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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Stressful God of "tension" and "anxiety"

Akiva Herzfeld (Yeshivat Chovevei Torah class of '07) wrote a dvar Torah titled "Lech-lecha and the Marriage of Sarah, God, and Abraham" (11/2/2006) that depicts Avrohom and Sorah with pessimistic contemporary psychoanalysis. God is listed between Sarah and Abraham in the title, illustrating God as an intermediary source of tension between them. That idea is the focus of the dvar Torah. Here are some highlights from Herzfeld's dvar Torah:
God is a source of blessing in their [Avrohom and Sorah's] marriage...But God is also the source of anxiety in their marriage. The need to fulfill God's covenant had been the principal point of tension between Abram and Sarai, as they struggled to have a child and fulfill the covenantal promise.
Abram tells Sarai that she is more important to him than the pregnant Hagar, and by extension she [Sorah] is more important than the future of his name and covenant with God.
God can be a source of tension in a marital relationship, but He is also the source of all blessing and happiness. Abraham and Sarah's marriage is evidence of the struggle entailed in managing the appropriate space for God in a relationship.
Is God to blame for the alleged tension and anxiety in Avrohom and Sorah's marriage? Is Sorah "more important than the future of [Avrohom's] name and covenant with God"? Do Avrohom and Sorah manage the "appropriate space" for God in their relationship as though religion was an extracurricular hobby rather than a lifestyle?

Regardless of depictive mode and illustrative license, accurate or not, it's only drash (interpretation), right? There are critics of "liberal" divrei Torah who are concerned not only with the ideas that are communicated, but how (attitude) those ideas are communicated. For example, are those ideas presented positively and respectfully.

Does God create stress in a relationship or does he provide challenges/tests? Is Sorah "more important than the future of [Avrohom's] name and covenant with God" because Avrohom listens to her by sending Hagar away? Or, is Sorah fulfilling Hashem's mutual desires, Avrohom's namesake and covenant with Hashem by sending Hagar away? Is God "managed" within a marriage or does God encompass a marriage?

Is there a recurring theme of superfluous provocative negativity in liberal divrei Torah?

Other interesting divrei Torah:
- Women and the Mitzvah of Pru u’Rvu
- Noach the Tzadikel
- Why Sarah? A Midrash
- Choosing a Wife - Did Yaakov Get It Right?