Saturday, November 11, 2006

Akedah - last words for now.

My post on the Akedah last week generated controversy and Jewish Skeptic, Tafkaa and Al took me to task. Both JS and Tafkaa focused in on their perception that I was claiming the Akedah was a dream. JS felt that it was an unfair distortion of traditional sources while Tafkaa felt it was blasphemy. (He did not say that as he is too courteous but I am sure that was the underlying sentiment). I really do not have an opinion about what Rambam holds on that. Narboni understands the whole thing as a prophetic experience, Abarbanel and as Tafkaa points out Ramban see it as part prophecy part reality. My point was that seeing it as a prophetic dream answers the difficulties that we would have about Avraham condoning a human sacrifice forbidden in the Torah so prominently. It being a demonstration and lesson rather than a test and it being brought about by Avraham’s introspection which resulted in a prophecy makes it even more palatable. I personally think it is irrelevant whether it happened in real life or in Avraham’s prophetic experience. What is important is the Torah reporting a private story. The purpose is clearly to teach us about dedication to God and the certainty of prophecy. Both lessons can be learned whether it was real or prophetic.

Al and Phil Goode questioned whether my idea of this episode being the result of Avraham’s introspection had a source. The story begins with “It was after these events”. The Rabbis question to which events the Passuk is referring. In Midrash Breishit Rabah (quoted by Rashi with modifications) the Rabbis say:


אחר הדברים האלה אחר הרהורי דברים שהיו שם. מי הרהר? אברהם הרהר ואמר: שמחתי ושמחתי את הכל, ולא הפרשתי להקב"ה, לא פר אחד ולא איל אחד! אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא: על מנת שנאמר לך, שתקריב לי את בנך ולא תעכב

After these events - after these cogitations. (Devarim can be translated as events but also words which result from thoughts hence cogitations). Who had cogitations? Avraham was thinking I am happy and I made everyone happy but I have not given to God a single ox or ram. God said to him your happiness was conditioned on us ordering you to offer up your son and you not holding back from doing it.

Clearly the Rabbis are describing Avraham’s introspection questioning his motives in wanting a child and his plans for him.

By the way this is not the only time the Rabbis interpret this expression as Avraham’s introspection. The introduction to the Brit Bein Habetarim episode starts with the same words and here too the Midrash comments:

אחר הדברים האלה, אחר הירהורי דברים שהיו שם. מי הרהר? אברהם הרהר. אמר לפני הקב"ה: רבון העולמים, כרת ברית עם נח, שאינך מכלה את בניו, עמדתי וסיגלתי מצות ומעשים טובים יותר ממנו, ודחתה בריתי לבריתו. תאמר שאחר עומד ומסגל מצות ומעשים טובים יותר ממני, ותדחה בריתו לבריתי?! אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא: מנח לא העמדתי מגינים של צדיקים, אבל ממך אני מעמיד מגינים של צדיקים

After these events – after these cogitations. Who cogitated? Avraham. Avraham said to God you made a covenant with Noach and as I was better than him you replaced his covenant with mine. What will stop you from doing the same to me? God said to him, Noach children did not protect the righteous, your children will.

Again obviously the Midrash is describing Avraham’s introspection and his decision to work towards creating a nation that will be righteous.

Regarding the understanding of the word Nissah as demonstration, adding to Balashon’s post the Midrash says:

ר' יוסי הגלילי אומר: גדלו כנס הזה של ספינה.

He elevated him [Avraham] like the flag of a ship.

This Midrash clearly understands Nissayon as a demonstration and not a test.

More to come on other cases where Nissayon is seen as a demonstration.

Shavua Tov.

60 comments:

  1. looked at rashi. i may have read it wrong, but his explanation seems to say that hashem never said to actually sacrifice (shecht)yitzchok.
    god was vague, and avrohom misunderstood him, in my mind, thinking that maybe hashem is a molech after all. he will test hashem to see if he will let him do it.
    hashem is happy that avrohom didnt actually plan to go through with it, and avrohom is happy, hashem isnt molech.
    win win.

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  2. "Know that the story of the binding is a true story, well known among the religious community. There is no doubt that this story took place sensible (physically), and it was witnessed, and thereby the virtue of Avraham and Saran and their certainty about G-D (may He be exalted) became well known. However, He first showed Avraham and Isaac the story in a prophetic vision, by means of an intellectual apprehension. That which it indicates is the union and connection of the soul with its origin during the state of life (while the person is alive). This is a marvelous story. Only G-D and the two of them (Avraham and Isaac) know the secret of this conneciton, (how it is maintained) whil the soul continues to be associated with matter. It says, 'Just as it was in the heart of the one who did the binding, it was in the heart of the one who was bound.' Afterwards he set out without dely to slaughter his only son, whom he received only after frustration and old age."
    Midrash ha Hefes - Yahya ibn Sulayman al-Dhamari/ Zekharaya ha Rofe/ 1430ce/ YEMENITE MIDRASH

    "And Abraham rose early in the morning (Ber 22:3). This verse conveys to us the power of prophecy. Even though (the revelation) occurs in a dream at night, or in the daytime after a deep sleep has set in, what the prophet sees is a clear statement. He has no doubt or second thoughts concering it. Instead, prophetic statement and scientific statements are equivalent in the eyes of the prophets. Because the message was true and completely free of any flaw or doubt, Avraham hrussied to slaughter his one and only son. He had no second thoughts; he did not wonder whether his prophecy was true or, instead and inane dream. But he did not undertake the matter in a state of panic or at night; for if he had done so, people would have said that his deed was something done out of panic or craziness. Instead, and Avraham rose early in the morning. He travelled for three days sot that all might know that this was a matter of prophecy, and there was nothing defective about it."
    Midrash ha-Gadol" of David bar Amram al-'Adani - 1346ce - Yemenite Midrash

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  3. Ralbag says that Avraham was not sure what the prophecy meant to elevate Yitzcahk or to offer himas a korban. the resolution comes at the end wher he realizes that it is the former and the korban is a way of teaching him and elevating him.

    Rashi is a liitle murky as he quotes midrashim and fixes them to fit the pshat.

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  4. Al thank you for the reference. Midrash Hagadol is a yemmenite midrash that refers to the rambam's way of understanding. I use it a lot. Midrash Hahefetz I do not know.

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  5. >My point was that seeing it as a prophetic dream answers the difficulties that we would have about Avraham condoning a human sacrifice forbidden in the Torah so prominently.

    Not sure what your problem is here. There are three Mitzvos which one must sacrifice himself for. If my son calls me in a panic, that he is being threatened with either conversion or death, surely I have to encourage him to die. Why? Because commanded that rather die than convert.

    So why is it so foreign to you, that if God commanded Avrohom to kill his son, it should be followed?

    The same God who said that rather die than commit Giluy Arayos, commanded Avrohom to sacrifice Yitzchok. Why do you understand the former, but not the latter?

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  6. The uncensored edition of the Efodi
    writes explicitly that the Akeda was a dream.

    Technician

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  7. David,

    I have much respect for the tone of your posts about the Akeida, (not to mention the scholorship). But I would key on the same quote that 'ed' uses. How does the use of a dream (or an internal debate within Avraham) change the moral message that you must suppress your innate sense of morality and compassion if it is in conflict with God's will. (As we say on R'H "...he conquered his mercy to do your will with a full heart...")

    My 11 year old son goes to a MO Yeshiva (who knows, maybe the same one as 'happy'), and when I discussed the Akeida with him, I didn't tell him that it was a metaphor. Rather, I told him that if I ever have a vision that God told me to kill him, I plan to go straight to the nearest mental hospital and check myself in. The Rambam may assure us that a prophetic vision contains complete certainty, but so does a schizophrenic delusion.

    You, more than any other blogger, work so hard to reconcile your sense of reality and morals into the mesorah. You are fighting to preserve the values of an idea which you ascribe great beauty and spirituality to. But it is not the idea which is beautiful - the idea is full of human flaws. If anything, it is the humanism and values which human beings have shoehorned into our mesorah which have given it such luster.

    I say, have more faith in humanity. In less time that it would take you to construct these appologies, you could write your own moral coda - one which would be far more advance then the thousand year old Rabbinical version which you adhear to. And we will not crumble into anarchy because we are not being handcuffed by our myths. Quite the contrary, we will advance.

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  8. Technician, thank you. Did you read Avraham Nuriel's artcle "Meshalim velo nitparesh shehem masahl bemoreh hanevuchim" first published in Da'at 25?

    Ed - You are assuming (comment here and on the other thread) everything is kipshuto when it comes to stories in Chumash. It is impossible for anyone with a little sechel to accept that. The way I undersatnd sedom is that there was a shift in the plate of the earth causing major destruction along the Jordan rift. Avraham in his prophetic experience realized that and had a vision of the future cataclysm. In that vision all that happened to lot, his discussion with God occurred. The discussion with God was Avraham trying to come to terms with Justice and human life loss. Lot's escape was serendipidous and in Avbraham's vision seen as miraculous. (See Abarbanel on Moreh 2:42 on the subject). Mabul was a similar event and the Torah is trying to make sense of it and giving it a thological perspective. Generally Torah is teaching us how to try and undersatnd calamities. As Rav Soloveitchik writes in his Kol Dodi Dofek, that calamities happen and what we do with them is important. I will be addressing that at length in future posts.

    Your comment about Yehareg ve'al ya'avor, it is not simple halachikally. Not all Rishonim agreed with the approach the chasidei ashkenaz had during the crusades and it was considered a chidush. i hope that if your son calls a that he is threatened you will ask a Rav first. Kanaim Pogeim is a unique hallacha where one need not ask and does not extend here. But I don't understand the comparison. Who threatened Yitzchak? The fact that the old man Avraham had a dream should not have made Ytzchak believe him. In your derech of pre and post Sinai being one big fact a navi that tells you to be overr on Moshe's law should be stoned!

    Dbs, Iyou too have a lack of respect for torah. The Torah is not a history or book of fables. The name says it all a book of teachings. I am not trying to defend an old passe religion but to understand and live with a living and in my understanding alweays contemporary system that teaches us how to find and give meaning to our lives. It takes work, learning and thinking otherwise it would not be a book of teachings. I therefore find it very meaningful to understand things and learn from them and do not dismiss anything in it. If properly understood the storyies of Breishit are fabulouis and that is what the rabbis meant with Ma'asey Avot Siman lebanim - we need to learn from these stories how to realte to the world and events. As to your 11 year old son. i am no education specialist. All i know that i as a child wish I had more open minded teachers. It would have saved me a lot of hardship later. I was lucky i had an uncle who in my teens opened my mind and that helped though did not totally overturn the harm done by what I consider a faulty Girsa De'yankuta.

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  9. ed
    lets turn your scenario around.
    its you who gets the vision that you need to kill your son.
    the same god who tells you kill yourslelf for giluy arayos, could be the same god who now tells you to kill your child.
    would you?
    or would you do as dbs says, and run to bellvue.

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  10. Jewishskeptic11/12/2006 8:52 AM

    1) David,in our last exchange you wrote:JS, I know that Abarbanel interprets Rambam as it being reality. I am not sure he is right". In all fairness,you should have mentioned it.I thought the purpose of the discussion was to try to find the truth,and not to score points.
    2)>"Therefore if it was in a dream it makes it less difficult. I know that it creates other problems but that is quite normal"
    >"My point was that seeing it as a prophetic dream answers the difficulties that we would have about Avraham condoning a human sacrifice forbidden in the Torah so prominently"
    our wishful thinking & desires doesn't give us the right to interpret texts "k'chol haoleh badimyon". That,if you'll forgive,is showing disrespect towards the Rambam.As I pointed out in my comment,it is clear from the Rambam that he held that the Akedah was real(aside from God apearing to him & giving him the order,which was in a vision)
    3) Who,besides you,interprets the Rambam like you do? As to what Technician wrote about Efodi,see my comment to him on this thread.

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  11. >In all fairness,you should have mentioned it.

    It was brought to my attention by my son Alex. I know it now. I had not known it earlier.

    >Who,besides you,interprets the Rambam like you do?

    Narboni for one also see Avraham Nuriel article I mention in my comment. If you don't have it let me know and i will scan it and email it.There are others that I can dig up if you are interested. i read a lot of stuff and don't always remember where. I can trace it back most of thetiem.

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  12. most of thetiem

    I meant most of the time.

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  13. Jewishskeptic11/12/2006 9:31 AM

    >The uncensored edition of the Efodi
    writes explicitly that the Akeda was a dream.

    Technician


    Technician,I didn't know that the Efodi was ever censored.
    Can you give a source for this?
    What is the uncensored edition that you are quoting from? where was it published? Give specifics..

    Anyway,in my commentary of the Efodi on Moreh, printed in Warsaw in 1871 & reprinted in Israel in 1959,the Efodi on beginning of 2:42,
    ירמוז לאתון בלעם ולדבורה עמו ולדבור המלאך בשעת העקידה & he goes on writing on about the angels in Elonei Mamre,that it was all in a vision.But here it says "to the angel's speech during the Akedah"that it was a mareh.
    Yes, the angel's speech was a vision,but not the actual Akedah!
    He doesn't say anything about it.
    The same goes for the Efodi in Moreh at beginning of 2: 46 where he says that Rambam held many nevuot that took place only in a vision & he enumerates quite a few of them.The Akedah NOT being on of them.
    Perhaps you would be so kind as to quote the exact words that you have in your "uncensored" Efodi.

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  14. Jewishskeptic11/12/2006 9:44 AM

    >in my mind, thinking that maybe hashem is a molech after all. he will test hashem to see if he will let him do it.
    hashem is happy that avrohom didnt actually plan to go through with it, and avrohom is happy, hashem isnt molech.
    win win.


    I really can't make out what you are sayin !
    What does the word "molech" mean?
    The only meaning I know of it 'ruling-reigning'.But then your last phrase doesn't make sense" and avrohom is happy, hashem isnt molech.
    win win."
    Can you please explain.

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  15. Jewishskeptic11/12/2006 9:55 AM

    >Not sure what your problem is here. There are three Mitzvos which one must sacrifice himself for. If my son calls me in a panic, that he is being threatened with either conversion or death, surely I have to encourage him to die. Why? Because commanded that rather die than convert

    Well,Ed,your concep of God is not of "el rachum v'chanun".
    He is the very devil himself.
    No human being should worship shuch a god!
    Your concept of God just sickenes me.It's because of people like you that I stared to lose my faith in the first place!

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  16. Jewishskeptic11/12/2006 10:08 AM

    >Narboni for one also see Avraham Nuriel article I mention in my comment. If you don't have it let me know and i will scan it and email it.

    Yes,I would greatly appreciate it if you took the trouble to email it to me.thanks David.
    BTW,who is Avraham Nuriel? His name rings a bell but I don't know anything about him.

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  17. molech is the avodah zara of child sacrifice

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  18. Jewishskeptic11/12/2006 10:17 AM

    >molech is the avodah zara of child sacrifice

    Yes,of course.I just didn't associate it right away with the a.z.

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  19. Heshey Zelcer11/12/2006 10:17 AM

    The current issue of Midstream has an article about the akedah.

    The author understands the akedah as a test for Avrohom to see if he had faith in the righousness of HKB"H that He would stop him at the last moment and not let him saceifiec his son.

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  20. heshy
    well thats my pshat!
    what is midstream, where can i find it?

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  21. >Well,Ed,your concep of God is not of "el rachum v'chanun".
    He is the very devil himself.
    No human being should worship shuch a god!
    Your concept of God just sickenes me.It's because of people like you that I stared to lose my faith in the first place!

    JS, you didn't answer my question. Al Pi Halacha, do I tell my son to die, or convert?

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  22. >Ed - You are assuming (comment here and on the other thread) everything is kipshuto when it comes to stories in Chumash. It is impossible for anyone with a little sechel to accept that.

    I understand Torah K'pshuto, unless I have a reason not to. I have no reason to follow the Rambams idea that its all a vision, when the RambaN write: "These words contradict scripture. It is forbidden even to hear them, and it is certainly forbidden to believe them" (18:1)

    >The way I undersatnd sedom is that there was a shift in the plate of the earth causing major destruction along the Jordan rift.

    How do you understand 19:24 "And God rained on Sodom and Amora Sulfur and Fire from God, from Heaven"??

    >Avraham in his prophetic experience realized that and had a vision of the future cataclysm. In that vision all that happened to lot, his discussion with God occurred. The discussion with God was Avraham trying to come to terms with Justice and human life loss. Lot's escape was serendipidous and in Avbraham's vision seen as miraculous.

    Can you please clarify what you mean - "Lot's escape was serendipidous"??

    >Mabul was a similar event and the Torah is trying to make sense of it and giving it a thological perspective.

    Did Mabul happen or not?

    >Your comment about Yehareg ve'al ya'avor, it is not simple halachikally. Not all Rishonim agreed with the approach the chasidei ashkenaz had during the crusades and it was considered a chidush. i hope that if your son calls a that he is threatened you will ask a Rav first.

    Bottom line, if a gunman is pointing a gun at you, and either you screw an Eishes Ish, or he shoots you, what will you - David g do?

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  23. >ed
    lets turn your scenario around.
    its you who gets the vision that you need to kill your son.
    the same god who tells you kill yourslelf for giluy arayos, could be the same god who now tells you to kill your child.
    would you?
    or would you do as dbs says, and run to bellvue.

    Happy, if in front of every newscamera, I get thrown into a huge fire for an hour, and I come out completely unscathed, I throw sand at my enemies and it turns into arrows, my wife has a baby when she's 90 and me 100 , I might consider sacrificing my son if God commands me to.

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  24. Jewishskeptic11/12/2006 1:48 PM

    >JS, you didn't answer my question. Al Pi Halacha, do I tell my son to die, or convert?


    Well,Ed (aren't you really LY?),let me answer you this way.
    I personally don't believe that anyone should die b/c of conversion. A father telling his child to commit suicide or be killed rather than convert is guilty of his murder.
    If you will cite the Middle Ages where many Jews died rather than convert,I will say those were different times with different ideas & concepts.Yes,we say they died on kiddush hashem (&we say that about all the 6,ooo,ooo k'doshim of the Shoah,even though many of them were secular or atheists,we say so because they died for being Jewish)
    You are forgetting that it was not just a matter of saying a mumbo jumbo of 'I believe in j.c. or allah akbar.There is no MAASEH involved in that,& I think that according to halacha you need an act(but I am not sure).They died because they were asked to lose their NATIONAL IDENTITY & their way of life & all that of course was tied up with religion.
    Have you read the Iggeret Hashemad by the Rambam where he severly rebukes a certain Gaon for holding views like yours!If you have,reread it again.
    BTW,there are historians who claim that the Rambam himself had no choice,at that time,but to convert to Islam(though its "supposed" to be not a.z.),& that this influenced him to write the Iggeret.
    Besides,the Chazal said that in their days there already wasn't any a.z.
    And,yad al halev,if any of you children (chas v'chalilah)came to you & asked you to pasken: either to get killed or say I believed in jesus,you would pasken for them to rather be killid?
    If you say you would,I'll just say you are lying.

    so vos hakstu a tchainik?

    >"So why is it so foreign to you, that if God commanded Avrohom to kill his son, it should be followed?

    The same God who said that rather die than commit Giluy Arayos, commanded Avrohom to sacrifice Yitzchok. Why do you understand the former, but not the latter"

    Your way of thinking is beyond my comprehension(& I think of most people).You may as well asked me how is it different from commiting murder,which also one of the 3 on which yehareg v'al yaavor.
    But just as the famous statement by rava(I think)when a man came to him to pasken for him: to kill somebody or be killed himself.The Amorah paskened famously "what makes you think that "damech sumak t'fei michavrach" your blood is redder than the other person?!
    You are mixing up bein adam lachaveo & adam lamakom.The same goes for gilui arayot.this has been accepted as a taboo in civilized society.
    As noted above, the chazal said that there is no real avodah zara(already in their time),they didn't say that about murder or incest.
    Start thinking coherently!

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  25. Ed,

    You wrote: Not sure what your problem is here. There are three Mitzvos which one must sacrifice himself for. If my son calls me in a panic, that he is being threatened with either conversion or death, surely I have to encourage him to die. Why? Because commanded that rather die than convert.

    The Rambam totally rejected this scenario in Morocco (for many reasons) under the perseqution of Almohods via Ibn Tumart. "If a person desecrated the name of Heaven under duress, he is not liable to any of the seven punishments." To say that one should encourage your son to die is incorrect, and would have destroyed us all long ago. Jewish law does NOT obligate you to give up your life under duress (Forced Apostasy), and one is not considered liable in this. There is another option, which should not be discussed here. Because you never know when it will happen again, a thousand separations. One widely known solution is to ENCOURAGE him to LEAVE the area, in search of a land where Torah IS practiced.

    However, as a matter of law, even a temporary prophecy (not for
    all men for all generations) that permits or requires ANYTHING other
    than avod zora can be valid (even if it goes against Torah Law), surely including human sacrifice of one's son. See Yesod HaTorah 9:3-5 (pointed out by an awesome Teacher of mine).

    So I am unclear on how this theme fits as the motivating factor of this entire drush.

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  26. ed,
    i agree with js. once the first screw of the torture chair is tightened, you wil be the first to give it up.

    you think they will give you the luxury of killing you. and guess what, your charedi religion disallows suicide even in the face of horrible torture.

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  27. Dbs, Iyou too have a lack of respect for torah. The Torah is not a history or book of fables. The name says it all a book of teachings. I am not trying to defend an old passe religion but to understand and live with a living and in my understanding alweays contemporary system that teaches us how to find and give meaning to our lives.

    Well, fine, I do not believe that the Torah is a reflection of God's Teachings.

    But how are you addressing my question. "How does the use of a dream (or an internal debate within Avraham) change the moral message that you must suppress your innate sense of morality and compassion if it is in conflict with God's will."

    Or do you only discuss this with those who accept your conclusions?

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  28. DBS, sorry if i sounded a little short with you. You are entitled to believe anything you want about the Torah.

    Re your question if as I undersatnd avraham was testing himself to see whether he was really truthful and his whole purpose was to do what he perceived wqas God's will, I can understand that in this process he asked himself would I sacrifice everything I worked for if it was God's will? The way he visualized it is through the Akedah. The Torah tells us that he concluded he would though he well knew that it would be something God would never ask him to do. This process is described allegorically with the story of the Akedah. Do you still have a problem? i don't.

    Again I apologize if I sounded cross. I will only argue with people who disagree with me - how boring otherwise :-)

    Please keep me on my toes.

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  29. Ed (ex LY) I think JS has given some food for thought. My answers before cover most of your repeat questions. Dok vetishkach.

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  30. JS, I will email you the nuriel article tomorrow. He was a professor of Philosophy at bar Ilan and a shaliach of bnei akivah to Chicago. His idea was that Rambam in his intro says that he was meticulous when he used words and also left clues of his real opinion in the moreh. He did a linguistic analysis of arabic synonyms the Rambma uses showing how it fits with the deeper meanings in his writings. This one on the akedah is very intersting as it shows how careful one has to read him. Please let me know what you think when you read it.

    BTW i was suspicious for afew days that Ed was LY. You confirmed it. Two great minds cannot go wrong.

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  31. spoke to my son about the akeidah.
    he told me his rebbi said that no matter what voices tell you to do today, you are not allowed to act on it and kill anyone.
    even if you want to believe avrohom was thinking he was doing will of hashem, that is before the torah was given.

    ed, sounds like even if you could do all the magic tricks in the world, i would still shoot you if you raised a sword to your sons neck. dont be getting ideas of grandeur and delusion. youre going down. ;)

    to think that you could find any scenario to kill your child is very scary. why dont you ask around if people think you arent out of your mind.

    i told my son re dreams or visions, and that ramban argues.
    it didnt phase him in the least.
    he liked my pshat alot.

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  32. I think that story line is much less objectionable. It is obviously very far removed from the pshat, but I'll leave that for ed to argue about. I still find the idea or having a deity who wants you to be devoted to Him - as opposed to devoted to a moral code - to be unworkable. (Hmm, as I'm writing this I realize that you probably have a quote from the moreh up your sleeve for that one too.) Anyway, no question, it would be a better religion if people held like you rather than 'ed'.

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  33. to eds defense if he was ly, then its not about hiding his identity. i bet he feels it removes focus of lakewood from the equation.

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  34. >I still find the idea or having a deity who wants you to be devoted to Him - as opposed to devoted to a moral code - to be unworkable

    I don't think that it is an either / or situation rather they are identical. The Moral code is emulating God Who is the ultimate morality. He made us and keeps us going with no return favor from us.

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  35. The Moral code is emulating God Who is the ultimate morality. He made us and keeps us going with no return favor from us.

    sigh.

    David, your whole blog is devoted to imposing your own (highly laudable) morality UPON God. When you can be creative enough, you succeed. But, in the end, it is you - or, rather, you Orthodox humanists - who are creating the 'ultimate morality', which you then ascribe to God.

    In the end, you are saying that everything in the Torah which fits into humanistic ideals (and there is certainly plenty of things in that catagory) are fine. And, the things which don't are 'Girsa De'yankuta', and we must find an alternate explination (no matter how far fetched).

    Is your approach better than fundamentalist literalism? Sure. Is it better than exploring an independant humanistic morality? In my opinion - and I say this will all apreciation for how much we have sacrificed, imparted and invested into our mesorah - no, not even close.

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  36. Jewishskeptic11/13/2006 4:46 AM

    dbs,
    I couldn't have expressed it better myself.
    IMO you are absolutely right.

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  37. >Is it better than exploring an independant humanistic morality?

    Has humanity reached the state of development where one can say that such a morality exists? You and JS are much more optimistic than I am. Furthermore the "independent" humanistic morality that you refer to is the result of the generations who toiled and developed the Sinaitic system that brought about western civilization. What makes you so sure that the time to jump ship has arrived? Will there ever be such a time? I don't believe so as i believe in the eternity of the Torah and its system. The 20th century and the beginnings of the 21st certainly don't offer much hope. I believe that utopian society, though a goal, will never arrive. ( maybe that is the point of the fundamentalist who believe in a miraculous Mashiach) As professor Leibovitz used to say, Mashiach that arrived is no longer Mashiach. All we can hope for is constant improvement.

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  38. Jewishskeptic11/13/2006 7:02 AM

    David,I would like qualify my endorsment of dbs.(& maybe he will agree with it).
    I would add that we should still seek inspiration for our morality from our sources.
    It's like a known saying by a prof of H.U.(IIRC prof.Rotenstreich):
    "We should draw *hashra'ah*(inspiration) from the Torah & Halacha but not *samchut*(authority).

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  39. >We should draw *hashra'ah*(inspiration) from the Torah & Halacha but not *samchut*(authority).

    We at least agree on two out of three! Not bad for a start!

    Samchut is such a complicated and difficult issue to define. It depends so much on the first two and how we interpret them that I am not sure what it means. That is why we need to chose a trail of mesorah, like minded thinkers, build on them and go from there.

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  40. at least from your original post:

    "Ramban, though not explicit in this case, seems to read Rambam the same way (see first Ramban in Vayerah)"

    in this post:

    "and as Tafkaa points out Ramban see it as part prophecy part reality."

    so on this, we are now agreed? (This bothered me b/c you seemed to be reading into the Ramban what he davka doesn't say, and it's pretty clear in context why he omits the akeda from his list of complaints - namely that the malach is not there through the entire event).

    It's not that I think it's blasphemous if it was consistent with the rambam. I am happy to see I was mechaven to the Abarbenel, which I hadn't seen, and haven't read Narboni. Do you have an excerpt from Narboni? It just makes no sense to me - it subverts the Rambam's point about the importance of the akedah and its function. If Avraham saw in a mareh that he should sacrifice, and then he does this sacrifice also in a mareh, how does that strengthen his sense that nevua is real and one acts on it? Why force this interpretation on the Rambam when it's unnecessary and not in the text and at minimum weakens his point. I think it's a "blasphemous" reading of the Rambam (and initially, I thought the ramban too) - you seem to be offering it for reasons extraneous to the Rambam's concerns with malachim/nevua, i.e. to deal with the moral dilemma inherent in the akeda.

    The other problem is that in a dream Yitzchok is not a participant at all, and this is clearly not how chazal understood it.

    [in the comment section of the earlier post, you wrote in response to me that that ravraham ben harambam says yitzchak was young, but the point still stands]

    Note: I have just looked this up. It's muchrach that R Avraham ben haRambam did not think the akeda happened in nevua. He writes that chazal in b"r assume he was older, but that his father didn't accept it, because if so the z'chus of yitzchak should be greater than that of avraham, and there is no evidence in posuk that yitzchak's z'chus is greater than avraham's. How is this cheshbon re who had the greater z'chus, yitzchak or avraham, possible if the Rambam thought the whole thing happened in a mareh?! Rambam has no reason to reject the p'shat in bereishis rabba if the akeda happened only in mareh.

    [There's also the question of zchus of Avraham - what is the whole yaan asher asisa es hadavar hazeh v'lo chasachta es bincha etc and the bracha that follows - z'chus he got for an action he undertook in nevua? This is the issue inherent in all allegorization though. ]

    "My point was that seeing it as a prophetic dream answers the difficulties that we would have about Avraham condoning a human sacrifice forbidden in the Torah so prominently."

    and how does it do that if the akeda functioned, even as a mareh, to tell avraham he'd do whatever god told him? But I think this is a cop out (sorry if that is harsh) - it strikes me as a simplistic solution to the moral problem.

    I think you are essentially admitting that allegorizing the act dilutes the message - it dilutes the issue of condoning sacrifice only if you say that avraham didn't "really" do it, i.e. that he is *not* willing to act on the nevua, when according to the Rambam the point is that Avraham would do such a thing if instructed b'nevua. I don't think you can say that on the one hand it takes the moral dilemma away while at the same time saying the lesson is how powerful nevua is that no matter what is commanded, avraham will do it.

    Mostly, (since you say "I gave you hell") my complaint is that the hakdama to the rambam - it can't be used to say "the rambam doesn't say X, but X is the meaning because there are all sorts of allusions" - I think these interpretations need to be backed up with logical proof. Otherwise we are free associating and can attribute whatever we like to the rambam. I am waiting for such proof for hashgacha, you are right! I should just prepare a standard disclaimer to this effect. :-)

    I thought you had read in, similarly, to the Ramban's position, but I take it that was just a mistake.

    I am more troubled by the hashgacha than this understanding of the akedah, but I think this understanding is an imposition on the rambam and doesnt make sense to me. And now I think it is clear from RAvraham ben Harambam that his father's position was that the akeda did happen.

    Similarly on this, from another comment (we are rehashing old arguments):

    "When the passuk says God spoke to man it means man read HKBH's mind. Rashi also seems to buy into that theory see Rashi on The last passuk in Nasso "Vayshma et hakol midaber". and Srorno ad locum who is a little obscure but worth deciphering."

    Not in the text! We can't just free associate to texts

    I see I upset you and your son...I am too vituperative in debate, I apologize.

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  41. I think that the whole issue is only an issue if one accepts the Rambam's view of prophesy. I understand David's dillema - mainly - that if we see prophecy as the end-result of a rational process and since one can ratinal arrive at the ethical idea that one should not sacrifice their own son - therefore, it makes little sense that the top form of rationality would contradict that which it is built on.

    I however, reject this view of prophecy (as we have discussed many times) and accept the kuzari model as it was also developed by various strands of mystical thought. Since this approach concieves of nevuah as a completely seperate channel of knowledge aquizition which is NOT built on the rational faculties but rather on a SEPERATE and loftier mystical/imaginative faculties, then the contradiction between the ethical imperative and the Divine imperative is a real one which re-plays itself in many ways. Avraham was simply demonstrating to the world that the Divine imperative is larger and more encompasing than the rational/ethical one and that when in ultimate conflict, the Divine MUST win out as this is the greater and broader Truth.

    Now, I can understand why this causes modern man discomfort since modern man has rejected the entire mystical side of the self. However, I believe that this is nontheless the underlying idea of Judaism - "HaInyan HaEloki", seperate from the intelect and above it.

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  42. >see I upset you and your son...I am too vituperative in debate, I apologize.

    Not at all. I am used to people having problems with my ideas and i think hard before i post them.

    Re Rambam and Akedah let me exsplain to you what the real problem is (JS caught it early on in discussion see his early comments):
    In 2:42 Rambam says that whenever Malach is in the story no matter where in it, the whole is a nevuah.

    "In some cases the account begins by stating that the prophet saw an angel; in others, the account apparently introduces

    p. 237

    a human being, who ultimately is shown to be an angel; but it makes no difference, for if the fact that an angel has been heard is only mentioned at the end, you may rest satisfied that the whole account from the beginning describes a prophetic vision"

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  43. Re Ramban, I accepted Tafkaa's argument though I am still not 100% sure. I need to check Ramban elsewhere when I get around to it.

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  44. Chardal, I agree Kuzari has no problem. Fortunately or unfortunately I am a modern man :-)

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  45. Jewishskeptic11/13/2006 12:44 PM

    David,
    Thank you so much for sending me the article by A.Nuriel.
    It seems most interesting & I look forward to reading it b'iyun.
    Any questions that I might have I will email you.
    Thanks again!

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  46. "Re Rambam and Akedah let me exsplain to you what the real problem is (JS caught it early on in discussion see his early comments):
    In 2:42 Rambam says that whenever Malach is in the story no matter where in it, the whole is a nevuah.

    "In some cases the account begins by stating that the prophet saw an angel; in others, the account apparently introduces

    p. 237

    a human being, who ultimately is shown to be an angel; but it makes no difference, for if the fact that an angel has been heard is only mentioned at the end, you may rest satisfied that the whole account from the beginning describes a prophetic vision""

    That's only if it's a story about a malach! It's clear in context.

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  47. by the akeda, the story is not about a malach, the malach appears at the end.

    also, the rambam (like the ramban) doesnt' count the akeda when he lists the other incidents that are bemareh.

    What do you say to what R Avraham ben Harambam says? How can this cheshbon about yitzchak's age make any sense if rambam thought the akeda was only in a mareh?

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  48. >Fortunately or unfortunately I am a modern man

    No. You are not. If you were, you would take dbs's advice and embrase rational humanism.

    You are a religious man who has a religious issue with the akeida (and who sees ratioanlity as the best system to access the Divine).

    I may disagree but I would never call you a modern man - that, to me, would be akin to insulting you. :)

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  49. >but it makes no difference, for if the fact that an angel has been heard is only mentioned at the end, you may rest satisfied that the whole account from the beginning describes a prophetic vision""

    Read this again. If malach is mentioned at the end ....

    Re R. Avraham I don't have a problem with his exegesis. He is not addressing this particular issue.

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  50. Chardal, thank you for the compliment.

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  51. As a matter of law, even a temporary prophecy (not for
    all men for all generations) that permits or requires ANYTHING other
    than avod zora can be valid (even if it goes against Torah Law), surely including human sacrifice of one's son. See Yesod HaTorah 9:3-5 (pointed out by an awesome Teacher of mine).

    So I am unclear on how this theme fits as the motivating factor of this entire drush.

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  52. >As a matter of law, even a temporary prophecy

    That law did not apply at the time of Avraham Avinu, before the giving of the Torah. (yes, yes, the avos kept the entire Torah ... see maharal on the topic)

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  53. "Read this again. If malach is mentioned at the end ...."

    If a person is shown to be a malach at the end! Not if a malach appears at the end otherwise!!

    "Re R. Avraham I don't have a problem with his exegesis. He is not addressing this particular issue."

    Not directly, but it's the presumption for his conclusion - and you brought it up yourself for this reason! I questioned how the akeda can be in a mareh, when yitzchak has z'chus too, and you answered:

    "Your other argument about Ytzchak's contribution Rambam holds that Ytzchak was a young child and not 37 ( see R.Avraham's testimony on his father's position). Akedat Ytzchak would therefore mean by Avraham and nothing more."

    Why did the Rambam arrive at the conclusion that yitzchak was a young child? Says R Avraham ben Harambam, because my father was troubled by the fact that if yitzchak agreed to be sacrificed, his zchus should be greater than avraham's and yet the posuk only mentions avraham's z'chus. Therefore yitzchak must have been a young child. This question makes no sense if the akeda happened in a mareh! When I asked you where is yitzchak's z'chus, you said there's no z'chus anyway b/c yitzchak was in rambam's opinion young, as though rambam arrived at this conclusion independent of whether the akeda happened in reality or only in a mareh. But this is not so! He arrives at this conclusion only because of the assumption that if it happened in reality yitzchak would have had the greater zchus had he been older. Please explain how you can possibly read it otherwise.

    If you have the direct quote from narboni, can you paste it?

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  54. >If a person is shown to be a malach at the end! Not if a malach appears at the end otherwise!!

    I don't agree with your reading. See R. Kapach, tibon or schwartz they are clear that if a malach was the one who spoke the whole story is nevuah.

    [Re R. Avraham, if ytzchak was a child he had no choice or even an understanding of what was happening. How does he explain the impact Chazal say the akedah had on him? That question needs to be answered according to the understanding of it being a nevuah. To my mind it is the most difficult question.]

    All Rabbeinu avraham is saying is that if ytzchak was older the story should have glorified him more than his father.
    There is a story and it has to make sense on its own whether it was real or a nevuah.

    Narboni- Vehaven omro Ube'emet hayah ra'uy she'yhy'eh zeh hainyan al yad avraham veytzchak retzono lomar ha'akedah ...ukmo shenimshechu... ukvar yada'ata omram asher lo dibarti leavraham velo tziviti leyftach ki lo hayeta kavanat hashem ha'inyan aval hanimshach mimeno veatah yodea ki malach hashem diber im avraham besha'at ha'akedah velachen lo tipaleh al heyota acharei ma'halach yamim vearchu hama'asim veniksheru bizmanim.
    (my 3 dots stand for vechuleh)

    The last few words from al tipaleh on he refers to MN 2:46 in Kapach edition line 5 page 267 starting with kach elu hameshalim ....

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  55. 11/13/2006 8:04 PM
    David Guttmann said...

    "I don't agree with your reading. See R. Kapach, tibon or schwartz they are clear that if a malach was the one who spoke the whole story is nevuah."

    I don't see that any of them say this, and I think the sentence in full doesn't read the way you interpret it.

    " [Re R. Avraham, if ytzchak was a child he had no choice or even an understanding of what was happening. How does he explain the impact Chazal say the akedah had on him? That question needs to be answered according to the understanding of it being a nevuah. To my mind it is the most difficult question.]"

    yes, as above, I agree that this is beside the point in the sense that it's clear in chazal that yitzchak was present. However:

    "All Rabbeinu avraham is saying is that if ytzchak was older the story should have glorified him more than his father.
    There is a story and it has to make sense on its own whether it was real or a nevuah."

    how would the story glorify him at all if he is not a participant? I think this really makes no sense. He is talking about z'chus yitzchak not glorification.

    "Narboni- Vehaven omro Ube'emet hayah ra'uy she'yhy'eh zeh hainyan al yad avraham veytzchak retzono lomar ha'akedah ...ukmo shenimshechu... ukvar yada'ata omram asher lo dibarti leavraham velo tziviti leyftach ki lo hayeta kavanat hashem ha'inyan aval hanimshach mimeno veatah yodea ki malach hashem diber im avraham besha'at ha'akedah velachen lo tipaleh al heyota acharei ma'halach yamim vearchu hama'asim veniksheru bizmanim.
    (my 3 dots stand for vechuleh)

    The last few words from al tipaleh on he refers to MN 2:46 in Kapach edition line 5 page 267 starting with kach elu hameshalim ...."

    I don't get this either.

    Thank you for the emailed article. He makes a good point wrt the question I asked earlier, that you seem to be coming to this understanding of the akeda as mareh only to resolve the moral dilemma, something that seems extraneous to the Rambam's concerns, by pointing to other nevuas that the Rambam said couldn't have happened because otherwise the navi would be doing divrei shtus or averah. However, this seems to be different in that the akeda was not actualized! (In this vein, you dismissed rashi's pshat above on V'ha'aleyu shom l'ola because it is a midrash, but I think that it's a meduyak p'shat.) I'm not clear that avraham's willingness to sacrifice if so commanded is a moral problem, since the aim of the episode is to teach him otherwise. (Again, how does it teach that one would do what is commanded in nevuah, if the moral dilemma is lessened because it "only" happened b'nevua?).

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  56. I reread this morning 2:42 adding Pines to the mix and i believe i am correct in my reading of Rambam. He starts by saying Malach sometimes appears as a person too. He then says it does not make a difference whether the entity he saw as a person or ("and" in the sense of "or" clearly)heard from was a Mal'ach then you know the whole event was a mal'ach.

    I know Rambam'a overt imperative was the problem of an angel in the story and not the moral issue, though even that I am not sure,it does not make it wrong for me to use that to address my own issue with it.

    A nevuah whether a vision or a dream, manifested as a story should make sense as much as possible otherwise the lesson is lost. (It does not always as in the case of Hoshea with the eshet znunim where that in itself was a lesson of a negative nature.) Here the lesson was twofold, dedication to God and certainty of nevuah. In real life Avraham could not have contemplated doing this but in the vision he could. The fact that he could in the vision shows that he saw Nevuah as certainty.

    I don't understand why people have such difficulty with seeing this as a vision. To me the lessons that Rambam tells us it teaches us are much more powerfull this way than if a moral issue was involved. But as I said it is irrelevant and if you can live with a real event - Tavo aleicha bracha.

    One more thing and that is meant to all commenters on this thread, Torah was given once and it is eternal. For it to be such it has to satisfy humanity as it eveolves. Had it told its messages clearly just for twenty first century man and his evilved science and thinking three thousand years ago, it would have had no meaning to those people and would not be around today. The great Chochma of the Torah is that it can talk to every generation past, present and future. That is why JS, dbs from one standpoint, Al and Tafkaa from the other , miss in my opinion what it is doing. The early Rishonim were musch more attuned. ramban in his intro to Chumash, Ibn Ezra in his and rambam all over the Moreh keep on reminding us about the fact that there is more than one understanding to the text.

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  57. Jewishskeptic11/14/2006 6:41 AM

    >"ramban in his intro to Chumash, Ibn Ezra in his and rambam all over the Moreh keep on reminding us about the fact that there is more than one understanding to the text."
    >"The great Chochma of the Torah is that


    But therein lies the problem.
    Whose understanding is the correct one?
    What makes you think that only Chazal's understanding was the correct one? Maybe it was correct for their times.
    If it's"it can talk to every generation past, present and future",maybe the Reform,conservative or recon.are right.They too claim that the Torah was given to each generation to be interpreted.It's irrelevant that they don't accept that the all Torah was given to Moshe on Har Sinai.I don't think that among M.O there are many who believe that our textus receptus is the same as the original.(do you?).
    So whose understanding are we to embrace? Chazal's as they understood the Torah? Rambam's as he understood Torah & Chazal?Ibn Ezra? Ramban? Crescas? etc.
    Or the way you understand Torah & the Rambam?
    & why not Reform's,Conservatives,Recon's understanding of Torah,Chazal & Rambam?
    There is no end to all to all this.
    In the end you have to resort to faith.
    All the rational arguments are irrational.
    ובזה נסתתמו כל הפלפולים

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  58. JS, Your arguments are good but old hat.There is a strusture that is working together with the Torah Shebiktav that guarantees the focus is kept while maximum flexbility is allowed. The proof is in the pudding. The torah that followed the parameters is still around whether to be followed or kicked around. The one that threw off the constarints, Karaim, tzedukim, frankistim, sabbateians etc... are extinct and people don't even know about them unless they are historically oriented. I predict reform will go the same route, conservative Judaism is on its way there and all other movements that refuse to stay within the norms will end up there - on the trash heap of history- unless they adjust and change direction not too late in the game.

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  59. chardal said... As a matter of law, even a temporary prophecy (must be obeyed -even if it goes against Torah)...That law did not apply at the time of Avraham Avinu, before the giving of the Torah. (yes, yes, the avos kept the entire Torah ... see maharal on the topic)

    Hmmm. Would one say that Avraham wasn't required to listen to HaShem's (indirect) command to sacrifice his son (in those days), because the Torah was not yet given too?

    According to this, the concepts (against the morality of Human sacrifice) had also not been given yet either.

    Although, one could argue they were given in the Noahide laws (in not murdering - Ber 9:6 or Deuteronomy 5:17).

    However, those very same Noahide laws contain a built-in belief (Deuteronomy 5:7--9) to follow G-D's commands.

    Also, I wonder how Avraham's Prophetic abilities (to see the future giving of the Torah) plays into this.

    ----------------------------------

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  60. We are at the point of diminishing returns.

    "I reread this morning 2:42 adding Pines to the mix and i believe i am correct in my reading of Rambam. He starts by saying Malach sometimes appears as a person too. He then says it does not make a difference whether the entity he saw as a person or ("and" in the sense of "or" clearly)heard from was a Mal'ach then you know the whole event was a mal'ach."

    he says it makes no difference whether it begins with an angel or a person who turns out to be an angel - what this entity was at the start of the nevua.

    "In real life Avraham could not have contemplated doing this but in the vision he could. The fact that he could in the vision shows that he saw Nevuah as certainty."

    do not see this.

    and ravraham ben harambam speaks of the "s'char" and "gmul" to yitzhcak if he had been older - in avraham's vision?

    "One more thing and that is meant to all commenters on this thread, Torah was given once and it is eternal. For it to be such it has to satisfy humanity as it eveolves. Had it told its messages clearly just for twenty first century man and his evilved science and thinking three thousand years ago, it would have had no meaning to those people and would not be around today. The great Chochma of the Torah is that it can talk to every generation past, present and future. That is why JS, dbs from one standpoint, Al and Tafkaa from the other , miss in my opinion what it is doing. The early Rishonim were musch more attuned. ramban in his intro to Chumash, Ibn Ezra in his and rambam all over the Moreh keep on reminding us about the fact that there is more than one understanding to the text."

    Yes but the akeda either happened or it didn't. Unless you believe that it didn't happpen, and this is a the true explanation, but not a necessary one :-)

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