"And they read the scroll of the Torah of God clearly, and they applied reason and understood the text." (Nehemiah 8:8)
In the comments section to a previous post you wrote, "the ultimate proof of Torah is in the experience of its beauty and wisdom. " Could you elaborate on this? Aren't there other things that contain beauty and wisdom? Even if the Torah is the most beautiful and wise thing, how does this prove it comes from G-d?
When a person studies the sciences, he encounters wisdom and beauty that are infinite. Every time he advances in understanding, he uncovers further puzzles in need of resolution. Eventually, the dedicated thinker acknowledges that he is dealing with a system of wisdom that is truly infinite and transcendent, something far beyond the comprehension of mortal human beings. The same conviction emerges in the devoted student of Torah wisdom.By contrast, many manmade entities may reflect wisdom and beauty, but they never do so in a measure greater than what their authors or producers actually possess. The profundity they exhibit is finite and sometimes intermingled with flaws and "bugs". After a certain amount of study and analysis, we arrive at the end of our process of understanding them.
People are still being mchadesh new insights in many of Shakespear's works all the time. How is this different? It seems like there might be no end to our process of analysing many manmade works.
The new insights in Shakespearean scholarship are not the result of an ongoing process of uncovering the hidden depths of Shakespeare's infinite wisdom. There are of course novel interpretations of and modern critical responses to older works of literature. This doesn't involve understanding that literature at progressively deeper levels of conceptual clarity by which different components of it are unified, contradictions are resolved, and new vistas of research are identified. You cannot compare scientific or Talmudic study to literary criticism.
Are you really so familiar with the history of Shakespearian scholarship?
Not specifically with Shakespeare, but with literary analysis in general.
A muslim, Imam al-Ghazali, has this to say about the Quran:"A certain religious scholar said, "For every Qur'anic verse there are sixty thousand understandings [comprehensible to man]. The understandings of it which remain [incomprehensible to man] are even more than these in number." " (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tafsir)Would you say the religious scholar he quotes was justified in believing the Quran came from G-d because he felt there was infinite depth to it? One modern commentary to the Quran"tries to explore the themes that weave through the entire Qur'an as well as the main theme of each surah." This seems to reflect, at least somewhat, your criteria of: "understanding that literature at progressively deeper levels of conceptual clarity by which different components of it are unified, contradictions are resolved, and new vistas of research are identified"
The Quran possesses great literary beauty and moral insight, there is no question about it. And the Quran reflects broad religious themes throughout its passages, as most religious texts do. For the Arab culture to which it was introduced, it certainly represented a tremendous spiritual leap forward. Although I do not believe that it was revealed directly by God, I do think it is the product of an inspired genius of some sort.The depth of Torah, however, is not limited to its literary properties alone (although that is one component of its sophistication - see the unbelievable work of Rabbis Menachem Leibtag and Elchanan Samet for some samples of this).The theoretical realm of the Oral Torah is of a caliber that is not to be found in any other religious system. It is as rigorous and conceptually refined as the most advanced scientific discipline known to man. No other faith tradition includes a body of knowledge as well developed, intellectually beautiful and profound. It is in the framework of abstract thought that the Torah's uniqueness is manifest. Islamic law revolves around obedience to a set code of rules. These rules must be applied to new cases, analogies drawn, precedents consulted, etc., but this is a legalistic process carried out by experts in shaaria. It is a far cry from the experience of Talmud Torah, which is rooted in the joy of intellectual discovery and creativity.
Thank you for your feedback! I think your thoughts here are a signicant contribution to the weltanschauung of this blog and worthy of their own formal post.
Could you go through one of the trains of thought about an Inyan that caused you to feel like you were approaching an infinite wisdom, where,"Every time [you] advance[d] in understanding, [you] uncover[ed] further puzzles in need of resolution " in a post or a series of posts? I would really appreciate it.
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