Susquehanna Morning

Susquehanna Morning

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lent 16: Rebekah: Unfinished Bible Study Version

"Elizarus and Rebekah at the Well," Johann Carl Loth, 1670's

You have to love an account of courting between a man and a woman which begins with a man telling another man, "Put your hand under my thigh..."

But, Biblical Times. So. In the words of Rashi, based on the Midrash Rabbah...

"It does not mean literally the thigh; it means the Milah (organ of circumcision). The reason is because one who takes an oath must hold in his hand a sacred object, such as a scroll of the Torah or phylacteries. And the circumcision was his (Abraham’s) first commandment and came to him through suffering. And it was beloved to him. And (therefore) he chose it (as the object upon which to take the oath)."

This is also the opinion of Tosefot in the Talmud Shevuot 38b. 

(Rabbi Moshe Leib Halberstadt at

Now that this is out of the way...

Read Genesis 24, and notice what a folk take it is...

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but will go to my country and to my kindred and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

The portions of scripture that are most easily linked to the oral sources tend to be repetitive. This story contains instructions from Abraham to his servant (unnamed, the "oldest of his house," like Abraham... so, Abraham's true surrogate) on procuring a wife for Isaac. No Canaanite women, but a woman from his country and his kindred (just like his sister-wife, Sarah).

The servant travels, says a prayer for a sign and for success, encounters Rebekah (at a spring! Perhaps a post on wells and springs would be good. Have you noticed they pop up in stories concerning women?), engages her, says a prayer of thanksgiving, and goes in to meet her father Bethuel and her brother Laban.

The servant then tells, almost verbatim, the same story we have been told, only to the family of Rebekah.

But let's talk about Rebekah.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Lent: Fessing Up

For no particular reason, here's a little blanket I'm knitting. Sporadically.

Hello friends.

I haven't written any reflections in a while, have I? Looking like, oh, about two weeks since the last one.

I am sorry for that.

Sorry, partially because I know some folks were reading, and they expressed appreciation. Sorry, too, because I enjoyed writing them... up to a point. That point being: when the demands of the season (many of which, I hasten to add, were my own ideas!) made writing feel less a joy and more a burden. 

I also want to say something I was sensing in the last several posts. My initial desire was to write reflections on biblical women. That morphed into women of the Hebrew scriptures, which morphed into women of Genesis.

Then I realized something. What I was writing weren't reflections; they were more like little bible studies. And I love bible study! But when I present something as a bible study, I venture into issues around things like language, and readings by scholars, and I get very "completist" about the whole thing. You know, when you force yourself to do something all the way through (in this case, address every mention of the woman in the Hebrew scriptures) because that's what A-students, or people in your family, or (insert the name of the super-achiever tribe of your choice here) do. I have a half-written piece on Rebekah, which I stopped because I was researching this and that and checking language stuff and... and... and...

Reflections (at least, as I envision them) allow space for creativity. They are about essence, flavor, color! They are not about saying absolutely everything that can be said about the given topic (woman). That's what I had intended to write.

I hope tomorrow I shall be able to write a reflection on Rebekah, who is a very interesting woman. I hope I shall be able to do it without needing to tell you what I think she had for lunch on a Friday. I hope to reconnect with the creative project I had in mind from the get-go.