, he knew only the external control of the force of physical power, not wholeness in a new relationship.

Eventually - when I was about fourteen - I insisted he use a stick with me standing for the punishment. I think he knew that my request was made in knowledge of his need. Though the hurt was worse and I nearly fell down, he never trapped me for punishment again. Perhaps this is too close to the truth, too near the mark for us to examine any further. I expect my experience is not as uncommon as I think. The greater gifts are subject to greater distortions. I know this man was not the only influence on me - and he did manage to teach me some music.

Fortunately for me, another man, Cornelius Ligneus, took his place in my last two years in Rome. He was as opposite to the former as day and night. His son also taught at the school. These two demonstrated that the generations could succeed each other without dysfunction and that life and learning could be enjoyable. I loved how the father taught us foreign tongues. We had to read them as if they were alive and in actual use by others. He drew no attention to this. He just did it. I did not change at the time, but the seed of change had been sown within me without my knowing it.

I would be more comfortable talking about Samuel's influence, you know. I would rather leave my school years in the past. But at this stage, I have to acknowledge some debt and in doing so perhaps allow redemption to work itself further back into my time. It was because of Samuel in his earliest visits to Corinth that my parents became god-fearers. They drew the line at this acknowledgement. Though we children were taught the Hebrew story from our youth, my parents declined full entry into the covenant. Now I can see of course why the sign of the covenant is appropriate - it is a kind of death to human desire, an acknowledgement that life is from God and not from ourselves.

Death - we pagans pursued this image too in our sacrifices but only the Hebrews knew its significance. We kill to read entrails and know the will of the gods. They too killed but as a substitution for their own death and to cleanse the altar with the blood. Of course, they don't kill any more. We kill to appease the gods and say that they feast on the offerings. They killed to feast with God. What a pair of primitive histories!

Samuel was well acquainted with the sacrificial tradition, but he was more inclined to recognize the temple of hearth and home and the sacrifice of thanksgiving than to want to do the rites. He stressed the counter balancing interpretations of the prophets. After all, if God were hungry, would he ask us? And as for us Romans, we worshipped what were no gods at all - just images of our own foolishness.

I was lucky in Samuel. He was a teacher in Israel and wanted us in the covenant so that our share in the world to come would be assured. His struggle with the true circumcision was long and painful - such a severing of the old tradition, yet its completion also, in the very same sense that circumcision completes a man, as he himself had taught us. Through this Hebrew tradition, I saw the potential for another way of life. My Roman heart was no longer satisfied with conquest and submission to our own power.

Besides Samuel, first Prisca and Aquila, then Paul, Sosthenes, Crispus, and many others - not least Tertius, my slave, taught me the working out of my salvation.

Who understands these things in advance? And who knows the results in another person? Anger has a long reach. How is it that grace can prevail in the place of so many faults and so much resistance - and how is it that some may fail or at least seem to fail?

That tutor had a poor ending. He was discovered. After he was dismissed for misconduct, he was killed on the road while travelling back to his native Spain. Strange, you know, he once told me that my school days would be the best of my life. Perhaps they were for him - but for me, the best is yet to come and the present always exceeds the past in joy. I think even that unfortunate man could have profited from our Gospel if he had known it. Perhaps he yet has. I would like to think that all souls in torment will find that health, but how will they if we do not find a way to tell them? As for him, it is clear to me that he needed the touch of my body. Though he stole from me, unknowing, perhaps even then, I was part of the fringe of the garment that made him whole. I expect his illness was a thousand years old.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bearing Sin

This brief from JTS on the high priest is of interest to students of the cult in TNK and Hebrews. One day maybe I will have time to study this more.

Monday, March 1, 2010


ף פ
Find the peh's. I am beginning to wonder how useful this exercise is - but it will get my eyes working again after two weeks without looking at Hebrew. And I had better mind my peh's and qof's for I am so prone to error and incompleteness.  פ occurs somewhat rarely in the book of Ruth - about 42 times. We find it in the word for chapter, פרק and in the book or Ruth in some proper names: like אֶפְרָתִים Ephratites, עָרְפָּה Orpah and  פֶּרֶץ Perez. It begins our tale with its characteristic burst of air.(I had always thought it was an odd looking letter - an upside down G. No wonder I sometimes pick up a piece of paper with Hebrew text on it upside down.)

וַיְהִי בִּימֵי שְׁפֹט הַשֹּׁפְטִים
Now there was in the days of the judgment of the judges,

The word for family has two shared letters with the word for judgment. Worse than searching by etymology is my searching for relationships between words by letters alone!
מִּשְׁפַּחַת אֱלִימֶלֶךְ
from the family of Elimelek

This word for family (?) also occurs as handmaid in the phrase 'your handmaid' (Ruth 2:13), שִׁפְחָתֶךָ- more to investigate. Why are these two words seemingly related as to root?

Peh is the first letter of a few words in Ruth - like visit,
כִּי-פָקַד יְהוָה אֶת-עַמּוֹ
that יְהוָה had visited his people
and separate
כִּי הַמָּוֶת יַפְרִיד בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵךְ
for only death will separate me from you
and work
יְשַׁלֵּם יְהוָה פָּעֳלֵךְ
יְהוָה make full your work
and face
וַתִּפֹּל עַל-פָּנֶיהָ
And she fell on her face
(It's not Linus tripping on his blanket.)
and piece
 וְטָבַלְתְּ פִּתֵּךְ בַּחֹמֶץ
and dip your piece in the vinegar
For peh soffit, this letter at the end (סוף - hence soffit) of a word, we find a few also
כֹּה יַעֲשֶׂה יְהוָה לִי וְכֹה יוֹסִיף
this יְהוָה do to me and more
קְנֵה-לָךְ וַיִּשְׁלֹף נַעֲלוֹ
buy for yourself and he removed his sandal

Here are a pair of words identically spelled with reference to consonants but quite separate in their usage. The first (where) includes the word 'here', also used twice in Ruth 4:1-2. Where and here seem similarly related in English!
אֵיפֹה לִקַּטְתְּ הַיּוֹם וְאָנָה עָשִׂית
where did you glean today and where work

וַיְהִי כְּאֵיפָה שְׂעֹרִים
and there was about an ephah of barley
And there is a pairing of wings and spread - once relating to how Ruth has come to shelter under the wings of the Lord and once relating her invitation to Boaz.
וּפָרַשְׂתָּ כְנָפֶךָ עַל-אֲמָתְךָ
so spread your wings over your maidservant

נֶפֶשׁ is a common word with a peh but occurs only once in Ruth - in reference to the child Obed restoring the life of Naomi..

There are some rarer leftovers after this gleaning of words: Ruth 3:8
וַיֶּחֱרַד הָאִישׁ וַיִּלָּפֵת
and the man was afraid and turned himself
and Ruth 3:18
עַד אֲשֶׁר תֵּדְעִין אֵיךְ יִפֹּל דָּבָר
until you know how a thing will fall out
and Ruth 2:7
וְאָסַפְתִּי בָעֳמָרִים אַחֲרֵי הַקּוֹצְרִים
and gather among the sheaves after the reapers
Foolishly I found myself wondering if סוף and אסף were related (!) in that the soffit gathers the top of a wall to the roof as the wall and roof come to their respective ends. Lettrymology gone wild.
And there are a few more peh's: הַמִּטְפַּחַת - the cloak in Ruth 3:15
פְּלֹנִי אַלְמֹנִי - the coincidence in Ruth 4:1,
פֶּן - lest in Ruth 4:6
and לְפָנִים - before, in Ruth 4:7
and one final curious pair - Ruth 1:16 אַל-תִּפְגְּעִי-בִי do not force me and 
Ruth 2:22 וְלֹא יִפְגְּעוּ-בָךְ that none force you