Sunday, June 24, 2018

Garden -- hydrangea time

We've had like 7 inches of rain since May 1 and my hydrangea loves it.

I don't know if you can tell on your screen but this bunch at the bottom front center is half pink and half purple.

Others on the left are blue purple.

I didn't snap all the flowers because my phone battery gets low when I use the camera, but I think you've seen enough.

This plant was here when I moved in. I have no idea how old it really is, maybe 30 years old. I think there is only one plant but there might be two. At any rate, that one blossom shows how amazing hydrangeas are, that the same flower can have two colors.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Fact-Checking the Torah -- my parallel doublet candidate?

This post is going to run longer than usual, and you’ll see why if you look at the comments from last week’s post. Mr. Salomon indirectly showed me that I had given no definition for “goal” and I’d better do that, after I go over my candidate for a possible parallel doublet.
Parallel doublets conflate two oral narratives, while they are still being transmitted orally, into a single narrative with more than the usual number of characters and incidents, with multiple geographical settings, and with more than one motive driving the plot. Conflation occurs because the independent narratives have the same goal, which eventually blurs the distinction between the narratives. Olrik insisted on reserving claims of parallel doublets for cases when the researcher could point to an external source giving one of the original narratives without a hint of the other.
So I cannot prove that I have identified any parallel doublets in Torah. I have pointed out parts of Torah that look like a repetition promoting credibility, or emphasizing the importance of an issue, or illustrating the Law of Ascents. But with no ancient versions of Torah lying around with the separate parts of what might be the parallel doublet, what I say in the rest of this post is strictly conjectural. 
In Exodus, a series of episodes has the apparent goal of providing tablets of the Israelite laws from Gd through Mosheh’s mediation. They fall in two parts and hinge around the Golden Calf episode.
In the first part, the elders go part way up Sinai and have dinner there in Gd’s presence, then they go home and Mosheh stays on the mountain 40 days and nights, eventually coming back down with tablets “written with the finger of Gd.” Before he leaves the mountain, Gd promises the Israelites that they will have His angel as a sacred presence among them.
In the second part, Mosheh has broken the tablets in his rage over the Golden Calf episode, Gd is very angry, and Mosheh goes back up the mountain for two reasons. One is to appease Gd, and this results in the statement of the Thirteen Attributes of Gd, all of which have to do with His mercy. This time Mosheh has to cut the tablets out of rock himself and do all the engraving. Gd warns the Israelites that His angel will go among them, and to act carefully, because an enraged angel might destroy them before Gd can exert His mercy. In sorrow, the men stop wearing their ornaments; this all seemingly takes place at Horeb.
The only way you can say that a multitude of characters are involved, is to contrast the elders in the first part with the “mixed multitude” who sparked the Golden Calf incident; and point out the sudden elevation of Yehoshua to the position of Mosheh’s personal assistant, who announces the Golden Calf incident to Mosheh. Before this Yehoshua was the winning commander in the battle with Amaleq.
You don’t have the feature of turning aside from the denouement to start the other narrative in the conflation. Mosheh succeeds in getting the tablets the first time. His breaking them is the excuse for him having to go up the mountain the second time.
What this actually resembles is two versions of a story, the second of which is told to preserve narrator credibility by being more rational. It’s incredible that the elders would all but see the face of Gd. It’s incredible that Mosheh could actually get physical stone tablets with writing on them that Gd put there.
Now, when Mosheh is rehashing Israelite history since the Exodus, in Deuteronomy 10:4 he does say that the second set of tablets also was written by Gd, contrary to what the post-calf part of the Exodus narrative says. But that’s not the confusion of a parallel doublet because he also specifically says that he spent two 40-day periods in the mountain and got two sets of tablets. What he says in Deuteronomy 10 is that touch of the fantastic in every oral narrative, only he has pasted it over top of the rational side of the old narrative.
I can’t prove this is a parallel doublet, but I ain’t even worrying ’bout that.
Now that definition. Olrik does not say this in the same words in his book, but a goal is whatever happens that is immediately followed by the denouement. There’s no sense continuing the narrative once the goal has been reached.
So in the Yehudah-Tamar episode, the goal was for Yehudah to have sons, but righteous ones, unlike Er, Onan and probably Shelah. Getting Yosef to Egypt is crucial to his having sons, but the Yosef narrative doesn’t wrap up at that point, it goes on for quite a long time. The real goal is for him to support his family in Egypt, and then their cushy life is contrasted with the Oppression that immediately follows at the start of Shemot.
There really is an important component in the Yehudah-Tamar story relative to Yosef, and I’ll mention it in about a month.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- more idioms

Genesis 2:4
ד אֵ֣לֶּה תֽוֹלְד֧וֹת הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ בְּהִבָּֽרְאָ֑ם בְּי֗וֹם עֲשׂ֛וֹת יְהוָֹ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶ֥רֶץ וְשָׁמָֽיִם:
Translation:     These are the births of heaven and earth at the time of their being created, on the day of the Lord Gd creating earth and heaven.
Vocabulary in this lesson:
Generations, births
Their being created
The verb hibaram illustrates how the aspectless verb that takes prepositions works. This form can take object suffixes as well as prepositions.
When this form of aspectless verb takes the prefix b’, the meaning is “at the time of Xing”.
Hibaram is nifal. We know that nifal reflects a legal decree. So this is not just a making, it’s obedience to a decree.
The pronoun suffix is for the direct object of bara, “heaven and earth”.
The rabbis noticed that with the first verb it says “heavens and earth”, the same formula used with bara in Genesis 1:1, and with the last verb it says “earth and heaven”. They used this to show that neither heaven nor earth was premier in importance.
Now, there’s an urban legend that this is a second creation narrative and there are hints as to why people thought so in some of the verses. But here are two clues.
One is the use of the aspectless verbs. Nothing happens in this verse to create the world; creation is a given.
Second is ba-yom.  We just got through seven days of creation. Why does it say “on the day”?
Two reasons. One is that “on the day” is a literal translation. Literal translations have created more urban legends about Torah than you can shake a stick at. Literal translations ignore idioms. Here, we have an idiom for “at the time”.
Second is that oral traditions consist of multiple narratives, each self-contained although they may stack up into sagas. There is absolutely no requirement that any narrative in a single oral tradition be consistent with any other narrative.
If you ever read Robert Graves’ compilation of Greek myth, you saw this in action although he and the scholarly tradition he worked in never realized it. A given hero or god may have, not only multiple names, but also multiple progenitors. Aphrodite’s father could be any of several Greek gods. Other aspects include four different places in Greece identified as the resting place of the box in which Deucalion and Pyrrha survived the Greek flood story.
The point of narratives in an oral tradition is to teach something about the culture transmitting the tradition. We’ll get to the point of this narrative many verses from now.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Conflations and DH

Parallel doublets arise from orally transmitted narratives over the history of their transmission. At some point, having identical goals obscures the fact that they are two independent narratives, and narrators begin telling them as separate parts of a single narrative, ignoring that they have different horizons, different sets of characters, and different motives. Multiple locations, a large cast of characters, and incompatible motivations for the numerous incidents, is a clue that it might be a conflation of two narratives as a parallel doublet, but the researcher has to avoid claiming the conflation without an external source giving only one of the narratives without a trace of the other.
A conflation tells one of its component narratives up to a point where the original source narrative had its denouement, then starts over again with the other story and then gets to the goal that both stories independently tended toward in the first place.
This “halfway” feature is missing from DH’s claims about Torah. The opposite is true. Torah has several examples of narratives being bound off by deaths that actually happened later. You can do the math and figure out that a dead character was still alive for decades into the next episode of the saga. Torah records Terach’s death, but do the math and you can tell that Avraham left Charan during Terach’s life. Torah records Yitschaq’s death, but do the math and you can tell that he was alive until the year before Yosef was sold into Egypt.
DH proposes an independent goal for each of the component documents. J has the goal of supporting the southern monotheocracy. D has the goal of legitimizing reforms undertaken upon the discovery and interpretation of the Temple scroll. P has the goal of establishing priestly temple service and perquisites. And E has the goal of… Hey, what is E’s goal anyway?
At the time E was supposedly composed from the ground up, independently of J and in an enemy nation, how did it serve the powers that were? The description of E as agreeing in detail with southern monotheism is out of joint given the immediate descent of the north to idolatry and then adoption, at least by the ruling class, of K’naani pagan worship. The idea that E’s goal was to preserve a tradition invented in the north, that jibed with the tradition invented in the south, requires that there be a shared cultural past before anything was written down – and DH originally denied a prior existence independent of the writing that they appeared in.
If there is no parallel doublet anywhere in Torah, that does not vindicate DH, because the principles DH operates on assumes written sources, not oral ones. Lack of a parallel doublet also does not invalidate Olrik’s principles as a description of Torah, because Olrik does not require that all oral traditions must have at least one parallel doublet. It is something he observed in Danish oral material. He did not pretend to study Torah to the same depth and so, as I said the other week, he missed one kind of repetition that Torah has.
Next: one narrative in Torah that could be dubbed a paralleldoublet and in two weeks I’ll solve the mystery of what Olrik missed.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 2:4, aspectless verbs

Genesis 2:4

ד אֵ֣לֶּה תֽוֹלְד֧וֹת הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ בְּהִבָּֽרְאָ֑ם בְּי֗וֹם עֲשׂ֛וֹת יְהוָֹ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶ֥רֶץ וְשָׁמָֽיִם:

Translation:     These are toldot of heaven and earth at the time of their being created; on the day of the Lord Gd creating earth and heaven.

Vocabulary in this lesson:

Generations, births
Their being created

Eleh toldot is another version of Axel Olrik’s Law of Opening. Instead of being grammatical, like perfect aspect (which is something he didn’t know about and didn’t discuss), it’s the narrative content. It’s kind of like “once upon a time.”

But here we have two special verbs, b’hibaram and asot. These verbs have no aspect. I’ll discuss aspectless verbs as I go along, but one of the things they do is substitute for the other aspects, usually perfect aspect to which they are related. This relationship might be a characteristic of Semitic verbs. In his grammar of Assyrian, written for Hermann Strack’s series on Semitic languages, Friedrich Delitzsch realized that perfect and aspectless verbs looked alike.

As replacements for perfect aspect, b’hibaram and asot imply that the actions they represent are over, but are not the focus of the current narrative. This is not a second creation story. It has a different goal.

Why do I show one of these verbs as a gerundive and the other as a noun? Because gerundives are verbal nouns. But the first one is being used as an adverb of time, so I emphasized its verbal nature.

Finally, b’hibaram is a nifal phrase. Remember, nifal is about decrees from heaven. That makes b’hibaram a parallel to b’yom asot. When Gd issues a decree, both the decree and its being carried out are instantaneous. But bara and asot have to go together, as they did in the previous narrative, because Gd brought into existence from nothing, that which was made into the world.

So you’re saying then why did it take seven days? I already partly answered that question in the last post, but here’s the other part. This verse only refers to heaven and earth, like Genesis 1:1. The seven days happened after Genesis 1:1. Trying to trip me up with a contradiction? Only because you’re not looking at the actual words, you’re thinking of what you were told that I already did to death on the Fact-Checking blog.

You saw the etnach, right? Let’s move on to the “commas” of which there are several. In this verse, there’s a diamond above b’yom. That’s a revia. To me, it seems kind of emphatic to me. This would emphasize that the bara and asot started on the same day. Gd doesn’t lollygag around!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

DIY -- "but I'm TIRED of sourdough"

It's been over a year since I started brewing my own sourdough starter from flour and water and I've been looking into the other side of sourdough breads.

It's part of my family history. Our foremothers would go to the rebbetsin every week and buy "yeast" to use in making their challah.

Almost surely what they bought was a cup of "sourdough" starter. They spent Thursday building it into sour, and Friday they would mix in the eggs, sugar, and salt, and some additional flour, to make the four braided golden fragrant loaves used on Sabbath.

Screech. Challah is sweet to the point of being more like cake than bread. How could ambrosia come from sourdough?

So I started googling and this is what I found.

Notice that she slaps down the idea of putting fruit in her levain. This was one of my frustrations with some of the sourdough websites I found at first; they wanted you to use pineapple juice. Not very sustainable for the East Coast near Washington D.C. Nevertheless, Jewish classics (Mishnah Orlah 2:4) discuss putting cut-up apple into your dough to make it rise. But our fore-mothers didn't do that, and there's nothing like it in challah recipes.

Now, you might not think sugar is very sustainable but in Eastern Europe, they were stuck-in to sugar beets. Sholem Aleichem made Lazar Brodsky famous as the "sugar king", and all his sugar came from beets. The same is true for Yona Zaitsev who built the brick factory where Mendel Beilis worked.

The rebbetsin's starter most likely was made with white flour, and the rebbetsin ploughed the money into buying more of the expensive white flour needed to make it. For daily bread, my foremothers probably used rye flour which was cheaper and brewed faster, since rye has more natural sugar than wheat even if it has less gluten. I mean, try some of Catoctin Creek's Star-K kosher rye whiskey and notice the sweet little kick at the end of the swallow.

I think there are two things you have to remember about making sweet breads with levain.
The first one is, make a sponge. When you use commercial yeast, you generally only make a sponge for lower-gluten flours like whole wheat. With levain, you make a sponge for "Frisco style" white bread. It cures overnight. This is instead of doing a three-stage build as with the sour you use  in pumpernickel and rye.

Second, you have to be patient with the dough that you make from the sponge. Keep it warm and out of drafts for at least four hours. Challah gets put down to rise three times, an hour each, even though it has all that sugar in it.

And then you use the sugar or honey called for in the sweet bread recipe, like here.

I liked this page.

It's for French  bread and French bread needs lots of kneading, stretching, even slamming. YMMV for other types like Italian -- which always has sugar in it anyway.

This is a  recipe recommended on one of the other sites.  While it's labeled Amish, it's really a lot like Italian bread made with your "mother of all breads".  Notice that it uses an overnight sponge and then it rises a whole 'nother day or night.

Most websites will tell you that if your bread really does taste sour, you've done something wrong like not letting the starter mature or not feeding it at regular times when you're brewing it. I agree. But if you call it levain you sound snooty to most people, so just keep it to yourself and smile when people say "this is the greatest bread I ever ate."

Friday, June 8, 2018

Fact-Checking the Torah -- parallel doublet

I showed that Olrik recognized several strictly defined types of repetitions with different effects, and I ended with the parallel doublet.
The key about parallel doublets is that they originate as two stories, transmitted orally independent of each other, in a single culture. Both achieve the same result, such as placing somebody on the throne.
One may have the motive of punishing a bad king; the other may have the motive of comforting the king and queen who thought their son was dead.
In both cases extraordinary assistance may be involved, but in one narrative several unusual assistants might play separate roles, and in the other a single magical person might work several miracles.
At some point in the lives of the two narratives, they begin to be told as two separate parts of one narrative, and at that point they become a parallel doublet.
The combined narrative has clues of its origin as two separate narratives. One is a large number of characters. One of the Epic Laws is Two to a Scene. Oral narratives rarely deal with more than two characters at a time. They may convert a multitude of characters into a body and have the main character address that group, such as Yosef speaking and the group of his brothers listening. But a parallel doublet will have a number of characters playing independent roles or serving different motives, instead of melting into a group. This is because the parallel doublet will retain both casts of characters from its precursor narratives.
Another clue is a shift in location without an interim journey. The idea that the Israelites were at Sinai and also at Horeb suggests a parallel doublet in the story of bringing the tablets down the mountain, but I’ll discuss this in more detail later. The fact that the jumping off point for the Exodus was named Sukkot, and the name of Deir ‘Alla was also Sukkot at one time, does not define a parallel doublet for two reasons. The most important is that there’s no sign of a single goal to both stories. The other is the series of migrations discussed between Yaaqov’s name-giving and the Exodus from Egypt.
A third clue to a real parallel doublet, is a confusion in motives. When the first part of the story describes the main character’s determination to replace a bad king, and the latter part describes him comforting the sorrowing king and queen whose baby prince supposedly died (plus a recognition scene with a talisman), you can see a possible clue for a parallel doublet combining the two stories with different motives.
The combined narrative will tell one of the precursors up to the point where the goal ought to be achieved. Then it will stop, tell the other precursor, and then finish with the goal achieved. This is another point which argues against the two Sukkots as part of a parallel doublet. Yaaqov achieves his goal, arriving safely at his father’s home despite the threat from Esav.
Olrik specifically states one requirement for claiming identification of a parallel doublet. The claimant must be able to point to an independent source which contains one of the narratives in its full form, told or recorded independently of the other. Without this, the conflation of the parallel narratives is only conjectural.
DH claims a conflation for which it has no external evidence. But that could be a false argument from silence. It’s a good thing there are so many other problems with DH; I would never hang my hat on this one alone.