Friday, July 14, 2006

Why do I believe the Torah is Divine and uniquely so?

I was avoiding the issue of Torah Min Hashamayim, Ma’amad Har Sinai and generally the divinity of Torah and Mitzvot until I tackled prophecy and providence. However an intelligent and erudite debate has been going on at Divrei Chaim http://divreichaim.blogspot.com/2006/07/limits-of-rational-inquiry-as-basis.html on that and related subjects and I could not resist jumping in and just discuss some Rashei Perakim.

I already posted that at Ma’amad Har Sinai the important aspect from a revelatory point was the fact that all bystanders were somehow convinced that Moshe Rabbeinu was transmitting God’s word. Exactly what the experience was will never be known but there are certain clues that help us get a feel of what happened. I will address it in depth but first I need to explain prophecy for it to make sense. I will do that as I get around to it.

Be it as it may, from a religious point the most important happening was the acceptance by the Jews of the Torah and its system. They committed themselves and their future generations, to keep, cherish, nurture and develop the system within the parameters set out by the Torah. They made a covenant to that effect.

ז וַיִּקַּח סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית, וַיִּקְרָא בְּאָזְנֵי הָעָם; וַיֹּאמְרוּ, כֹּל אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר יְהוָה נַעֲשֶׂה וְנִשְׁמָע. 7
And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the hearing of the people; and they said: 'All that the LORD hath spoken will we do, and obey.'

ח וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת-הַדָּם, וַיִּזְרֹק עַל-הָעָם; וַיֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּה דַם-הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר כָּרַת יְהוָה עִמָּכֶם, עַל כָּל-הַדְּבָרִים, הָאֵלֶּה.
8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said: 'Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you in agreement with all these words.'

Having created a covenantal society, using a RYBS term, those who renege break the bond. They have the choice to do so, but the consequence is severance.

That is why at the end of the 40 years Moshe in his farewell speech says:

ב יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, כָּרַת עִמָּנוּ בְּרִית--בְּחֹרֵב. 2

The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.

ג לֹא אֶת-אֲבֹתֵינוּ, כָּרַת יְהוָה אֶת-הַבְּרִית הַזֹּאת: כִּי אִתָּנוּ, אֲנַחְנוּ אֵלֶּה פֹה הַיּוֹם כֻּלָּנוּ חַיִּים. 3

The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.

ד פָּנִים בְּפָנִים, דִּבֶּר יְהוָה עִמָּכֶם בָּהָר--מִתּוֹךְ הָאֵשׁ. 4

The LORD spoke with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire--

In other words remember that at Sinai you were convinced about the divinity of my prophetic revelation and accepted that the laws I will give you are divine and the result of my unique attainment in prophecy.

For the system to work, the Torah has to be immutable. The Torah tells us:

י וְלֹא-קָם נָבִיא עוֹד בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, כְּמֹשֶׁה, אֲשֶׁר יְדָעוֹ יְהוָה, פָּנִים אֶל-פָּנִים. 10

And there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face;

In other words his prophecy is unique both past and future. He is the only prophet who had a face-to-face experience when he got to know God which is why he was the only prophet that ever legislated. The prophecy he attained allowed for a verbatim transmission of the laws that he apprehended in his revelatory experience. That is why Rambam legislates:

שלושה הן הכופרים בתורה: האומר שאין התורה מעם ה', אפילו פסוק אחד, אפילו תיבה אחת--אם אמר משה אמרו מפי עצמו, הרי זה כופר בתורה; וכן הכופר בפירושה, והיא תורה שבעל פה, והכחיש מגידיה, כגון צדוק ובייתוס; והאומר שהבורא החליף מצוה זו במצוה אחרת, וכבר בטלה תורה זו, אף על פי שהיא הייתה מעם ה', כגון הנוצריים וההגריים. כל אחד משלושה אלו כופר בתורה.

One, who does not accept that Moshe’s prophecy was unique, repudiates the Torah and breaks down its immutability. By doing that he destroys the system and that cannot be tolerated. We are compelled by the torah itself to accept that it is divine. (Please note that the Oral Torah is included as are the interpreters, a long subject for another time)

I know that some will immediately jump on me and say that I am putting forth an idea that Torah is really not Min Hashamayim but is so just because it works better that way. God forbid. I believe it is Min Hashamayim with all my heart. However the reason I accept it is so is because the Torah tells me it is. And I have accepted Torah as Torat Emet. It is impossible to verify it further than that. If I am true to the covenant my forebears made regarding the Torah, I have to accept it as a whole system and not only those parts I can prove empirically.

Now comes the question every skeptic thinks is a killer. Why is our Torah, both written and oral a better and more reliable Mesora than the Christian New Testament for example? For that matter as GH points out the book of Mormon, Koran et al.?

Rambam addresses it in Moreh 2:40: ( I recommend you read this piece in the other editions Pines, Kafah or Schwartz - the latter available here http://press.tau.ac.il/perplexed/toc.asp as this translation is horrible but the only one available on line)

I will, however, fully explain this to you, so that no doubt be left to you on this question, and that you may have a criterion by which you may distinguish between the guidance of human legislation, of the divine law, and of teachings of those who stole from prophets.

As regards those who declare that the laws proclaimed by them are their own ideas, no further test is required: the confession of the defendant makes the evidence of the witness superfluous. I only wish to instruct you about laws which are proclaimed as prophetic. Some of these are truly prophetic, originating in divine inspiration, some are of non-prophetic character, and some, though prophetic originally, are the result of plagiarism. (DG: NT, Koran, book of Mormons)

You will find that the sole object of certain laws, in accordance with the intention of their author, who well considered their effect, is to establish the good order of the state and its affairs, to free it from all mischief and wrong: (DG: the Constitution of the US) these laws do not deal with philosophic problems, contain no teaching for the perfecting of our logical faculties, and are not concerned about the existence of sound or unsound opinions. Their sole object is to arrange, under all circumstances, the relations of men to each other, and to secure their well-being, in accordance with the view of the author of these laws. These laws are political, and their author belongs, as has been stated above, to the third class, viz., to those who only distinguish themselves by the perfection of their imaginative faculties. You will also find laws which, in all their rules, aim, as the law just mentioned, at the improvement of the material interests of the people: but, besides, tend to improve the state of the faith of man, to create first correct notions of God, and of angels, and to lead then the people, by instruction and education, to an accurate knowledge of the Universe: this education comes from God; these laws are divine.

The question which now remains to be settled is this: Is the person who proclaimed these laws the same perfect man that received them by prophetic inspiration, or a plagiarist, who has stolen these ideas from a true prophet? In order to be able to answer this question, we must examine the merits of the person, obtain an accurate account of his actions, and consider his character. The best test is the rejection, abstention, and contempt of bodily pleasures: for this is the first condition of men, and a fortiori of prophets: they must especially disregard pleasures of the sense of touch, which, according to Aristotle, is a disgrace to us: and, above all, restrain from the pollution of sensual intercourse


Rambam feels this to be so important that he ends the statement a little further with: Note what is meant by these words.

He is addressing the claims of others about their laws and theological books. The new testament does claim to give moral teachings, it does address theological issues, (I have never read it in its entirety myself – never had the patience – but from excerpts it seems to do that) – it however declared the Laws of the Torah to which it appended itself, to be null and void. Koran did the same. Furthermore Mohammed certainly did not stand the test of a prophet as Rambam explains.

I do not think I need to go further; the statement speaks for itself.

Have a good Shabbos.

Edit: As I reread this longer than usual post I realized I did not summarize so here goes:

It is futile to look for external empirical proofs for TMS. It is purely a matter of choice. If one wants to remain part of Klal Israel, the covenant that our forebears made has to be accepted as valid. Part of that covenant was to follow the Torah both oral and written. The Torah tells us it is divine and immutable. The strongest argument for its divinity is internal. it is a way of life that covers all aspects, social, societal and theological.

67 comments:

  1. If one wants to remain part of Klal Israel, the covenant that our forebears made has to be accepted as valid.

    I think it's enough to recognize that (non-fundamentalist) Judaism is a good way of life that allows people to develop their intellectual and moral potential. I think that's all that's needed to be part of Klal Yisroel.

    The strongest argument for its divinity is internal. it is a way of life that covers all aspects, social, societal and theological.

    This doesn't seem like a very strong argument. Certainly, after 2000 years of rabbinic activities, the Torah covers all aspects of life. So what?

    You are a person who believes in the preeminence of rationality, so what's the rational argument for divinity here? Why not conclude that it's a good-but-not-perfect system (if that's what you think) crafted over a long period of time by men (and maybe women) of high moral and intellectual caliber? Or perhaps you are saying (as some writer once did) that to say something is "divine" or "godly" just means that it reflects the characteristics of "divinity" or "godliness"; that is, without making a claim regarding actual origins, the Torah is a piece of work that embodies the qualities exemplified by our notions of God, whatever they may be. It is thus Godly without being from God, in the same way that last night's dinner was Chinese without being from China. And in case you're wondering, yes, beef-with-broccoli is an excellent way to break a fast.

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  2. >I think it's enough to recognize that (non-fundamentalist) Judaism is a good way of life that allows people to develop their intellectual and moral potential

    It goes much beyond that. The goal is to understand God's ways and emulate them. The Torah is a system to get you there. There may be others ways but none that I know of that works on a large group for generations. That is why someone who breaks away has no chance to get there and loses the ability to have Olam Haba which is the attainment of that. I will write much about that. (I did already)


    the rest of your comment requires a much lengthier answer and i will beg off for later or a post.

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  3. Very nice post.

    I feel like the terms, intelectual and Moral growth are terms that people use to be PC. I don't think its the goal of Torah Judaism.

    Like you said in your comment, its about emmulation and a closeness to G-d. A relationship.

    I think that is something that many people miss out on.

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  4. If one wants to remain part of Klal Israel, the covenant that our forebears made has to be accepted as valid

    Says who? That just begs the question. Sometimes I don't understand how you are blind to these obvious flaws.

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  5. JF because that is what a covenant is.Judaism is a responsibility not a privilege. It is called "Yoke" of heaven. You don't want the yoke you are free to walk away and suffer the consequences.

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  6. > You don't want the yoke you are free to walk away and suffer the consequences.

    Why 'suffer'? Maybe the consequences are good? This whole post looks like fundamentalism dressed up as rationalism. You accept the Torah's account as true, but why? Who says it's acurate? I guess your starting point is acceptance of the Torah, no matter what.

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  7. >Why 'suffer'? Maybe the consequences are good? This whole post looks like fundamentalism dressed up as rationalism.

    I hate labels lets stick to issues.

    A thinking person has existential issues why am i here? What is life? and other such questions. Most people look at a way that will make them happy materially. That is fine but what happens when you get older and the time is running out. Past experiences are gone , the future is bleak. The Torah proposes that we need to try and find the Creator, and tells us that by doing that we will become part of eternity as he is eternal. That experience in itself is the ultimate pleasure and it also is eternal. Understanding eternity makes you part of it. Torah tells you that it is a guide to reach that experience. We are told by others that they have experienced it. What more can we say?

    So it si not acceptance no matter what it is acceptance of 'Ubacahrta Bachaim".

    I call this rationalism.

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  8. > A thinking person has existential issues why am i here? What is life? and other such questions. Most people look at a way that will make them happy materially. That is fine but what happens when you get older and the time is running out. Past experiences are gone , the future is bleak. The Torah proposes that we need to try and find the Creator, and tells us that by doing that we will become part of eternity as he is eternal. That experience in itself is the ultimate pleasure and it also is eternal. Understanding eternity makes you part of it. Torah tells you that it is a guide to reach that experience. We are told by others that they have experienced it. What more can we say?

    So its a system which works well and people like it. OK.

    GH (I can't log in as GH cos I gave away my password)

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  9. I disagree with you on this whole matter of whether there is proof to Judaism. We KNOW that Sinai happened and we can prove it.

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  10. >So its a system which works well and people like it. OK.

    I believe it is more but to understand one needs to learn and experience it. But you are at a starting point.

    You are asking for the impossible when you are looking for empirical evidence on things that by definition cannot have that. It is plain and simple a matter of acceptance. I don't like the word faith because it implies a belief in a fable. Acceptance is a different concept.

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  11. >We KNOW that Sinai happened and we can prove it.

    We can prove internally from the Torah. If you can prove it externally please share it with me.

    BTW it would not change that with Sinai proven you still need to accept it. See the Jews a few days later made the egel.

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  12. There is empirical evidence that Sinai happened, its just like u believe there was a Ceaser or world war two. You don't claim its "faith". The same applies to any historical account. Once you claim there is no proof to Sinai then its automatically faith.

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  13. Read the article posted by Mesora.org from Rabbi Chait. If you have questions then look at the other articles with questions from people on Sinai and how they are all answered. People will decide whatever they want if they want to accept something or not. The fact is however, that it happened and to say otherwise is lying to oneself.

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  14. There is empirical evidence that Sinai happened

    Again we do have empirical evidence because the Torah says so. We know Cesar existed because we have records by more than one person that wrote about him. If we found a document that is external and reports that that person was at sinai or knew someone who was there, we would have empirical evidence that is external.

    Again it is Lo ma'aleh velo Morid - without accepting the consequence of Sinai it would have no meaning.

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  15. There are people who want to deny Sinai eventhough they know its true only because it means they must change their lifestyle and do things they think are not enjoyable and good for them. Once they see the beauty of Judaism and how its the best way to live life, they will be truly happy they found the truth.

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  16. >Read the article posted by Mesora.org from Rabbi Chait.

    I read it and it seems that he saying very similar things I am. I do not see any external empirical evidence only internal.

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  17. >Once they see the beauty of Judaism and how its the best way to live life, they will be truly happy they found the truth.

    It will still not prove that Sinai really happened.

    BTW you are confusing Sinai with TMS they are two different things. Sinai proved that Moshe was a special Navi. Once he was understood as such, the Torah he gave us was considered TMS.

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  18. We have internal as well as external evidence that it happened. Are you only considering first hand knowledge as proof? If you are then thats not the only way to prove something. You dont only believe things you see right now, you also believe things that happened hundreds of years ago because we have proof of them. Second hand knowledge is equal to first hand knowledge.

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  19. The whole world agrees that Sinai happened because we have no alternate evidence claiming that Sinai did not happen.

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  20. The whole world agrees that Sinai happened because we have no alternate evidence claiming that Sinai did not happen

    I do hope this "anonymous" character is really GH doing a comical impression of "Jewish Philosopher." If it's for real, it's getting me depressed. (I'm already depressed from reading the latest responses in the Jewish Press to R'Harry's article of several weeks ago.)

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  21. >that happened hundreds of years ago because we have proof of them

    What proof? that nobody disagrees with that? Who is nobody the few frum Jews? that is second hand proof?


    Why are you so hung up about proving it happened? Isn't accepting that something happened, that Moshe is a navi emet therefore, and the Torah is immutable because it says the there will be no other with Moshe's ability.

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  22. >I do hope this "anonymous" character is really GH doing a comical impression of "Jewish Philosopher."

    Thanks for pointing it out. The problem is that I don't see the need for vempirical proof in this matter. I see it as an acceptance part of the acceptance of the whole system.

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  23. >vempirical proof

    I love that!

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  24. The whole world agrees Sinai happened. what do u mean a few frum jews? the christians and moslems believe it and that is what they base their religions on.

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  25. So add a few frum fundementalist christians and muslims.

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  26. No one ever wrote an alternate account of what really happened at the time of Sinai. If it truly didnt happen, other people would have disputed it, but NO ONE did. The reason being is because it would be like someone denying an event that happened today.

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  27. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  28. If you claim we have no proof for Judiasm, then its no different than any other religion. A person will continue to have this problem if they deny the truth that Sinai happened.

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  29. Few? were talking about billions of people who believe Sinai happened.

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  30. >If it truly didnt happen, other people would have disputed it, but NO ONE did

    You mean most people don't care. Again why do you insist proving empirically something that cannot be? Suffice it that we as Jews accepted the Torah fior ever.

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  31. >If you claim we have no proof for Judiasm, then its no different than any other religion.

    Reda my post again and rambam i quoted.

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  32. >If you claim we have no proof for Judiasm,

    I just realized who was talking about judaism?

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  33. Why are you so apt on proving we dont have proof for Judiasm when we do? The fact is if you claim we have no proof for Judiasm then its no different that christianity and islam. If you look most rishonim say you must KNOW there is a G-d and that Sinai happened, this includes the R' Saadia Gaon, Rambam, Ramban, Kuzari, among others.

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  34. Anonymous sounds like a YBT cult member. Pass the kool aid.

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  35. YBT isn't a cult, maybe your in the cult. It isn't proper to speak loshon hora about Yeshivas, especially when they are god Yeshivas. I know YBT and its one of the best Yeshiva's out there.

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  36. I means good yeshivas.

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  37. Its really not good to be speaking about lashon harah about anyone. good yeshivas or not.


    I posted a new post in my blog, which basically shows that we don't know what Emunah is, and I think untill we can come to some consneus on what these terms we are debating is, we are going to really be stuck and talking past eachother.

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  38. Lets stick to issues and not personalities.

    I believe that we harm Yiddishkeit if we make claims that are untrue. If I recall correctly the Mitzvah is Zachor not KNOW de facto. That is totally different.You have to be careful how you read the Risonim. they were very smart.

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  39. I have to go now. but enjoy the debate.

    Shabbat Shalom and keep our land in mind.

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  40. Your reading the Rishonim incorrectly. All the Rishonim I quoted who are some among many others, have all stated we must KNOW that Sinai happened. Making claims like many people do saying that Sinai did not happen and that we have no proof that it did happen is false. No one including yourself can get out of the contradiction you put yourselves in if you claim Judiasm is like any other religion saying it has no proof for itself. The Torah uses the word KNOW when saying that you should KNOW there is a G-d.

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  41. Think about this and do not get influenced by others who deny that we have proof that Sinai happened. Have a good Shabbos.

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  42. jewishskeptic7/15/2006 8:12 AM

    >"It is futile to look for external empirical proofs for TMS. It is purely a matter of choice."

    That's Y.Leibwits argument throughout his books.He argues it's all 'arachim'-values.He asks why is one moral,doesn't steal or murder? Not because of any rational reason(after all if is caught it might be to his advantage),but because he makes a choice to be moral.And making choices IS NOT based on rationality.
    He also asserts that morality has nothing to do with J. Morality is a human invention.

    Now if you had left it at that I could understand it.
    You explained why you made your choice to accept the Torah as divine & here all discussion ends.
    You made a choice,NO RATIONALITY involved.Fine.
    However,you went further.You quoted at length the Rambam,in rationally explaining why J.is true & not other religions.
    There you open up a pandora's box!

    The Rambam's arguments are neither here nor there.
    christianity can claim it's superior to J. in as far as it has been accepted by so many & Gods will is to benefit all mankind & not a just a tiny nation. The Jews were scattered throughout the world & despised everywhere-a sure sign of God's displeasure with them. Do I have to quote you more of Christian theology thoughout the ages? Why they consider their religion superior to ours.
    The Muslims make similar arguments.In addition they claim that no on reproduce a book of equal beauty like the koran.(I read it & it's much inferior to our neviim.But of course they'll say I am prejudiced & lack emunas chachomim-Islamic...)
    So I dont see the point of quoting the Rambam-if it's all a matter of choice,not based on rationality.

    In an earlier post you wrote that you believe that hashkafot evolved & you quoted extensively the Rambam.
    I don't see why the idea has to be limited just to God.The Rambam extends it to korbanoit.
    Once you accept the idea of evolvement of hashkafh why can't you extend it to our haskafah of the Torah? When was it written? Maybe Yirmiyahu & the cohanim & Ezra had a hand in its composition?...
    Of course,if you say 'we make a choice to believe that its Torah miSinai AL YEDEI MOSHE',there the matter rests & KOL HAMOSIF GORE'A...
    "If one wants to remain part of Klal Israel, the covenant that our forebears made has to be accepted as valid. Part of that covenant was to follow the Torah both oral and written"
    You have to explain what you mean by oral law.Do you mean 'kol mah shetalmid vatik etc.'or do you mean the 'midot',& which rabbis are acceptable by you.e.g. according to many its forbidden to use the internet...(& I can see their POV-you cant escape zimah & toevah,even just for using it for email-all the ads...)

    About klal Israel-wern't the ovdei habaal part of klal Yisrael?
    Weren't the Tsdukim?
    How many would remain in klal yisrael if the chareidim had their way?
    Mentioning the chareidim,I will end on a personal note.
    The situation here in Israel is very tense.Soldiers were killed & kidnapped.My daughter's inlaws & their families had to flee from their homes in Tsefat.
    My son in law,who is just about to finish his Ph.d at Machon Weitzman,&his wife-my daughter, is due soon to give birth,is worried about getting a 'tsav 8'.As it is he does months of 'miluim'each year. While the chareidi PARASITES
    are 'memitim et atsmam be'oholah shel torah!I wonder what LY has to say about this.
    You can imagine what he & his buddies in the army think of those parasites.

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  43. JS - i hope ypu are well in EY. Our hearts and thoughts are with you. Your questions are excellent and the ones upto here I will reply in a post because they are important and lead to the next step.

    >You have to explain what you mean by oral law.Do you mean 'kol mah shetalmid vatik etc.'or do you mean the 'midot'

    I was referring to the Hallachik system where until there was a sanhedrin they were decisors, the talmud is the decisor for us, and thereafter each person who is able to figure out from the text can pasken for himself and if he can't should ask someone who can. (I dont want to go off but I don't believe that there is nowadays a possek that is binding on Klal only on the individual that accepts him)

    >Of course,if you say 'we make a choice to believe that its Torah miSinai AL YEDEI MOSHE',there the matter rests & KOL HAMOSIF GORE'A

    Correct.

    >About klal Israel-wern't the ovdei habaal part of klal Yisrael?
    Weren't the Tsdukim?


    But their movement did not survive. (Leibovitz again)

    Your comment about Chareidim - I am with you 100%. I will never forget when I was in Yeshivah, over 40 years ago I was on the train from Haifa to Tel aviv and a passenger started a conversation with me. He was incensed asking where were the Yeshivah guys while he was being shot at during the Sinai campaign and milchemet hashichrur? I remeber even then still under yeshivah influence, I was totally with him. It is a disgrace and chilul hashem.

    I wish you and your family
    Ki Malachov yetzaveh lach lishmorecha bekol drecheicha.

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  44. >The goal is to understand God's ways and emulate them. The Torah is a system to get you there

    This really isn't a major theme in Tanach as far as I can tell. Most of Tanach deals with the theme of obedience to God because he is your owner and maker. And the way to perform his will is by setting up a just and moral society. It really doesn't seem to be preoccupied with emulating his ways, or understand him, in order to get close to him for its own sake.

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  45. Spinoza,

    You missed the whole post. We accept Torah Shebiktav and Sheba'al Peh. Torah Shebiktav says Veholachta Bidrachav Torah She Ba'al Peh says Mah hu rachum af Ata etc...

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  46. This really isn't a major theme in Tanach as far as I can tell. Most of Tanach deals with the theme of obedience to God because he is your owner and maker. And the way to perform his will is by setting up a just and moral society. It really doesn't seem to be preoccupied with emulating his ways, or understand him, in order to get close to him for its own sake.


    I take objection to that.

    I'm not sure what you mean by Owner and Maker, however, the Torah says an approximatly 6 bajillion times, "Because I took you out of Egypt"

    This to me, would fall under that designation of Gratitude.

    That fact that G-d made us, is not a reason for our relationship, and I'm not sure what you mean by Owner.

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  47. יט כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו, לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת-בָּנָיו וְאֶת-בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו, וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ יְהוָה, לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט

    וְעַתָּה אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ, הוֹדִעֵנִי נָא אֶת-דְּרָכֶךָ, וְאֵדָעֲךָ, לְמַעַן אֶמְצָא-חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ

    וְעַתָּה, יִשְׂרָאֵל--מָה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, שֹׁאֵל מֵעִמָּךְ: כִּי אִם-לְיִרְאָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לָלֶכֶת בְּכָל-דְּרָכָיו, וּלְאַהֲבָה אֹתוֹ, וְלַעֲבֹד אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשֶׁךָ

    These are just 3 samples in Torah there are many many more throughout nach. I think BS it is time you stearted going back to basics. learn Chumash with one parshan, ramban for example and follow with nach radak and yalkut shimoni and you will be surprised what you find.

    Your hero Spinoza was smart but totally off the mark. He missed the forest for the trees.

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  48. According to my understanding of Tanach, God took Israel out of Egypt not to be a free nation that would decide its own fate and create its own society, rather he did it in order to make them his own personal servant or slave. This is what I mean by ownership. Israel is not free to do what it wants, it is obligated by its master to follow his will whether they like it or not.

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  49. BS you have unfoirtunately a twisted understanding of Torah. See my earlier comment. For every verse that says Avadim, there is another that says Beni Bechori Yisrael, Ahavat Olam Ahavtich etc... So apparently your understanding is incorrect. If you insist in reading selectively go ahead.

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  50. I agree that there are two aspects. One is fear and the other is love. The Torah uses both to convince Israel to follow the law. But you can't deny that this covenent is supposed to be optional in any way. It is clear from Tanach that if Israel disobeys God's law then they will be punished severely by a jealous and vengful God who doesn't ignore disobediency. You can't explain this all by saying it is cause and effect. Because how does withholding rain have anything to do with not following the law? Unless you view the laws as divine magic, which I'm sure you don't

    I am aware that modern people find this unattractive and we rather focus on positive and uplifting things instead of focusing on the negative, but the Torah wasn't written in our time and you shouldn't expect it to reflect modern sensibilites.

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  51. I'm sorry if I offended anyone. That was not my intention. I'm just expressing what I feel is an honest look at Tanach. Trying to fit an honest "rational" interpretation into Tanach is difficult. I don't think the beliefs in ancient times were what we would consider rational in our day and age. It's possible to say that the prophets had a higher understanding than the average person of their time and they were just expressing themselves on the level that the average person would understand.

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  52. >Because how does withholding rain have anything to do with not following the law?

    Tje way I understand it is if you do vodoo, go after Elohim Acherim, instead of working to protect the environment and cultivate judiciously, you will end up with hunger. The same economically and so on. The law requires you to do that.


    >I don't think the beliefs in ancient times were what we would consider rational in our day and age. It's possible to say that the prophets had a higher understanding than the average person of their time and they were just expressing themselves on the level that the average person would understand

    I have repaetedly explained that Tanach that we have is only those prophecies and stories that can be understood always. Eternal messages were written down all others were forgotten. Tanach has to be reinterpreted for each generation to fit for its time. The fact that it can be, vide Rambam, proves how great the editors thereof were.

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  53. "he did it in order to make them his own personal servant or slave."

    how is this different than saying and he made a covenant with us and we can't break it?

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  54. jewishskeptic7/17/2006 3:46 AM

    >"The fact that it can be, vide Rambam, proves how great the editors thereof were"

    But as pointed out by many his interpretations are forced.
    He himself states that if it were proven that the universe had always existed he could easily interpret the bible to support it!

    What does it mean when one says I will reinterpret a text in anyway that conforms with current thought of any generation,even if it does violence to the very text?
    Can't one do that with any text ?!!!
    If you take e.g.the New T.,Koran,or the book of M.& use for e.g. codes,notarikon,all the various systems of gematriyyot,one can prove anything in the world!
    After all the kabbalists do it with the Torah.(let's not forget that gimatriyyot is one of the 32 midot she'hatorah nidreshet ba'hen)
    The objections the Rambam would have against such misuse of reason & language, could be said the same of his method.

    Let me ask the question:
    Woudn't an omniscient,allwise God,find a way to give a Book to humanity (ok via the Hebrews),that could be interpreted in every generation ,without doing violence to reason & language?
    It's limiting Him to say He coudn't.It's not asking Him to square the circle...

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  55. >Because how does withholding rain have anything to do with not following the law?

    It really depends on how you look at it.

    Without G-d, the Jewish people do not deserve Israel. There is no justification for Bnei' Yisorel to Conqure the land of Israel, over any other land, save the instructions and covenant with G-d.

    Therefore, not following the covenant with G-d, is reason for us to not be able to live in the Land of Israel well.

    If you want to reneg on the contract, then make sure you don't live in Israel.

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  56. After all the kabbalists do it with the Torah.(let's not forget that gimatriyyot is one of the 32 midot she'hatorah nidreshet ba'hen)

    I am curious what your standard is that defines "reason and language." You apparently have a different definition of "reason and language" than I do.

    To me, reason is defined by the 13 principles of Torah study, and Language is defined by the Sefer Yetzirah.

    If you prefer to use Noam Chamsky as your definer of Language, and Aristotle as your definer of reason, then be more clear on that.

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  57. jewishskeptic7/17/2006 6:18 PM

    >" There is no justification for Bnei' Yisorel to Conqure the land of Israel, over any other land,"

    Excuce me,but you can ask this "klots kashye' about any nation.
    You live in the U.S. which was conquered from the Indians & they in turn too it from others.
    I can ask you what right have you got to sit on stolen property...
    How did the white man come to possess Australia?
    & so is the right of the Jews to Israel .They lived there for many hundreds of years & their national identity was formed there.They lost it in war & wanted to return to it ,if necessary by force.
    All nations aquired their lands by force,including killing it's inhabitants.Morality only came later...Read some history books including the bible & you'll have a justification for Zionism without involving God.

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  58. jewishskeptic7/17/2006 7:03 PM

    >" You apparently have a different definition of "reason and language" than I do.

    To me, reason is defined by the 13 principles of Torah study, and Language is defined by the Sefer Yetzirah"

    Apparently we do,because I havn't the faintest idea what you talking about.

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  59. >Woudn't an omniscient,allwise God,find a way to give a Book to humanity (ok via the Hebrews),that could be interpreted in every generation ,without doing violence to reason & language?

    But He did - look at the Torah - so He wasn't such a great linguist!

    But seriously, I think that the Torah is talking not only to different generations but to different people within a generation. It talks to Rav Shach and to RYBS at the same time although the two probably could not talk to each other outside Halacha. it also talks to the Chasid Shoteh and the sophisticated Admor, the Am Ha'aretz and the Yeshivaman. And that in each generation. It talks to each individual. if look at it this way it is quite remarkable. It is asking to square a circle bnecause it has to talk to people. That is why Rambam played around with the Dibra Torah (K)Bileshon bnei adam and broadened its meaning.

    BTW Malbim did a valiant effort to try to work through the linguistics, synonims, homonyms etc... Meshech Chochma does it for devarim where Malbim did not finish and more needs to be done. Unfortunately Hebrew was a dead language for so long that it is amazing we know it this well. See Rambam in his intro to Yad, beginning of Hil tefila and in Moreh he talks about it i am just too tired to look for it now.

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  60. >Excuce me,but you can ask this "klots kashye' about any nation.

    Here is the difference. Other nations don't claim to have a moral reason, and peacefull nature as to the reason and means to thier land.

    Judaism doesn't claim that is just like any other nation to come and take land, just for the hell of it. Abraham bought Hebron and the place to bury Sarah, he didn't conqure it. Yiztchak and Yaakov, also, did not take any particular territory and claim it as thier own. This is why Moav and the other nations were not willing to let bnei'Yisorel just pass through. There was nothing to let other people know why exactly it was Israel that the Jews were going to take, and not any other area.

    Lastly, we can see with America, that its not so simple to just take the land. Native Americans and people who belive in Atzlan still have thier disputes.

    The Sefer Yetzirah, is the oldest Kabalistic book known, and it explains how each letter works in the Hebrew language.

    The 13 princples of Torah study are 13 laws that the Talmud uses to explain Tanack, such as Kol V'chomer. There might be another name for it thats more commonly used.

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  61. jewishskeptic7/18/2006 11:10 AM

    >"Judaism doesn't claim that is just like any other nation to come and take land, just for the hell of it" etc.etc.

    Look Irviner,I don't know how old you are,you have very naive views.
    You seem to forget that the Bnei Israel conquered a populated land & massacred all of it's inhabitants(I am convinced all of it is myth).
    Did you ever read the whole of the book of Joshua? I mean the whole book & not just the story of the 2 spies & Rachav hazonah that you might learned at afternoon school.

    You can say that God commanded the total annihilation of those people,
    because they were evil etc.But we only have the torah's word for it & I am sure the Canaanites etc had different ideas.But from the way the torah demonized them ,it a sure sign it was propaganda.You must give the people some justification to conquer other peoples' land & massacre them.
    AS I said,I believe that most of it is myth or distorted facts.

    I know what a 'kal vachomer' is.


    BTW this Baraita can be found in some siddurim.
    Some scholars claim that this 13 midot were actually taken from the Greeks(& not halacha lemoshe misinai,as you would like to think).Anyhow not all of them are based on logic.
    Tell me, what's logical about a 'gezerah shavah?

    About the sefer Yetsirah ,I wasn't zoiche lemale cresi with all of 'gefet' before approaching kabbalah ,as the kabbalists themselves warned us not to do.
    I doubt very much that you have.

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  62. >About the sefer Yetsirah

    Sefer Yetzirah was interpreted both linguistically by earlier Rishonim as well as Kabalistically. Avraham Berliner has an article on it quite interesting which shos it to be a non kabbalistic work.

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  63. I have had the benefit of being able to read the entire Tanach from front to finish.

    I beleive you are talking about a different time period than me.

    Rashi comments, that the reason the Torah starts with Bereshit is so to show that G-d can give Israel to the Jewish people.

    The conquests of Joshua are immoral without G-d's permision of it. Because the Jews, before Joshua, did not have any real claim to the land.

    As for your comments about not having learned enough to study kabbalah, I asked this question, and I was told that if a book is translated into english and a non-jew might study it, there is no reason why you can't study it.

    The issue with kabbalah, is that its possible, if you don't learn it properly, for it to lead you towards abandoning mitzvot, and to beleiving in Idolatry.

    However many say, that in today's day and age, for some people, not learning Kabbalah can be more dangerous than learning it.

    As to the sepher yetzirah, how exactly to they learn it non-kabbalistically?

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  64. Here is the entire book of the Sepher Yetzirah if you wish to read it. Its really very short, and most likely won't make any sense.

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/yetzirah.htm

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  65. Forgot to comment on the gzera shava.

    The concept of a gzera shava, is the same one that people use to know that World Wide Web, refers to a virtual network and not to a giant spider web that we beleive takes over the world.

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