The problematic Book of Job - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 30 Old 01-28-2003, 10:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I just started a Bible study class on Job. because I hate it. The book, not the Bible study. I am hoping that transportation and childcare issues don't prevent me from continuing with it. I started this thread because while I have been sitting here, reading Job muttering to myself, 'Man, sometimes God is a real A-hole...' I just read a post in another thread where Capt. Optimistic said something rather vague but indicating that she had found some real value in Job. So... what do I not get? Why is it okay for God to invite Satan to trash Jobs life this way?
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#2 of 30 Old 01-29-2003, 01:55 AM
 
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My background on Job: I actually read Job in a public high school class, not in a religious setting, and not in a long time. Though I have referred to it since then.

It is so NOT okay that God decides to test Job. The whole point for me of the book is that God's decision is clearly wrong. Here is a book of the Bible in which God does something that the reader has to find immoral.

Though there are some parallels here to other decisions that God makes in order to test people: the akedah (sacrifice of Isaac) Genesis 22--a test which Abraham arguably fails! Or at least it's ambiguous whether he passes. Also Abraham's bargaining with God for Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 18:22-33, and Moses' negotiations with God at Exodus 32: 7-14-- in both cases, God threatens to destroy people and the prophets challenge the decision. But these are easier to deal with somehow than Job, possibly because of the role of the Satan, the "Opponent" in God's decision. (there is no Satan in Genesis or Exodus, you know!) Or possibly because no one gets punished who is demonstrated to be innocent!

In some ways the book of Job seems to be a criticism of theodicy (as Milton put it, "to justify the ways of God to Man.") Job's "friends" come to tell him that he must have done something wrong to deserve this punishment. The dramatic irony of this for the reader is something intense! We know that Job is being punished precisely because he did NOT do anything wrong. So this is a book that asks why bad things happen to good people. I guess I liked studying this book in the first place because of my sense that it actually takes the side of the person accusing God. It's a book about God on trial. I don't know if I liked the BOOK but I really liked studying it!

Who is teaching your class and what translation are you using? The poetry in the translation we used in school just blew me away--I think it was the Jerusalem Bible, the one that Tolkien worked on. This is a book I have not yet tried to read in Hebrew (unlike the Genesis and Exodus passages I cited above.)

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#3 of 30 Old 01-29-2003, 02:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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It's a pretty informal group. We all just bring our own Bibles and now and then the pastor polls to see if anyone has a significantly different phrase. The pastor is reading long bits aloud from a version he has that uses very powerful language. I will have to jot down the name of the translator for you. He (translator) is apparantly semi-well known for some of his translations, has done some work with the I Ching and other books of the Bible, etc. I was unaware that Tolkein had worked on a Bible. Very interesting!
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#4 of 30 Old 01-29-2003, 04:47 AM
 
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There is a strongly held opinion that Job never existed- it is all just an analogy...

-BelovedBird

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#5 of 30 Old 01-29-2003, 04:52 AM
 
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BB I think you mean it's just a metaphor ...

- Amy
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Quote:
Originally posted by amyrpk
BB I think you mean it's just a metaphor ...

- Amy
Whateva! Its a mashal. Yeah, I guess metaphor. Whatdaya want from me its strill earmy in the morning. I did not sleep well, this baby just wants to nurse or pull my hair while sitting on my head all night...
Anyway, I don't remember much from my Eyov (Job) class in seminary. Just that we learned that page of gemara with all the opinions as to who Job really was.....

Goodnight/ morning all!

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#7 of 30 Old 01-29-2003, 05:06 AM
 
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Hi kama'aina mama,

I feel like I'm following you all over the place recently.

Here's my opinion (and I never claim to know anything).

I believe the basis of the book is that Satan told God, Job only worships you because he has it so good. (paraphrased, of course). After God said to Satan, have you seen my servant, and how he worships me?

So God took things away from Job, one by one, because Satan kept saying, yes, you took this away, but he still has that. And they waited for Job to curse God.

Yes, Job didn't understand why he was losing everything. But he never lost his faith. He had all his friends and everyone he knew telling him to curse God and die. Still, he clung to his faith, even after losing his house, his exalted position in his town, his live stock, his wife, his children, everything.

No, he was never told why this happened. But, according t0 the Job 42:12-13 "So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters."

I believe the lessons we can learn are: 1. Not everything that happens to us is going to make sense. I.e. bad things happen to good people. 2. We don't know why God does what He does, but He knows what He is doing. 3. All we can cling to sometimes is faith, as our friends and family may turn on us, or kick us when we are down. 4. For the things that we lose, we will get them back, in some way or form. 5. Life is always going to be a learning process, full of both sorrow and joy.

Hope this helps, a little, and enjoy your study.
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#8 of 30 Old 01-29-2003, 12:31 PM
 
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I've read rabbinic commentaries--Rashi and some of the other biggies (Midrash Rabbah, Ibn Ezra)--on the binding of Isaac, Sodom and Gomorrah, and on the Golden Calf (the examples I cited of Abraham and Moshe perhaps being tested by God.)

But the only opportunity I had to study a commentary on Job was as part of a class on Shavuot. We read a 1st or 2nd century (CE) mystical text on Job's daughters. It was interesting, but hardly a mainstream rabbinic perspective! I would really love to get a citation from the Talmud to follow up on rabbinic thought on Job/Iyov.

Does it really matter if Job is a "mashal"? (You could also translate mashal as "fable" or "example"--like a moral tale, right?) It still says something that it's part of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). You could say the same thing about Shir Ha-Shirim (the Song of Songs)--that's it's only a metaphor. But you've still got the task of figuring out what it means that it's even in there! A task with which I could use some rabbinic help...

This is getting me all excited about study again. Thank you.

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#9 of 30 Old 01-29-2003, 12:40 PM
 
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Quote:
Does it really matter if Job is a "mashal"?
Well, if someone's problem with the book is that G-d is being "cruel" in the testing then I thought it might help to realize that it did not necessarily really ever happen.....

It doesn't matter *to me* on any practical level, no.

-BelovedBird

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#10 of 30 Old 01-29-2003, 12:45 PM
 
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Thanks Alison74, well put
...but that is what I was gonna say!!!

Well then, it's all been said, so carry on...

b
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#11 of 30 Old 01-29-2003, 01:12 PM
 
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I'm getting a little excited about this, so I went on line to see if I could find some rabbinic commentaries on my own.

One thing that I should have realized: Maimonides deals with the book of Job in Guide to the Perplexed. (Maimonides, also known as Moses ben Maimon or Rambam, was a medieval Spanish rabbi famous for, among other things, trying to reconcile contemporary philosophical questions with Jewish faith.) I actually have a translation of the Guide. Not the best one, but I have one. A rabbi from the Riverdale Jewish Center published his lesson notes on the chapters on Job on his website and I read them over. When I get home from work (I'm at work, is it unethical of me to be researching this?) I'll take a look at the Guide. Here is Rabbi Rothstein's stuff--I liked it a lot:

www.rjconline.org/mn22.html
www.rjconline.org/mn23.html
www.rjconline.org/mn24.html

I guess I would characterize this site as coming from a Modern Orthodox perspective?

Another interesting site that I found was from the Metro Atlanta Council for Conservative Judaism--it's a syllabus or sort of outline on the book of Job that has a lot of both rabbinic commentary citations and academic (non-religious) perspectives. It's really long though. It does give the Talmudic citations right near the beginning of the document. The URL is:

www.uscj.org/soeast/atlanta/perekyomi/Job.html

The good thing for you in that syllabus, Kama'ina Mama, is that they give a chart comparing the friends' speeches (just literarily, what is going on in the verses.) That could be handy for you when you get that far in your discussion group.

It was only last month that I learned that JRR Tolkien was on the committee that did the Jerusalem Bible translation that I liked in high school. He was a pretty serious Catholic, Tolkien.

Who dares me to start a Job reading group during my maternity leave? Would I be insane to take on something like that with a little baby? I wouldn't have to run it or anything, i could just invite people to my house on Saturday afternoons. We did one once for the book of Psalms. What do you think?

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#12 of 30 Old 01-29-2003, 03:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh yeah, we are approaching it as allegory, but still... as Cpt O said it so well... the question remains why is this horrible story here??? My pastor and I discussed that last week and one thing we touched upon is to rebut the idea (popular now in some churches, popular then too?) that God is some kind of pyramid sceme, a wealth generator. 'This must be a good church, look at all the Mercedes.'

Golly Capt Optimism, thats a lot for one schikza to read! I am skimming it quickly (we meet in two hours and I still have to feed and bathe two people!) One thing that came to right away that didn't before was about Eliphaz. He is the first to speak and gets rather stern with Job. I kept thinking he was pretty much a jerk, too... then Rabbi mentions
Quote:
When Eliphaz breaks the silence he does so hesitantly. He is now playing a role that Job had played in former
times
as the wise counselor and guide to friends. See vss 4-5, Job is experiencing a downfall he used to see in others.
(emphasis mine)
So, if Eliph is maybe even giving Job the EXACT same counsel Job has doled out for years. Now who's a jerk? Oh, and I double dog dare ya! It could be a nice way to have a bit of mental stimulation and company.

by the way, who is this girl Alison and why is she following me?
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#13 of 30 Old 01-29-2003, 08:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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As promised, the translation my pastor is using is by Stephen Mitchell and you can read a few pages of it at Amazon.
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#14 of 30 Old 01-30-2003, 04:03 AM
 
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Hi Kama,

I swear (looks around), I'm not a stalker. Sure, there was that one incident, in 7th grade, but, usually, I'm a really, really nice person. I help old ladies across the street, I hug babies. And I'm really cute.

When I studied Job in my Old Testament class in college, my professor taught that it was the oldest book in the Old Testament. That no one is really sure who wrote it, although some lean towards Moses, at the same time when he wrote the Pentatuch. Others feel it was written by someone else, during the 11 or 12 chapter of Genesis.


It is very interesting, the mystery that surrounds it, and the whole book itself.
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#15 of 30 Old 01-30-2003, 01:33 PM
 
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:guilt

Okay, I'll come clean. I've never read it. Always sounded too depressing, couldn't deal. As my rebbe taught, "If it's not sweet, it's not Torah," and if it doesn't appear to be sweet, then my understanding of it is lacking somehow. And I've never had the koakh (energy ... physical and/or spiritual) to tackle the seeming nonsweetness of Iyov/Job.

But what you said about it being the oldest book is interesting, because DH just told me that he heard that Job was supposed to have lived contemporaneous with ... it was either the Jews going down to Egypt, or with Abraham. I forget which.

And he just told me the other day. Senility approacheth ...

:sigh

- Amy
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#16 of 30 Old 01-30-2003, 01:57 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by amyrpk
:guilt

As my rebbe taught, "If it's not sweet, it's not Torah," and if it doesn't appear to be sweet, then my understanding of it is lacking somehow.
- Amy
The language of the book is sweet. If you have a thing for Biblical poetry, anyway.

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#17 of 30 Old 01-30-2003, 02:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well Amy, I can't blame ya. I've never read it before either! So when my pastor announced "We're studying Job and if ya hate it and fear it, maybe you ought to come..." it kinda clicked for me. I may not embrace it but I'm done running from it!

I know nothing about it being oldest or anything like that. Somewhere in the avalanche of wisdom Capt O unleashed on me, I thought I saw something about there being very similar, older story in Greek lit. Gonna try to find that comment again and explore that because I find stories that cross culture very interesting.

Something that we touched on yesterday (I had an "Ah ha!") is that in many way the book was revolutionary. At a time when the prevailing wisdom was that God blessed the righteous with happiness and cursed the wicked with failure the idea that it can occur that the holy can be struck down as well was huge. Implied but not spelled out is the equally shocking (perhaps more shocking ) idea that the wealthy and successful may indeed be quite evil. Dh and I were talking last night and the earliest work we could think of with a very successful but wicked protaganist is Machiavelli. But we ain't Lit majors or nuthin, so if someone can remind me of earlier examples, please!

All that said, in some ways the book is almost humorous if you can take it the right way. It is written very much like a play. It is almost all dialogue. I keep finding myself hearing it vaudeville language rythymes. It's terrible, I know.. but there is a lot of irony and some humor in the cycle of Job complains, his friends tell him not to complain as he has brought it on himself, he protests his innocence, lather, rinse, repeat....

I am still wrestling like crazy with Gods role in this and if any of you learned in Hebrew want to help me by confirming or denying the original tone of certain passages I would love it. But I doubt it will resolve my basic annoyance with God in all this!
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#18 of 30 Old 01-30-2003, 02:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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From the 4th link in Capt O's post above
Quote:
See Baba Batra 14—rabbis ask about the authorship of various parts of the Prophetic literature. Some say
Job married Jacob’s daughter Dina.
I don't know who or what Baba Batra is... but that's okay. There is a ton of stuff, language, references, etc ther I don't get. What I do get is very interesting though!
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#19 of 30 Old 01-30-2003, 04:14 PM
 
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Baba Batra 14 is a reference to a page of Talmud.

Here's how the Talmud "works":

The Rabbis (capital R because we are referring to the ones who wrote the Talmud, specifically) began a project of writing down what they called the "oral law" after the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70. In Roman-occupied Palestine, an academy of rabbis created the first "layer" of the Talmud, called the Mishnah, which they wrote down in a sort of Hebrew shorthand. The Mishnah was divided into six "orders", organized by legal topic.

After the completion of the Mishnah, two communities of Jews, one the academy in the Land of Israel and one in Babylonia, took up the challenge of decyphering what their predecessors had done with the Mishnah. The Babylonian academy was for political reasons more successful in completing the project of the Gemara. (Because the Romans were really oppressive and cut off the project in the middle, essentially.) Written in Aramaic (another language related to Hebrew and Arabic) the Gemara responds to the topics in the Mishnah. The Babylonian Talmud is the basis of Jewish law, but it also has a lot of nifty midrash (commentary or exegesis) of Hebrew Bible.

The thing is, unless you have a lot of experience, it's really hard to find what you want in the order you think it should go. I believe Baba Batra is one of the "gates"--the tractates of Talmud on civil law. How would I, a non-rabbi type, know to look for a commentary on Job there? Which is why it's great to get a citation if you are just learned enough to pick up the Talmud and look at it and scratch your head and reach for the dictionary (like me!). All the citations are based on one of the first printed editions of the Talmud.

For even more and incredibly detailed information (more than you can handle but maybe you'll want to look at it another time, check out this website):

http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/TalmudPage.html#Page

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#20 of 30 Old 01-30-2003, 04:56 PM
 
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Wow CO! Awesome link to explain ans show what "gemara" is!!

-BelovedBird

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#21 of 30 Old 01-30-2003, 06:28 PM
 
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Well, I plowed thru Job, as I plowed thru the rest of the Xtian Bible, in my amazing journey, last year. I really loved the Oxford Study Bible, it had extremely useful footnotes. I highly recommend it.

Job did not drive me crazy, I did not hate it. I gave it rather short shrift, as I have trouble with whining and with poetry. I was amazed at the courtroom metaphors, from so long ago!

As far as a successful, yet evil guy, what about Solomon? So-called wise, yet it is accepted by scholars he did not actually write Proverbs, which are mostly based on Egyptian wisdom teachings. As is the Wisdom of Solomon, a non-canonical book. (If the Wisdom is part of Jewish canon, my apologies.)

He was a big shot king (not trying to be disrespectful), ancestor to the Xtian savior, yet he worshipped the Canaanite gods! If you think that is evil. I don't myself, but it is written in the "OT" he worshipped the wrong guys in later life.
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#22 of 30 Old 01-30-2003, 09:39 PM
 
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The kings need their own thread, in some ways. I feel like the Bible doesn't like them. It's not just that they are wealthy and powerful. There is a general anti-king vibe. Kings and Chronicles (and of course, the books of the Prophets) take the side of the prophets and trash most of the kings, especially the powerful kings of the northern kingdom after the split. they only like a few of them for being reformers and monotheists. This is a general trend, the anti-king trend.

Take a look at I Samuel 8:4-22. Samuel gets really angry that the people want a king in the first place instead of a prophet/judge leader like him. In a divinely inspired diatribe, he trashes the whole notion of kingship, especially the part about corvee labor, tithing, and high taxation.

Anyway, I wouldn't say that the Bible characterizes Solomon as evil, the narrative is more ambivalent. The criticism is more implicit than that, and more about realpolitik. It's not just his support of Canaanite polytheistic religions, it's also that he sells cities in the north to Hiram of Tyre (I think!) and sets the stage for his son to lose the northern kingdom. It's certainly not Solomon's fault if people attribute texts to him that academic biblical scholars think he didn't write--that's not a reflection on his character in the text!

I love reading the king stuff, though. There are so many parallels with contemporary politics that it blows my mind.

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#23 of 30 Old 01-31-2003, 01:15 AM
 
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Reading Job personally to me is a matter of the heart. So many times when reading the Bible we look at it from an analytical point of view. We try to comprehend it with our mind. I would consider honestly asking God what He desires you to get from this study. If we read the Bible just for intellectual benefit, we can so easily lose what God maybe personally trying to teach in our relationship with Him.
What God has personally spoken to me through Job is that Satan had to ask God's permission to do anything to him. Job's enemy was not God. It was Satan. He was the one who wanted Job to curse God. In the end Job's heart was still turned to God.
I wonder how many of us could go through what Job went through and still turn to God.
I think we blame Him for tragedies rather than our true enemy.
God is more interested in our hearts.
This is my personal take on this especially after a year of some tragedy.
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#24 of 30 Old 01-31-2003, 04:36 AM
 
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I love the poetry in the Bible. Of course, I love language. Job is great reading for cadence. And probably a whole bunch of other styles, I'm just too tired to think right now. :LOL

Captain Optomism, I love the kings of the Bible too. They are so powerful, but still written as men that sometimes make mistakes.


Solomon is my favorite. My favorite book is Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon, where basically (paraphrasing, of course) he says that he's had it all, women, power, wealth, etc, and it's all worthless. That all that really matters is loving God and worshipping him. And Solomon screwed up a whole bunch to get to that point. There's just so much to learn.

And yeah, you're not kidding about how relevant some of the past is today. Everything does go in cycles.
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#25 of 30 Old 01-31-2003, 12:51 PM
 
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I love the poetry of Job, psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, etc. I also love the king stuff in the Bible. I agree there are so many parallels with contemporary politics. I find it fascinating reading.

I think if there is an anti-king thread, it is to make the point that God wanted the Jews to be different, set apart from the surrounding nations. He wanted them to make Him their king; a nation under God, following His direction and hearing His voice alone. The Israelities wanted to be like the nations around them and begged God to give them a King. First he raised up leaders (judges) of which Deborah (a woman) was one. Eventually He gives in to their pleas for a king. He gives them what they want, which is a pale subsitute for being governed by the Almighty Himself.

-b
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#26 of 30 Old 02-03-2003, 04:01 AM
 
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Okay, still haven't read it, but did clarify with DH what it was he'd said to me about Job/Iyov ...

There's a midrash/understanding of Job that says that he was one of Pharoah's advisors/necromancers/magicians in Egypt, along with Yitro (Jethro) and Bilaam.

Yitro felt anguish about the pain of the Israelites, and pressed Pharoah on the subject, and then left Pharoah's service, thereby meriting his future.
Bilaam supported Pharoah enthusiastically in causing the pain of the Israelites, and thereby "merited" his future.
Job did not complain of it, nor did he enjoy it, but just went along and said nothing. And by just going along and saying nothing, letting it unfold, he ended up with his future. And even I know what that was.

As someone I know used to say, that is truly Torah for our times.



- Amy
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#27 of 30 Old 02-03-2003, 07:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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pardon my language but...
Holy freakin' shit Amy!

Thank your husband for blowing off the top of my head. I could probably use a good airing out now and then. Any and all resources to this effect gratefully recieved, by the way.

edit cuz it makes more sense when the letters are in a particular order.
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#28 of 30 Old 02-03-2003, 11:24 AM
 
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just wanted to post that I'm lurking and learning...

where is my Book of Job anyway....maybe i can complicate it all with Blake's Job. That oughta be nutty...

as i wander off, talking to myself to dig through my bookcases...
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#29 of 30 Old 02-03-2003, 12:02 PM
 
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Has anyone read JOB: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein?

Just wondering...
-b
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#30 of 30 Old 02-03-2003, 05:48 PM
 
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kama ... :LOL :LOL :LOL :LOL :LOL

Always happy to blow a mind.



- Amy
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