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Notes from Limmud 2004

Envy of Heaven (The Book of Job)

Daniel Reisel

The story is told in the Talmud: Rabbi Akiva spoke to the people about the Flood and no one was moved; he then spoke about Job and everyone cried. What is it in the story of Job that ?agls? The story is deceptively presented, as a fairy tale. We don't know where the land of Uz was, or who Job was—maybe his name, איוב is actually אי אוב, No Father: the man with no past. But in the book Job suggests he [who?] should not be castigating איוב, Job, but אויב, the enemy.

The opening of the book: איש היה "there was a man"—the story is not about repentance or theology, but about a man. The speaker argues Job is not a theodicy—because it offers no comfort at the end.

Chapter 1: Job's prosperity. This emphasises Job's innocence. Job's wife is never named, but she does have a profound theological point ברוך ה׳ ומת—curse G-d and die. (Actually "bless", but it would have been blasphemous to write "curse G-d".)

Chapter 3: Job's Lament. He is traditionally regarded as being patient, but this shows he is not always so.

Eliphaz speaks about human standards and Divine standards as different. He says there is a correlation between human activities and Divine response, even if you don't understand it.

(Note: Job is monotheistic but not Jewish.)

G-d's response to Job avoids [answering] the question.

The difference between the ending of the Book of Job and Kafka's The Trial: for Kafka, writing between the Wars, there was no G-d.


Matityahu Tsevat (1980): Reward and punishment is without foundation. Justice is a human ideal. He who speaks to Job is neither a just G-d nor an unjust G-d but just G-d. I raised the point that this is a modern interpretation, and the speaker said this may be so but that Job is a modern book because it has relevance still today.

Another point: the suffering of Job is neither redemptive, cathartic nor didactic. It has no bearing on his past or future life. This can be interpreted as a counterargument to the tests of Abraham, who was informed that his tests were tests afterwards.

David Friedman (1908): There are actually two problems. If G-d knows everything including that Job is faithful, why does G-d subject Job to all these trials and tribulations? And also, if He knows this, why does he subject Satan to it too?

"Had it not been for his anger Job could have been the messiah to the Gentiles"—Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:4. Job is also mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel as one of the three most righteous men, in the company of Abraham and Noah.

Who is tested more severely: Job or Abraham? Abraham is asked to kill his child himself.

When the Romans destroyed the Temple, Chutzpit the Interpreter suggested davening מי כניך בְּאִלְמִים ה׳ "Who is like You among the mute?" (as contrasted to מי כניך באלים ה׳ "Who is like You among the mighty?").


Date: 2006-05-09 10:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curious-reader.livejournal.com
You are right. It is still an issue nowadays. Harold Kushner wrote the book "Why bad things happen to good people" and "Who needs God". I did not read the first one through. So I don't know with what answer he came up. I guess he had no answer. The second talks a bit about it but mainly explains how he sees God. I often did not agree with him when defined an atheist someone who does not look for strenght from God but in himself. He does not consider Deists and Agnosticer who don't believe in direct interference from God more refering to the Deist. I know the Agnosticer is still questioning if there is one or not. Maimonides said there are natural forces which can't be controlled or explained. (Rabbi Louis Jacobs talked about it I think or maybe Rabbi Jonathan Wittenber.) To get an illness is a kind of natural desaster you have no control of and no explanation.


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