Thursday, April 24, 2008

An Interesting Fallacy

Biblical critics and adherents of the Documentary Hypothesis (especially outspoken ones in the Blogosphere) often argue along these lines:

It is true that believers can offer convincing responses to some of the problems raised by Biblical Criticism. Use of literary and other innovative approaches to textual analysis may indeed remove some of the difficulties that academics have found with the Torah. However, while traditional scholars need to develop new responses for every one of challenges with which they are confronted, the superiority of the Documentary Hypothesis lies in the fact that it provides a single answer (i.e., multiple authorship) that accounts for all of the questions at once. In other words, Occham's Razor supports the Critical Theory.

The fallacy of this approach should seemingly be obvious but is often overlooked. Occham's Razor is a methodological principle that teaches that the simplest explanation of a phenomenon or set of phenomena is always the preferred one. The reason we prefer simplicity is because more complex explanations require us to posit the existence of additional factors or entities that are superfluous under the circumstances.

Let us take an imaginary example to illustrate this point. When a ball is released midair, it falls to the ground. The same thing happens when an apple, a tire, a kerchief, or a stone is dropped. A scientist will infer that there is a single physical force at work, called gravity, which is responsible for the observed attraction between all material bodies and the Earth.

If another investigator were to come along and suggest an alternative approach to the problem - ex., that one invisible angel carries balls downward, an invisible demon carries apples downward, an invisible fairy carries kerchiefs downward and an invisible troll carries stones downward - we would hesitate to accept it. This is because, whereas the scientist's explanation involves only two basic entities (the Earth and the object) the alternative explanation requires us to introduce additional, unnecessary forces or entities (the various supernatural beings) to account for the same set of phenomena. Only when a simpler explanatory model fails would we be pressed to assume that there are more entities at work than meet the eye.

Academics try to draw an analogy between the aforementioned case and that of traditional scholars' responses to skeptical questions. They believe that the fact that the traditionalists must offer new and innovative analyses and readings to deal with each difficulty they raise is akin to the activity of the alternative "scientist" who invokes a different metaphysical being to account for each instance of falling objects.

The fallacy of Biblical Critics who try to utilize Occham in support of their views is that they confuse the complexity of an explanatory model with the number of problems that require resolution. In other words, let us assume that academics raised 500 difficulties with the Torah's text, and that, for each one of these difficulties, a cogent answer was offered. Again, the temptation is to equate this with a laboratory setting in which 500 observed falling objects are accounted for with 500 different explanations rather than a single, unified, elegant one.

However, in every case regarding the Bible, the erroneous premise of a question, or the clarification of the meaning of a passage in the text, is presented in response to the Critic's challenge. It is quite possible - and in my opinion, quite likely - that each one of the challenges thus deflated was simply ill conceived, superficially based or otherwise flawed from the outset, and that further investigation just served to reveal what was already the case. Nothing new is actually introduced at any point in the process of clarification.

The 500 answers brought to resolve the 500 problems do not require us to invoke the existence of hundreds of newfound entities or causal factors to function as part of a cumbersome explanatory model. That would indeed be a gross violation of Occham's Razor. On the contrary, the premise of the answers is that the problems are merely imaginary, and that a more lucid reading of the text, or a correction of shabby thinking, can eliminate them systematically.

Unlike falling objects - multiple phenomena that should rightly be accounted for with one theory and attributed to a single cause - the traditionalists attempt to show that the questions of the skeptics never were real 'phenomena' to begin with! The believing scholars are not introducing new factors to explain something, because a difficulty is not itself a "something". Rather, they are delving into the text to expose the shaky foundations of the academics' challenges and, as a result, the problems dissipate of their own accord.

In summary, problems are not phenomena, they represent a lack of understanding in need of correction. So it should come as no surprise that multiple answers are offered for multiple problems, since each difficulty may need to be addressed and disposed of separately. Occham's Razor, on the other hand, states that we should posit the smallest number of really existing causal factors to account for the greatest number of really existing observed phenomena possible, thus minimizing the assumptions we make in our explanatory models. This has no relevance whatsoever to the literary and/or logical rejoinders offered by traditionalists to counter the claims of skeptics and Biblical Critics.

On the other hand, taking a single, unified text, accepted and understood as such for millenia, and attributing it to multiple authors with multiple motivations at different periods of time, whose work was subsequently covered up by anonymous redactors and priests who then presented it in its current form to a gullible population long after it was purported to have been written - now that sounds like a violation of Occham's Razor if I've ever heard one....

157 comments:

XGH said...

I'm dissapointed that here you are bashing littefoxling, but you still haven't addressed my question to you.

If knowledge of ANE history shows you that TMS is the most rational explanation, how do you explain the legions of ANE experts who don't believe in TMS? And if you are going to claim they are biased, how do you avoid that charge yourself?

And if you admit that all the arguments for and against TMS are entirely subjective, and this is why non religious people find that ANE history validates their worldview, whilst religious people like yourself find that ANE history validates their view, then isn't it obvious that ANE history can be read any way, and therefore is not a convincing argument for TMS?

And furthermore, if ANE history is indeed NOT a convincing argument for TMS, then why are you convinced that God wrote the Bible in the first place?

XGH said...

Also, just to address this rather rambling post, you are mis-representing Occams Razor. Everyone agrees there are 'questions' on the text. Saying 'God did it' is not the simplest explanation, because that raises a whole host of other questions. Assuming people wrote it is obviously the default assumption for any text, unless you have extremely strong evidence that it was in fact written by Fairies, Aliens, Gods or some other super-natural thing. I have yet to see you present such strong evidence.

littlefoxling said...

Interesting post. Though, it’s difficult to respond in a generality, as I think the correct path in regards to the issue you raised should depend entirely on the circumstances. In other words, I would agree with you that in certain hypothetical circumstances, positing single authorship might be the simpler approach. I’m sure you’d agree that in certain hypothetical circumstances, multiple authorship is simpler. So, it all depends on how we interpret the specific issues that come up in the Torah itself. And, that, of course, is where we differ.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

I wasn't bashing LF at all. Since when is taking issue with an argument considered "bashing"?

My answer to your question is very straightforward. The ANE experts, in my experience, haven't a clue what the Torah is really about. And, with all due respect, I don't believe you have much of a clue yourself, judging from your writings and our conversations.

I like you, but I am frankly tired of constantly deconstructing the strawmen you repeatedly set up.

The fact is that the Torah is not a religion designed to make people feel good in the conventional sense (look at Pesah for example). It does not offer the comfort of idolatry found in Christianity nor the emotional charge of hero-worship or jihad present in Islam.

Judaism is based on the concept that the Universe is God's creation and that we, as a part of the Universe, should live in harmony with principles of wisdom just as it does. The purpose of the Torah is to liberate us from conventional measures of goodness and "value" and instead to apply hochma to every facet of our lives.

No other religion offers a system for doing this, nor even claims to be able to do this. This is not the goal of Christianity nor the goal of Islam. No other religion encourages the rational pursuit of knowledge as Judaism does, coupled with candid and honest introspection and self-critique on both national individual levels.

When you find another system of thought as rigorous and sophisticated as the Torah that can accomplish the same objective - i.e., teaching human beings to govern their lives based upon principles of hochma - let me know.

Unfortunately, your evaluation of religion seems to revolve purely around somewhat amateurish attempts to ascertain the truth or falsehood of the historical propositions of Judaism, combined with an intuitive and quasi-sentimental attempt to determine the relative "merits" of different religious traditions based upon a definition of "goodness" that I believe is alien to the Torah. You also have had very limited exposure to the other belief systems to which you compare ours.

You may again say that I am biased, and you almost certainly will; however, I have the books and documents from which I have studied other religions and based upon which I can support my conclusions. How much further can one get from personal bias than to study other religions in earnest, and to dialogue with religious scholars representing different faith traditions?

The few individuals who genuinely comprehend the message of the Tanach and its uniqueness are the ones who agree that attempting to explain Judaism away in terms of the primitive ideas, mores, etc., of the ANE is not only insufficient but profoundly misguided.

How do I know the difference between those who understand the Torah and those who do not? Because Torah is my field of expertise, I have spent and continue to spend an enormous amount of my life immersed in its study and I am entitled to make a judgment on this issue without it being dismissed as merely subjective.

When you show me solid proof of any ANE nation or culture that had a transcendent, universal concept of a purely just and merciful God, a belief in a rationally order harmonious universe, a repudiation of icons, magic, superstition and ancestor/king worship, a self-critical and didactic religious history that challenged its beliefs and conduct rather than simply validating it, and a track record of enormous success in producing highly educated, intellectual and sincerely charitable human beings who were light years ahead of their time in almost every sense of the term "civilization", then I will drop my claim that the Torah cannot be reduced to a freak accident of ANE cultural evolution.

Add to that the unprecedented claim that this revolutionary religion emerged as a result of remarkably transformational miraculous events experienced at the national level, and you have a pretty tough act to follow.

Best,

RJM

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Regarding your second comment, I was discussing single vs. multiple authorship, not Divine vs. human authorship.


LF, thanks for weighing in.

littlefoxling said...

oy vey. I am getting tired of these debates. I have no energy to participate anymore. Who cares really?

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

LF,

AMEN!

Imagine the kind of difference we could be making, in our lives and the lives of others, if we spent our time in constructive intellectual and/or social activity rather than in arguing about this stuff!

XGH said...

> When you show me solid proof of any ANE nation or culture that had a transcendent, universal concept of a purely just and merciful God, a belief in a rationally order harmonious universe, a repudiation of icons, magic, superstition and ancestor/king worship, a self-critical and didactic religious history that challenged its beliefs and conduct rather than simply validating it, and a track record of enormous success in producing highly educated, intellectual and sincerely charitable human beings who were light years ahead of their time in almost every sense of the term "civilization", then I will drop my claim that the Torah cannot be reduced to a freak accident of ANE cultural evolution.

All you have done is string together all the 'good'/unique things about Judaism, purposely ignored all the 'bad'/ non unique things, and then you say 'it's all so amazing. must be God did it'. This isn't a strong argument. In fact, it's a lame argument. And your constant criticizing of my abilities/knowledge is a rather lame method of arguing.

XGH said...

"combined with an intuitive and quasi-sentimental attempt to determine the relative "merits" of different religious traditions based upon a definition of "goodness" that I believe is alien to the Torah."

"and a track record of enormous success in producing highly educated, intellectual and sincerely charitable human beings who were light years ahead of their time in almost every sense of the term "civilization"

LOL. How many fallacies/contradictions in those two lines?

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

XGH,

I am not stringing together anything. You asked me what is so exceptional about Judaism that convinces me it is not explicable in ANE terms.

I answered the question by describing a convergence of remarkable phenomena in Judaism and Torah that is so unique and astounding that it defies explanation in conventional terms. That doesn't mean one cannot force an explanation in such terms if one is determined, of course. But the more unique features are present the more strained the credibility of such approaches becomes.

I bring up your lack of knowledge for three reasons:

1) I have consistently maintained that a thorough grasp of the content of Judaism as well as other major religions is necessary for investigating these areas. I have gained much clarity from my own exploration of Xtianity and Shaaria so I speak from experience here.

2) You have never denied your limited knowledge in these areas, and despite my pleas that you educate yourself by examining original sources and engaging in some informed comparative religious study, you dismiss my insinuation that you need to read/learn more as nothing more than a debate tactic on my part.

3)You feel quite comfortable calling me a fundamentalist, biased, crazy, etc., with impunity. So why can't I come to my own conclusions about you based on my assessment of your arguments?

It is not intended to bash you, but to inspire you to learn more. It is somewhat tragic that you haven't done so yet and that you take my suggestions as insults rather than friendly advice.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

LOL. How many fallacies/contradictions in those two lines

I think I understand the gist of your somewhat condescending comment but you did not understand my point to begin with.

There are certain values which are of course held in common by the Torah and Western society. We can use these as a valid barometer of the positive contributions of a religious tradition.

That doesn't mean that the function of religion as understood in Western or Eastern society - i.e., either submission to the divine, communion with the divine or becoming a wholesome, kind hearted person - is comparable to the purpose of the Torah and mitsvot. This is where I think you go wrong in many of your analyses.

(Not to mention that even the simplistic visions of goodness endorsed by modern religions and ingrained in our culture were derived from Judaism; they are at least a step or two up from pagan ANE religion which didn't even have the concept of an overarching 'objective' in life or history.)

XGH said...

> There are certain values which are of course held in common by the Torah and Western society. We can use these as a valid barometer of the positive contributions of a religious tradition.

No we can't.

XGH said...

> Not to mention that even the simplistic visions of goodness endorsed by modern religions and ingrained in our culture were derived from Judaism; they are at least a step or two up from pagan ANE religion which didn't even have the concept of an overarching 'objective' in life or history

'Step or two up' how? You are using the Torah's value system to endorse the Torah's value system. Also, Catholics argue that their system is the best, because their values are the best, as shown because they value their values the best. If this all sounds circular it's because it is.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Also, Catholics argue that their system is the best, because their values are the best, as shown because they value their values the best. If this all sounds circular it's because it is.

This paragraph is indeed circular, but has nothing to do with what I was arguing in my comment. You still refuse to take the time to seriously consider other views and ideas before typing out your responses.

I don't want my blog to become a forum for the kinds of rhetoric and unchecked sophistry typical of some other blogs. I would appreciate it if you kept this in mind before posting.

If you are a complete moral relativist, then I suppose you can maintain that it is impossible to distinguish and judge between the values of ANE society and the values of Western society, and that our preference for the latter is just an evolutionary quirk.

The kinds of contributions to civilization and improvements I am talking about would be recognized by nearly all religious traditions today, so my statements are neither circular nor subjective.

Avrum68 said...

RJM,

It's about time you took XGH to task, on your turf, for purposely misrepresenting and mocking your ideas on his site.

I don't expect to find "truth" in these discussions, but a good spanking is in order. And I suspect XGH is going to be the one with he sore behind.

The Jewish Freak said...

>"When you show me solid proof of any ANE nation or culture that had a transcendent, universal concept of a purely just and merciful God, a belief in a rationally order harmonious universe, a repudiation of icons, magic, superstition and ancestor/king worship, a self-critical and didactic religious history that challenged its beliefs and conduct rather than simply validating it, and a track record of enormous success in producing highly educated, intellectual and sincerely charitable human beings who were light years ahead of their time in almost every sense of the term "civilization", then I will drop my claim that the Torah cannot be reduced to a freak accident of ANE cultural evolution."

Rabbi Maroof,

Since you claim to understand christianity, you are probably aware of the following doctrine:
When one accepts jesus into his heart, he is endowed with a new spirit, and becomes a new person with a new nature - one that is now able to resist sin. Acceptance of jesus produces a better, more moral person now that the person's nature is changed. (I have studied all major denominations of christianity extensively).
My question on christianity is as follows: If this doctrine is true, than why have there been so many atrocities commited in the name of jesus? The answer I have been given is that "They were not real christians", which then calls into serious question the doctrine mentioned above. Either acceptance of jesus fails to produce better people, or it fails to produce any more than a tiny number of "real christians".

Unfortunately, this same question can be applied to your idea of Judaism. Only a tiny minority (I actually believe none) of religious Jews exercise "a repudiation of icons, magic, superstition and ancestor/king worship" including the "Gedolim". Judaism does not produce what you claim it produces today, and therefore probably never did.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

JF,

Honestly, I do not judge the intrinsic value or truth of any religious or philosophical tradition by the masses who practice it. I look at the doctrines, texts and viewpoints of the intellectual and spiritual leadership of the movements to understand a religion's teachings.

When it comes to Judaism, it is certainly true that the Jews rarely lived up to the exalted demands of the Torah, especially in the areas you mention. However, the clear presence of such expectations, worded in such strong terms and emphasized so uncompromisingly by the prophets, is what leads me to characterize Judaism in terms of them.

When I look at Christianity, which worships a human god-messiah and asks people to commune with him to achieve salvation by consuming his flesh and blood, then regardless of whether they choose to commit atrocities or not, I still see idolatry and nonsense. If anything, belief that we are "one" with god is a dangerous distortion that can serve as a rationalization for horrific actions.

Judaism has never endorsed man-god identification in any form, and makes no bones about drawing a clear line in the sand between the human and divine realms. Even religious ecstasy is viewed with suspicion, a la the fences put up before Maamad Har Sinai and the story of Nadav and Avihu.

The fact that certain chassidic sects, gedolim and kever-worshipers, etc., violate this principle is not a disproof of its existence or authenticity. It merely demonstrates the importance of addressing and discussing a pernicious force that is still at play in the human religious consciousness, probably to be found in some form or another in every religion.

Anonymous said...

> The kinds of contributions to civilization and improvements I am talking about would be recognized by nearly all religious traditions today, so my statements are neither circular nor subjective.

Yes, but using those arguments to then say that clearly OJ produces people light years ahead of anything else is entirely subjective, since no one outside of OJ would agree to that. On the contrary, Catholics think they produce the best people, and every other religion feels the same way.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Yes, but using those arguments to then say that clearly OJ produces people light years ahead of anything else is entirely subjective, since no one outside of OJ would agree to that. On the contrary, Catholics think they produce the best people, and every other religion feels the same way.

I am sorry but I will not countenance this kind of argument anymore. In the future, I will delete such comments if necessary.

Bring actual sources indicating that this is what Catholics or other religious people explicitly state, and cite their reasons for saying so, and let's discuss it honestly and objectively.

Alternatively, bring actual sources in which non-OJs repudiate my view and cite their reasons and arguments and we will discuss them openly without any censorship.

But I am not going to turn my blog into a forum that encourages the kind of lazy, inept, armchair-speculation style thinking that passes for 'rational, objective' argumentation on other blogs. It wastes my time and, frankly, it is very frustrating.

I am interested in real intellectual exploration of the real texts and real issues, not the endless volleying of underdeveloped, preconceived notions back and forth as if we are participating in some kind of tennis match of pseudo-intellectualism.

I hope that XGH et al. take note of this new policy as well, since there will be no exceptions moving forward.

Hag Sameah!

avrum68 said...

I am interested in real intellectual exploration of the real texts and real issues, not the endless volleying of underdeveloped, preconceived notions...of pseudo-intellectualism.

Amen. Amen.

Rabbi, I can't help but wonder if a debate, via podcasts would be a more effective medium for these type of discussions.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

I would imagine a debate in podcast form being similar to a debate in this medium - two people talking past each other with no real meeting of the minds.

Debate in general is rarely effective in my opinion as a means of reaching the truth or even of reaching substantial consensus.

Genuine progress in understanding will not occur until both 'sides' are willing to educate themselves thoroughly, to clearly and explicitly define the premises and principles that guide them in their analysis of the subject matter, and finally to lay down their arms for the sake of engagement in a cooperative search for truth in which there are no "winners", no "losers" and no peanut gallery cheering on from the sidelines.

And with that I wish you a hag sameah.

Avrum68 said...

Genuine progress in understanding will not occur until both 'sides' are willing to educate themselves thoroughly, to clearly and explicitly define the premises and principles that guide them in their analysis of the subject matter...

I agree. Though at some point, Heschel's idea of a "leap of faith" comes into play.

We've discussed this within the context of psychodynamic psychotherapy. Thought i can't prove that an Id, Ego, Superego, Transference, Coutner-Transference, etc exists, I believe they do. And in a sense, a leap needs to take place to take these concepts seriously.

Off topic, have you read much Mussar? I'm constantly stunned at how Rav Dessler and other's were stating ideas that form the bed rock of much of depth and behaviourist therapies. Simply stunning.

Agguten Yontif

FedUp said...

When you show me solid proof of any ANE nation or culture that had a transcendent, universal concept of a purely just and merciful God, a belief in a rationally order harmonious universe, a repudiation of icons, magic, superstition and ancestor/king worship, a self-critical and didactic religious history that challenged its beliefs and conduct rather than simply validating it, and a track record of enormous success in producing highly educated, intellectual and sincerely charitable human beings who were light years ahead of their time in almost every sense of the term "civilization", then I will drop my claim that the Torah cannot be reduced to a freak accident of ANE cultural evolution.

RJM,
You require sources etc. and discourage armchair analysis. I beg you to proved the same courtesy for me. Please show how the following statements are indeed accurate descriptions of Judaism from it's conception until now.

Firstly, granted that you are in fact making a correction summation of Judaism, it is difficult to for me to see the logical succession from the descriptions you made to the truth of Torah MiSinai. It seems that you are saying that because Judaism or perhaps the Torah is/was so unique it must be that God is the cause. Why rule out chance, evolution (meaning this was the next logical step in the evolution of religions from many gods to one god etc.), or aliens?

Secondly the idea of TMS is commonly misunderstood. Maimonides in "The Guide for the Perplexed" (part 2, chapter 33) wrote the following:

"It has become clear to me that at the Sinai Revelation what reached Moses did not reach all the Israelites, but His word reached Moses alone...He, may he rest in peace, came down to the bottom of the mount and told people what he heard [from G-d], as the Torah said, 'I stood between the Lord and you at that time' (Deuteronomy 5:5), and it is also said, 'Moses spoke, and G-d answered him through a voice' (Exodus 19:19). And they interpreted it in [Midrash] Mechilta that each phrase he [Moses] told them as he heard it [from G-d]. It is also written in the Torah, 'So that that the people may hear when I speak [with you]..' (Exodus 19:9) -- and this shows that G-d talked to him [Moses], but they [the people] heard that loud voice, but did not distinguish the words. And it is also said, 'You hear the voice of speech' (Deuteronomy 4:12) -- but not, 'You hear the speech,' [which would mean] all that the speech means. But... they heard the voice, and Moses was that who heard the speech [of G-d] and told it to the people -- this is what comes out of the Torah and of the most of our Sages' words.

But there is also an opinion brought in many places in the Midrash and even in the Talmud, that when He said 'I am [the Lord your G-d]' and 'You shall not have [other gods before Me],' they heard it directly from the mouth of the Glory."

Clearly the supposed mass tradition was limited to the first two of the aseret hadibrot, not the entire Torah or even all the aseret hadibrot.

Thirdly, I would like to bring sources that seem to contradict your summation of Judaism from authentic Jewish sources.

>transcendent
The Raabad on Hilchot Teshuva 3:7 makes the argument that gives me the impression the Rambam's idea of transcendent God was a chidush. Also see Rashi on Shemos 7:5 Marc Shapiro in "The Limits of Orthodox Theology" has a few pages on this topic, with lots of proofs and arguments that many scholars before the Rambam believed this.

>universal
See Deuteronomy 14:2,Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:7, 8, Amos 3:2, Avot 3:14. etc All of the brachot on mitzvot contain the phrase asher bachar banu mikol ha'amim. This is hardly a universal God.

>purely just and merciful God
The Torah is filled with cruelty and violence. Bereshit 7:21-23, 19:24 Shemot 4:23, 17:13, 22:24, 32:35 Vayikra 10:1-3, 14:34, 26:16-39, Bemidbar 1:51, 3:10, 3:38, 14:18 Devarim 2:33-36, 3:3-6, 7:20-23
There are countless cruel punishments required by Jewish Law for things ranging from intended lighting of matches on the Sabbath to thought crimes. See Hilchot Shabbat 1:1 and Hilchot Avoda Zara 2:3

continued...

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Fedup,

Welcome to the blog.

I have never argued that uniqueness is a proof of Divine origin. What I have stated is that a unique phenomenon is much more difficult to explain in conventional, natural terms than a phenomenon that falls within the range of the conventional.

I am not sure why you think the aliens explanation is more reasonable than a Divine origin explanation. True, both are unconventional, but why aliens?

History testifies to the fact that the most innovative aspects of Judaism's theology and morality simply did not "emerge" or "evolve" in any non-Jewish cultural setting. This means that, even if it were to have evolved in the case of the Jewish people, it would be quite remarkable that the process of religious evolution failed to reach the same pinnacle in other settings.

It seems somewhat disengenuous to utilize the Rambam's explanations of Judaism as if they are mainstream while simultaneously marginalizing him as a "mechadesh".

Be that as it may, even if there were subsequent discussions and debates centered around the texts that record the Sinai event, this doesn't call the essential tradition into question at all. I am not sure why you assume it would. Debates rage all the time among historians, even in their attempts to clarify the particulars of events that occurred fifty years ago, yet no one denies that the events being discussed did occur, and some basic outline of the nature of the occurrence can still be agreed upon.

Unfortunately, your reading of the Raavad is not accurate. Look more closely. He is objecting to the fact that the Rambam refers to a believer in God's corporeality as a "min", or heretic. The Raavad clearly concurs with the Rambam's view that God is transcendent and that this is the proper Jewish teaching on the subject. He simply finds it problematic to brand those who erroneously follow a literal reading of the Midrashim "heretics".

A universal God is a God who created all people, is concerned with all people, and has expectations of all people. The notion that God chose one nation to be His "ambassadors" to the rest of the human race is not inconsistent with His universality. On the contrary, throughout Tanach we see that Hashem's plan for the Jewish people is very much connected to His plan for humanity as a whole.

Prescribing the death penalty for offenses that pose a serious threat to the well being of society is not unjust or unmerciful. It is a government's way of demonstrating the significance it assigns to those activities. Just as murder is viewed as intolerable in our culture, so too is Sabbath desecration or idolatry intolerable to the culture of Torah and wisdom.

You are assessing the values of the Torah from a subjective perspective and concluding that the crimes it punishes with death do not warrant that consequence.

However, someone who understands the purpose of society as metaphysical and not just material believes that the health and success of a community are very much dependent upon the conception of the Universe and of the Creator that it promotes. The foundation of our understanding of the world and our place in it shouldn't be compromised for material gain. To do so is to challenge the most fundamental value of Torah society, the same way taking an innocent life contradicts the most cherished values of American society (i.e., it robs someone of individual liberty and the right to pursue pleasure without unjust interference).

FedUp said...

>magic,
I'm not sure where you place the divider between magic and miracles There is no difference. Just because God or his servants are the source of magic clearly does not change it to a miracle. In the story of the exodus, there is a battle of the magicians between Moshe and Aharon and the Egyptian magicians. Please see Shemot 4:2-3, 7:10-12, 7:17-22, Bemidbar 22:28-30
Please see Taanit 23a in which Huni the Circle Maker performs some extraordinary magic. The Kabbalastic texts such as the Sefer Yetsirah, the Bahir, and the Zohar are filled with both magic and superstition.

>superstition
I'm sure you are familiar with Jewish Amulets such as the hamsa and kameas. Even tefillin could be interpreted to be superstitious. There is a Gemara in Brakhot 20a that gives advice for those afraid of eyna bisha (the evil eye).

>and ancestor/king worship
The Jews do not currently have a king. The "Gedolim" may not be worshipped per se but pretty darn close. The Rebbe of Lubavitch is certainly worshipped. Please research Lubavitch messianism, boreinunicks etc. As far as I know, no authoritative Orthodox Jewish Rabbis have cut off the Lubavitch movement which gives me the impression that this is a legitimate form of Judaism that includes "king/ancestor" worship.

>purely just God,
The Bible has many passages that promote injustice. Please see Bereshit 3:16, 22:2, Shemot 32:35, 21:7, Vayikra 20:9, 22:11 Bemidbar 31:15-19 Devarim 5:9, 22:20-21 Also for injustice toward women please see Laws of Inheritance 1:1-3, Laws of Interpersonal relations 21:10, Horayot 3:7, Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 252:8, injustice towards non-Jews see Yoma 8:6,7, Mishnah Berurah, 330, subsection 8, Yoreh Deah, 154:2 Yabi'a Omer,
part 8, Orach Chayim, paragraph 38, Laws of Transactions 13:7 Hilchot Avodah Zara 10:4

>a belief in a rationally order harmonious universe,
I will interpret this to mean that the Torah gives a view of the world that is consistent with science and history. The first 11 chapters of Bereshit are completely inconsistent with the theory of evolution. There has been no evidence for the exodus etc. Please see "The Bible Unearthed." I couldn't possibly exhaust the inaccuracies of the Torah in regards to Science and History. There are many informative books from experts in the field.

>and a self-critical and didactic religious history that challenged its beliefs and conduct rather than simply validating it,

I had mentioned thought crimes. It is not conducive to critical thinking about Judaism when there are rules not to think certain thoughts and when God is portrayed as jealous and threatens to completely destroy any who wander away toward other ideologies. Please see Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, 425:5 and Shemot 20:4-5

>and a track record of enormous success in producing highly educated, intellectual and sincerely charitable human beings who were light years ahead of their time in almost every sense of the term "civilization",

This is certainly something that I wouldn't wish to refute. Even if it were true, I would never wish to sully the track record of humanitarianism that has been evidenced by Jews throughout history.

In summary, your statement describing Judaism is 1)does not prove it's divinity 2) is unbased 3)inaccurate.

Looking forward to your response.

FedUp said...

What I have stated is that a unique phenomenon is much more difficult to explain in conventional, natural terms than a phenomenon that falls within the range of the conventional.

It certainly may be difficult to explain things using reason, science, and history or any other natural and conventional tool. It would be much easier to say "God did it" to any difficulty that one comes across. But the natural conventions are the only tools I know of that ensure objectivity and accuracy. Perhaps you could show me how a mass tradition, prophecy, revelation, or any supernatural tool could give the same results.

As to most of the rest of your response, I beg of you to keep to your own requirements for good discussion and provide source material that refutes and disqualifies that which I have
presented.

FedUp said...

I would like to apologize for all the typos and poor grammar. I wrote this hurriedly.

All comments from either you or me that are not directly in connection with your initial statement about Judaism and ANE religion are simply side discussion. I do not wish for any distractions.

It seems somewhat disingenuous to utilize the Rambam's explanations of Judaism as if they are mainstream while simultaneously marginalizing him as a "mechadesh".

Perhaps, for the sake of clarity, you could better define your statement I quoted to mainstream Judaism and give a thorough definition of it. I do not wish to marginalize any of the Rishonim, especially the Rambam. Stating that someone introduced a new idea is not the same as marginalizing. For example, Einstein or Darwin came up with a new idea and their ideas are not marginal. Perhaps you misunderstood me.

FedUp said...

He is objecting to the fact that the Rambam refers to a believer in God's corporeality as a "min", or heretic. The Raavad clearly concurs with the Rambam's view that God is transcendent and that this is the proper Jewish teaching on the subject. He simply finds it problematic to brand those who erroneously follow a literal reading of the Midrashim "heretics".

It is of no concern of ours what the nature of Raabad's belief of God was. I am merely pointing out that "good and great men" believed that God had a body which is hardly transcendent. In other words, the belief in a transcendent God was not unique to Judaism until the Rambam encoded it in his code or, a transcendent God is not an original part of Judaism.

FedUp said...

Prescribing the death penalty for offenses that pose a serious threat to the well being of society is not unjust or unmerciful. It is a government's way of demonstrating the significance it assigns to those activities. Just as murder is viewed as intolerable in our culture, so too is Sabbath desecration or idolatry intolerable to the culture of Torah and wisdom.

Since you did not give any sources I am assuming that you are simply making your own argument. Your argument could be used for Adolf Hitler's edict to commit genocide on the Jews. He viewed them as a threat to Nazi Germany's society. I believe that both you and I can agree that these are immoral and unjust methods of maintaining a society. The same can be argued for immoral and unjust methods promoted in the Jewish Law Codes.

You are assessing the values of the Torah from a subjective perspective and concluding that the crimes it punishes with death do not warrant that consequence.

The previous assumption I made I repeat here.

Your original statement about a purely just and merciful God can only be understood within the context of your understanding of Judaism. This is also subjective. Correct me if I'm wrong but you are suggesting that the Torah is the only way to judge it's morality and justice. This is also circular. (The Torah is moral because the morality is defined by the Torah.)

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Fedup,

I just want to say that I appreciate all the effort you are investing in your comments, and I am impressed by your commitment to remain focused on sources and real arguments.

Although it is already way past what should have been my bedtime, I did run through your comments quickly and I plan to respond tomorrow. As you may expect, I have a great deal to say about several of your points.

Again, thank you for taking this discussion seriously rather than mocking or dismissing other views. I look forward to a meaningful exchange.

evanstonjew said...

RJM...this is my first comment on yur blog.

I want to say that perhaps you can show how your claims work in practise by providing examples line by line. Little Foxling's examples of many instances of anthropomorphism, or take any chapter in a difficult perek in tehilim or Job and show line by line that the meanings given by Rashi etc. are superior to current readings. I would love for your ideas to prevail, but like others my primary allegiance is to the text and saying the best peshat that I can. Why do you have to fight endlessly....show on the daf how it works.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"And your constant criticizing of my abilities/knowledge is a rather lame method of arguing."

What is he to do? All you do is argue that so many people say X. So content doesn't matter in an argument with you.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Rabban Gamliel said...
"And your constant criticizing of my abilities/knowledge is a rather lame method of arguing."

What is he to do? All you do is argue that so many people say X. So content doesn't matter in an argument with you."

And besides you do that all the time. How is it not lame for you?

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Dear Commmenters,

Sorry for the delayed responses...this is the first opportunity I have had to use a computer all day, and it will be a brief one at that! The day took several unexpected twists and turns. Tomorrow morning I plan to offer my answers/responses to points raised in the comments.


EJ,

Can you please clarify the context of your statement? I am a little bit confused as to your point of reference.

In terms of incorporeality of God in general, this is a non-issue as far as I am concerned. The Rambam did not introduce the idea - it is mentioned explicitly in the writings of the Geonim in several places and is an ever-present motif in the translation of Onkelos, which was regarded by Babylonian Jews in the Talmudic period as the "official" and "authoritative" translation of the Torah.

It is also interesting to note that the Talmud mentions that in the composition of the Septuagint the Rabbis replaced "B'tzalmenu K'demutenu" with "B'tzelem Uvidemut", which should have been "b'tzalmi uvidemuti" if the only problem was one of plurality of deities and not of corporeality as well. Clearly, the Rabbis were concerned about attributing a literal human image of any kind to God.

Tanach is a work of immense literary brilliance and depth, and I believe that people who get overly literal about the anthropomorphic descriptions therein are completely missing the ingenious creative element of Scripture that a poetic soul immediately perceives as quite obviously metaphoric.

It is also worth pointing out that this is not a matter of dogma vs. academics. There are indeed academics who believe that the God of the Bible was understood as transcendent from the outset, as traditional Judaism teaches.

FedUp said...

RJM,

I understand that you are very busy. Do you still have time to respond and if so can you give me an approximate time when you will be responding? No rush. Just wanting to know if and when I check back on your blog.

Elisha said...

Hi RJM. I am really enjoying reading your posts and comments, here and on XGH's blog.

I've been thinking about you guys and the family. I miss you. Please email me.

Elisha

Rabban Gamliel said...

XGH as usual is afraid of argument on his "ideas" getting serious so he banned me.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Fedup,

I will now begin to address some of your points, but I am not sure if I'll be able to respond to all of them tonight!

I'm not sure where you place the divider between magic and miracles There is no difference. Just because God or his servants are the source of magic clearly does not change it to a miracle. In the story of the exodus, there is a battle of the magicians between Moshe and Aharon and the Egyptian magicians. Please see Shemot 4:2-3, 7:10-12, 7:17-22, Bemidbar 22:28-30
Please see Taanit 23a in which Huni the Circle Maker performs some extraordinary magic. The Kabbalastic texts such as the Sefer Yetsirah, the Bahir, and the Zohar are filled with both magic and superstition.


Simple. Magic is the belief that man can influence the operation of the universe and override the natural course of nature by making recourse to an alternate realm of forces through incantations, rituals, etc. Belief in magic is harmful because it prevents mankind from recognizing the intelligible order in nature, leading people instead to believe that the world is a random conglomeration of occult forces that can be influenced by the right magic. You I am sure wouldn't be surprised to learn that countless people today are "into" Horoscopes, magic, wicca, etc., and the same people are either totally ignorant of or are opposed to scientific knowledge.

Miracles, on the other hand, confirm the belief in one, transcendent Creator Who can intervene in the world. However, a miracle by definition presupposes that, in general, there is a natural order to be observed and studied. This is why whenever the Torah mentions the holidays, which commemorate miracles, the Shabbat, which memorializes the majestic harmony of all of creation, is mentioned as well. We have Shabbat every week, but holidays that focus on "exceptions to the rule" only infrequently.

Miracles - temporary in duration and educational in content - are designed to lead us to a recognition of the order in the Universe, while magic leads people in precisely the opposite direction by creating an imaginary framework that takes mankind away from reality.

I am not a kabbalist and generally I don't comment on matters of kabbalah. But it is certain that the mequbalim did not believe magic was a dark occult force that opposed God's dominion.

They thought God built certain loopholes into the universe that human beings could capitalize on. In some form or another, they were correct in anticipating that there is much more going on beneath the surface of the material world than meets the eye.

Honi Hameagel doesn't perform magic. He prays and God performs miracles. Same goes for all the sources you referenced.



>superstition
I'm sure you are familiar with Jewish Amulets such as the hamsa and kameas. Even tefillin could be interpreted to be superstitious. There is a Gemara in Brakhot 20a that gives advice for those afraid of eyna bisha (the evil eye).


Again, the definition of superstition is the belief that there are forces operating independently of God in the world, and the adoption of rituals to ward off the effects of these forces. Jewish amulets were ways that people attempted to secure divine protection.

Mitsvot like tefillin and mezuzah have the clear purpose of reminding us of Hashem, so a superstitious orientation to them is a distortion of their meaning.

The Rishonim discourse on what ayin hara is. What is clear is that it is not a force independent of the Creator that must be feared, which is what a superstitious or idolatrous person supposes. This distinction should be clear.



and ancestor/king worship
The Jews do not currently have a king. The "Gedolim" may not be worshipped per se but pretty darn close. The Rebbe of Lubavitch is certainly worshipped. Please research Lubavitch messianism, boreinunicks etc. As far as I know, no authoritative Orthodox Jewish Rabbis have cut off the Lubavitch movement which gives me the impression that this is a legitimate form of Judaism that includes "king/ancestor" worship.


I don't look at what Jews do to define what Judaism teaches. If I did, I would have to conclude that the worship of the Golden Calf, belligerent refusal to listen to the commandments and assurances of God, etc., are all acceptable Jewish practices. We made mistakes, and continue to make mistakes, which is why we are in exile. This is especially true in the area of idolatry and superstition, which has permeated many aspects of contemporary Jewish life.

Remember, the location of Moses' grave was kept hidden so the Jews wouldn't lapse into idolatry. They deified the copper servant Moses crafted because of its alleged "powers". We are clearly prone to this kind of thinking, and we must guard ourselves against it because it is most definitely NOT endorsed by the Torah.

purely just God,
The Bible has many passages that promote injustice. Please see Bereshit 3:16, 22:2, Shemot 32:35, 21:7, Vayikra 20:9, 22:11 Bemidbar 31:15-19 Devarim 5:9, 22:20-21 Also for injustice toward women please see Laws of Inheritance 1:1-3, Laws of Interpersonal relations 21:10, Horayot 3:7, Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 252:8, injustice towards non-Jews see Yoma 8:6,7, Mishnah Berurah, 330, subsection 8, Yoreh Deah, 154:2 Yabi'a Omer,
part 8, Orach Chayim, paragraph 38, Laws of Transactions 13:7 Hilchot Avodah Zara 10:4


There is a lot here to comment on; without addressing the specifics right now I will make a general statement. Every legal system is the embodiment of a value system. It is also, especially in the case of Jewish law, an internally consistent framework of interconnected principles and concepts. It is poor methodology to pluck specific rulings out of context and hold them up to the light of justice. Each area needs to be investigated separately so that we can reach an understanding of why the law is formulated the way it is, on its own terms.


a belief in a rationally order harmonious universe,
I will interpret this to mean that the Torah gives a view of the world that is consistent with science and history. The first 11 chapters of Bereshit are completely inconsistent with the theory of evolution. There has been no evidence for the exodus etc. Please see "The Bible Unearthed." I couldn't possibly exhaust the inaccuracies of the Torah in regards to Science and History. There are many informative books from experts in the field.


You misunderstood me here. I meant that Judaism was the first to teach the general notion that the cosmos is an orderly system that reflects a unified set of harmonious laws of nature. The details of those laws are still only partially understood by human beings. The quest is endless. But the fundamental assumption underlying the scientific enterprise - that the universe is rational and we can and should seek to understand the principles that explain its operation in rational terms - comes straight from the Torah, and is revisited in the first blessings of the Shema morning and evening and for 25 hours every Shabbat.

and a self-critical and didactic religious history that challenged its beliefs and conduct rather than simply validating it

I had mentioned thought crimes. It is not conducive to critical thinking about Judaism when there are rules not to think certain thoughts and when God is portrayed as jealous and threatens to completely destroy any who wander away toward other ideologies. Please see Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, 425:5 and Shemot 20:4-5


Whatever guidelines are presented for thought are only there to ensure that the grossest distortions and errors are not embraced, such as the belief in absolute materialism (idolatry), etc. In terms of scientific and technological research there is no limit, and in terms of philosophical speculation, although we are given a basic framework to protect us from undermining the raison d'etre of our study - the search for knowledge of God - the major questions are open for discussion and debate among qualified scholars who are duly prepared for the exercise.

Sorry, but it is ideologies that are intellectual free-for-alls that allowed the development of things like Hollywood, American Idol, MTV, celebrity-obsession, drug use, unbridled promiscuity, and materialism.

The supposedly liberated secularists of today, who are "way past" the values of Judaism and its "restrictive" and "backward" attitudes, utilize their intelletual freedom not to seek deeper truths but to justify a profoundly unenlightened lifestyle.

A society based on Torah values would assign the pursuit of truth its first priority. Today's society, despite its protestations to the contrary, does not foster even a glimmer of interest in this pursuit beyond what is necessary to make a living.

It is of no concern of ours what the nature of Raabad's belief of God was. I am merely pointing out that "good and great men" believed that God had a body which is hardly transcendent. In other words, the belief in a transcendent God was not unique to Judaism until the Rambam encoded it in his code or, a transcendent God is not an original part of Judaism.

The Rambam did not introduce the idea. All of the major Rishonim agreed with it. The Geonim wrote about it, and it is clear on every page of Onkelos' translation of the Torah which was the official targum for all of Babylonian Jewry.

Sorry I must call it a night!

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Dear Elisha,

I am so glad to hear from you but I am not sure if I have your email in my current address book. During our last exchange I kept hitting "respond" and I am not sure I saved your address. Could you email me and then I will respond ASAP.

FedUp said...

Simple. Magic is the belief that man can influence the operation of the universe and override the natural course of nature by making recourse to an alternate realm of forces through incantations, rituals, etc. Belief in magic is harmful because it prevents mankind from recognizing the intelligible order in nature, leading people instead to believe that the world is a random conglomeration of occult forces that can be influenced by the right magic. You I am sure wouldn't be surprised to learn that countless people today are "into" Horoscopes, magic, wicca, etc., and the same people are either totally ignorant of or are opposed to scientific knowledge.

Miracles, on the other hand, confirm the belief in one, transcendent Creator Who can intervene in the world. However, a miracle by definition presupposes that, in general, there is a natural order to be observed and studied. This is why whenever the Torah mentions the holidays, which commemorate miracles, the Shabbat, which memorializes the majestic harmony of all of creation, is mentioned as well. We have Shabbat every week, but holidays that focus on "exceptions to the rule" only infrequently.

Miracles - temporary in duration and educational in content - are designed to lead us to a recognition of the order in the Universe, while magic leads people in precisely the opposite direction by creating an imaginary framework that takes mankind away from reality.

I am not a kabbalist and generally I don't comment on matters of kabbalah. But it is certain that the mequbalim did not believe magic was a dark occult force that opposed God's dominion.

They thought God built certain loopholes into the universe that human beings could capitalize on. In some form or another, they were correct in anticipating that there is much more going on beneath the surface of the material world than meets the eye.

Honi Hameagel doesn't perform magic. He prays and God performs miracles. Same goes for all the sources you referenced.


RJM,
You did not bring a single source to back up your claim here. You claimed ignorance in matters of kabbalah. You said that Huni HaMeagel and the rest of the sources I brought say prayer and God performed the miracle. There is no difference between uttering a prayer and God performing a miracle and uttering an incantation and supernatural forces called by a different name performing magic, as is evidenced in the story of the first several of the ten plagues. Moshe and/or Aharon perform magic and the Egyptian magicians follow suit. The scientific knowledge or opposition to science of people that are "into" magic, wicca etc. is of no consequence to our discussion. However, since you brought it up, please bring evidence that the Jewish magicians that I mentioned were not ignorant of science or opposed to it. If we assume, as I believe you do, that Moshe wrote the Torah, then he was rather ignorant of science when he wrote that the heaven and the earth and all therein were created in six days, for example. As science has shown, it took much, much longer then that for them to come into being. Please see any book on evolution. My personal recommendations are Richard Dawkins, "The Blind Watch Maker" and Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species".

I've since remembered the golem of prague. Unfortunately I don't know the source of this story but I'm sure you are aware of the ma'aseh to which I refer. Also please see Sanhedrin 65b for a story of a magical man created by R' Zera and also of a magical calf created by Rabbi Oshea and Rabbi Hannina, see Rashi there. Also please see Ch. 1 from "Inner Space" by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan where he discusses practical magical Kabbala from texts such as Sefer HaRaziel and Sefer HaRazim.

Again, the definition of superstition is the belief that there are forces operating independently of God in the world, and the adoption of rituals to ward off the effects of these forces. Jewish amulets were ways that people attempted to secure divine protection.

Mitsvot like tefillin and mezuzah have the clear purpose of reminding us of Hashem, so a superstitious orientation to them is a distortion of their meaning.

The Rishonim discourse on what ayin hara is. What is clear is that it is not a force independent of the Creator that must be feared, which is what a superstitious or idolatrous person supposes. This distinction should be clear.


Again, you did not bring a single source to back up your claim here. You did not address my source in Brakhot. People of a superstitious nature, outside of Judaism are also trying to secure divine protection. Please prove that the superstition of the evil eye was not from a source other then God. Why would one need protection from something if the source of both the protection and the ill are one and the same? Anyhow, it makes no difference who the sources of protection and harm are. I was addressing the belief. If one believes in superstitions, it makes no difference what the sources of protection and harm are. Please provide sources in the Rishonim that show that ayin hara is not a superstition.

I don't look at what Jews do to define what Judaism teaches. If I did, I would have to conclude that the worship of the Golden Calf, belligerent refusal to listen to the commandments and assurances of God, etc., are all acceptable Jewish practices. We made mistakes, and continue to make mistakes, which is why we are in exile. This is especially true in the area of idolatry and superstition, which has permeated many aspects of contemporary Jewish life.

Remember, the location of Moses' grave was kept hidden so the Jews wouldn't lapse into idolatry. They deified the copper servant Moses crafted because of its alleged "powers". We are clearly prone to this kind of thinking, and we must guard ourselves against it because it is most definitely NOT endorsed by the Torah.


Your argument from the Golden Calf would have been good had Moshe not protested. But as it says in Shemot 32:15 and onward that Moshe came down from the mountain and destroyed the golden calf and killed thousands of people that supported the act of idolatry. However as far as I know the Jewish leadership of today has said and done nothing to protest the behavior of the Lubavitch Messianic Movement. I can only conclude that those actions done by Orthodox Jews are permitted unless I know of sources that forbid them.

There is a lot here to comment on; without addressing the specifics right now I will make a general statement. Every legal system is the embodiment of a value system. It is also, especially in the case of Jewish law, an internally consistent framework of interconnected principles and concepts. It is poor methodology to pluck specific rulings out of context and hold them up to the light of justice. Each area needs to be investigated separately so that we can reach an understanding of why the law is formulated the way it is, on its own terms.

I await the specifics. But it would perhaps be wiser to address the my point above regarding Torah defining morality and justice.

You misunderstood me here. I meant that Judaism was the first to teach the general notion that the cosmos is an orderly system that reflects a unified set of harmonious laws of nature. The details of those laws are still only partially understood by human beings. The quest is endless. But the fundamental assumption underlying the scientific enterprise - that the universe is rational and we can and should seek to understand the principles that explain its operation in rational terms - comes straight from the Torah, and is revisited in the first blessings of the Shema morning and evening and for 25 hours every Shabbat.

Please be more specific and provide sources from the Torah. I don't know to what you are referring. It seems that you are repeating yourself from what you said about repudiation of magic and superstition.

Whatever guidelines are presented for thought are only there to ensure that the grossest distortions and errors are not embraced, such as the belief in absolute materialism (idolatry), etc. In terms of scientific and technological research there is no limit, and in terms of philosophical speculation, although we are given a basic framework to protect us from undermining the raison d'etre of our study - the search for knowledge of God - the major questions are open for discussion and debate among qualified scholars who are duly prepared for the exercise.

Sorry, but it is ideologies that are intellectual free-for-alls that allowed the development of things like Hollywood, American Idol, MTV, celebrity-obsession, drug use, unbridled promiscuity, and materialism.

The supposedly liberated secularists of today, who are "way past" the values of Judaism and its "restrictive" and "backward" attitudes, utilize their intelletual freedom not to seek deeper truths but to justify a profoundly unenlightened lifestyle.

A society based on Torah values would assign the pursuit of truth its first priority. Today's society, despite its protestations to the contrary, does not foster even a glimmer of interest in this pursuit beyond what is necessary to make a living.


It is no concern of ours what your opinions are concerning consumerism, entertainment, secularism, etc. But since you brought it up; these are all gross misconceptions and if you are interested in learning about successful intellectually free societies, please read "A letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris.

You originally stated "...challenged its beliefs and conduct rather than simply validating it." and you've just now proven the opposite. It is of no concern of our discussion whether technological etc. research are limited by Orthodox Jewish belief. We are discussing critical thinking vs. self validating thinking about belief. If one is not permitted to think critically about his beliefs then how is it possible to be self critical about belief? If one is not permitted to think critically of ones belief then the only thinking to do when thinking about one's belief is to self validate.

The Rambam did not introduce the idea. All of the major Rishonim agreed with it. The Geonim wrote about it, and it is clear on every page of Onkelos' translation of the Torah which was the official targum for all of Babylonian Jewry.

I suppose Rashi and the ba'alei Tosafos are not major rishonim? I brought a source above from Rashi and if you look in "Limits of Orthodox Theology" by Marc Shapiro, you will see that they are not the only Rishonim that disagreed with the Rambam. And who, pray tell, was the Raabad referring to? Was he telling a fabricated lie when he says that "many good and great men" believed in a corporeal God? But anyhow, you brought no sources yet again and you are asking me to take your word for it when you mention the Geonim and Onkelos. Please provide examples.

In summary, you are not biding by your own self set rules for good discussion. You are not bringing sources most of the time. Most of your arguments are riddled with your opinions on magic and secularism etc. Please be more sparing on the drashot, as they are no concern of ours and I am completely uninterested. You are way behind in addressing my arguments. I understand that you are busy but I ask you; How is it that you find time to give long comments consistently on XGH's blog? There you constantly decry a lack of evidence and their misrepresentation of your arguments. Here I have done quite the opposite. I have brought well reasoned arguments, I have stuck to the topic and I bring sources. Yet you delay 3 days, only to give me a partial answer?!

I do wish to continue in this discussion. Perhaps I am making too high of a demand. I request honesty and adherence to your rules of evidence from sources and good argumentation. I will set this page on my google reader to notify me of your answer so I don't waste time checking your blog on a consistent basis.

Hatzlacha Rabba!

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Fedup,

The reason I find time to comment on XGH during the day is because my comments there are sporadic reactions to other comments, sometimes they are lengthier than originally intended, but they are always in a rush.

In responding to your comments I wanted to take more time, both because of their length and their depth, so I had to wait for a block of time in my schedule that permitted this, which is difficult to come by with my schedule.

The comment I wrote yesterday took me over 40 minutes to write, so citing chapter and verse sources would have been prohibitive for me. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

Please understand that we are doing exactly what I envisioned in my guidelines - discussing real content and actual sources - although I cannot devote an equal amount of time to every individual source, and I don't always cite sources with precise references because I don't necessarily have the time to confirm their location, I believe we are at the very least conversing about substance.

In this sense we have accomplished much more in our brief dialogue than has been achieved in many exchanges on other blogs.

In this case, your interpretation of the sources, and not the sources themselves, is the issue from my perspective.

I understand the whole conflict in Egypt with the magicians, for example, as being a struggle between the forces of magic - imagined to be subject to the manipulation of man - and God's interventions, for which we may pray but which are ultimately subject only to His will. This is why there is a profound difference between magic and superstition on one hand and miracles on the other. The former promote a belief in occult forces operating independently of God and defying rational explanation, whereas the latter are acts of God intended to demonstrate His absolute sovereignty.

You cannot dismiss such a clear distinction as irrelevant. We cannot read sources blindly and unthinkingly and expect them to explain themselves. That would not be a genuine discussion of sources, it would be the superficial review of sources. And to get to the truth requires more from us.

You seem to also misunderstand my points about science. I am not saying the Torah contains scientific information about cosmology or evolution. What I am observing is that the Tanach presents a worldview - the first in the history of civilization - that opens the door to scientific inquiry.

The reason I say this is because the Torah describes the Universe as a unified, harmonious and lawful system. This assumption is the foundation of all rational investigation in science, which pursues unified, rational explanations of all observed phenomena in the material world. Belief in polytheism, that the phenomena we observe are disconnected, random, and express multiple "wills" operating in the world, would make the idea of seeking scientific explanations seem absurd. The same goes for magical beliefs vs. science.

The Torah may not provide details of a scientific nature, but its conception of the Universe - one which subsequently permeated Western culture - is the basis for scientific thinking.

Slifkin speaks about this point in the Challenge of Creation, and many deist scientists, like Paul Davies, discuss this in their works as well.

Your expositions of science are phrased in a condescending manner but, as I said, missed my point completely. I am speaking about the philosophy of science being implicit in the Torah, not the specifics of science which are being discovered every day. Of course, I am familiar with the popular scientific literature on biology, mathematics and physics.

The Torah explicitly prohibits superstition, so the suggestion that the Rabbis believed in it is extremely difficult to accept. Moreover, the evil eye is explained as either a physical force in nature (Ralbag, Abarbanel) or the effect of jealousy (Meiri). The navi says clearly that Hashem is "yotser ohr u'vorei hoshech, oseh shalom u'voreh ra", meaning that all things in the world, whether perceived as positive or negative, derive from God.

In general, where the Talmud appears to describe the Rabbis engaging in halakhically prohibited behavior such as magic or superstition, the most logical approach is to assume that we either misunderstand the source (i.e., what is described is not magic or superstition, but something else) or it is intended metaphorically. It is silly to assume the Rabbis ignored the Torah and did as they pleased, then recorded their misbehavior in the Talmud.

People afraid of the evil eye in a superstitious way will acknowledge, if asked, that it is not a force separate from God, as that would be idolatrous and would contradict monotheism. However, this implication of their belief in ayin hara is not immediately apparent, so people tend to live with the dissonance, not recognizing the disparity.

If the Kabbalists believe they can perform special feats, I invite them to demonstrate it. I am confident they would not claim to be magicians, as this would transgress Torah law directly.

As the Ramban, himself a kabbalist, explains in his commentary to the Torah, the reason he believed that some kinds of purported magic were efficacious was because he believed it to have been empirically proven. In other words, he held that it was a scientific question that could be resolved by experiment, not an article of faith in the supernatural.

The sources in Onkelos are on every page, well known, and obvious. Marc Shapiro makes mention of this in his book too. If you want more traditional sources, see the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim where he devotes an entire chapter to Onkelos' translation.

Saadiah Gaon is explicit about God's incorporeality in Emunot V'Deot, as is Rabbenu Hananel in his introduction to the Talmud, Rav Hai Gaon in his writings, the Raabad in Baalei Hanefesh, Ibn Ezra, Ramban in his letter in defense of the Rambam to the French Rabbis, the author of Sefer Hayashar, Rabbenu Bahaye, and more.

There is simply no way to defend the position that the Rambam was the first advocate of incorporeality. Indeed, the Raavad himself says that this idea is false, but that it is improper to brand a person a "heretic" if he is a great scholar who was misled by the literal meaning of texts and Midrashim.

Your assertion about "Baalei Tosafot" is misleading, as it is clear from their writings that Rabbenu Tam and Rav Yosef Bechor Shor did not believe God was corporeal. According to the introduction to Dr. Rosner's edition of "Wars of the Lord", the Rambam's son's work in defense of his father, the vast majority of French Rabbis agreed that God was metaphysical, and it was only a minority who dissented.

Dr. Shapiro's assertion about Rashi is also highly debatable. Look at Rashi on "btzalmenu" - why doesn't he interpret it literally? Same with "kidmutenu". Even Shapiro acknowledges that Mahazor Vitri, which is based exclusively on Rashi's teachings and was compiled by his student, explicitly rejects the attribution of any physicality to God.

In general, the section on God's incorporeality is the weakest part of Shapiro's book, in my opinion. For every Rishon he cites in support of corporeality, he cites evidence to suggest that they weren't corporealists. And the ones who were actually corporealists were minor rabbis that we only know about today because they had this marginal belief! Moreover, the reports from non-Jewish sources from Second Temple times as to the theology of the Jews almost unanimously present them as believing the incorporeality of God. (See this section in Shapiro's book and evaluate the arguments critically and carefully for yourself, looking up the sources one by one.)

A "successful society" in the sense of material prosperity and technological advancement could develop without a transcendent philosophy unifying its members. But this is unlikely to lead to an intellectually oriented society, just and charitable governed by a purpose higher than the gratification of their bodily and social desires.

I am slow - I have now been typing for over 45 minutes already and I should be attending to other matters at this point.

I will conclude by asking that you maintain a respectful tone in your subsequent comments.

I don't appreciate being insulted or condescended to, it adds nothing to our discussion and makes me less inclined to want to continue.

And I am sorry if you find checking my blog a "waste of time" in general.

Please keep in mind that I do not work in front of a computer all day, I am busy with communal responsibilities day and night and it is often a real challenge for me to be able to devote the time to composing these comments that their importance would demand. I regret the frustration this causes you, but I am unfortunately continually pressed for time.

avrum68 said...

It is no concern of ours what your opinions are concerning consumerism, entertainment, secularism, etc.

Chutzpah. I'm very interested. Moreover, RJM is bang-on vis-a-vis the illusion we sell oursevles about secular freedoms and the joys they bring. Google the increase of SSRI and benzodiazephines prescriptions, and draw your own conclusions.

But since you brought it up; these are all gross misconceptions

From a clinical perspective, they perfectly describe what clinicians, and our mental healthy system, treats on a daily basis.

avrum68 said...

Most of your arguments are riddled with your opinions on magic and secularism etc. Please be more sparing on the drashot, as they are no concern of ours and I am completely uninterested.

My friend, your a guest on RJM's blog. Save the rude, smug comments for XGH. I'd suggest putting down S. Harris and reading some Mussar.

Ari said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Avrum,

I am glad you're back. I neglected to answer a question of yours.

I am not a really big reader of Mussar in general, perhaps I should spend more time on it, but the classics - Ramhal's Mesilat Yesharim, Rabbenu Bahya's Hovot Halevavot and of course Rav Dessler's writings in particular - are sources I revisit often.

I also enjoy R' Avraham ben HaRambam's "Hamaspiq L'ovdei Hashem", recently reprinted with an excellent translation and additional materials.

BTW, what ever happened to inviting me up for a program? We lost the thread of that email discussion a long time ago.

SYL said...

Hey FedUp,

It seems that Rabbi Maroof is willing to discuss his beliefs and perspectives with you. I don't see how you can get so miffed that he hasn't responded in 3 days when you list plenty of sources that you want him to respond directly to and you are asking for him to list plenty more to back up his statements.

You will either get him to respond to your statements but not have the time to bring down the exact source for each thing he says, or wait it out a couple of days and give him time to compile it.

What method did you use for all those sources you put down?

It seems that you've done you're research before and had it all in front of you. I don't think it's fair to expect the Rabbi to expect what you are asking and to expect it so quickly.

His responses over in the XGH blog may be thought out & relatively lengthy but they don't require nearly the amount of effort you are seeking.

You've clearly waited a long time to have this discussion, what's a couple more days.

In no way do I believe that he is dodging your questions, I just think if you want the sources (which is totally fair since that is what he asked of us) then it's only respectful to give him the time to collect them.

Otherwise you will be left with the non-sourced answer that's getting you all riled up.

I think I just took a really long time to say something short.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Ari,

It's OK, water under the bridge...if he is not satisfied, it is his choice to seek discussion elsewhere...

avrum68 said...

RJM,

I'll be printing out some of your psots, and comments, to use over Shabbat. Think they'll make great fodder for a Shabbos discussion. Thanks.

avrum68 said...

BTW, what ever happened to inviting me up for a program? We lost the thread of that email discussion a long time ago.

I contacted Torah in Motion - http://www.torahinmotion.org/ - but did hear back from them. I'll try again.

Daganev said...

"When you find another system of thought as rigorous and sophisticated as the Torah that can accomplish the same objective - i.e., teaching human beings to govern their lives based upon principles of hochma - let me know.
"

I hope this comment does not get lost, but I have a similiar question in my youth, and eventually I found the teachings of confusionism/daoism/zen to be just what you have described here.

The differences are intersting, but to say that only Judaism has these properties, I believe is false.

FedUp said...

RJM,

I appreciate your honesty and apologize if I came off disrespectful. This was in no way intended. Please take your time bring detailed responses with sources etc. I will be waiting patiently and now that I better understand the situation, you will no longer receive any pestering from me. I have this thread on my reader and I can read your responses whenever you get around to them.

Avrum68,
I appreciate your support for RJM but there is no reason to lash out at me. If RJM finds my comments offensive then he can let me know, as he has, or simply delete them. My intentions were in no way meant to be rude or smug. I was firm and vigilant but somehow this came across the wrong way and, I repeat, unintentionally. My sincerest apologies.

SYL,
As it goes, I've been thinking critically about my faith for some time now. I've come up with quite a list of resources so I was able to compile them here in a relatively short period of time. I do appreciate your support for this conversation and I will endeavor to keep my comments as "toned down" and patient as I can. Obviously all this rationality can evoke some very deep emotion that is at times hard to stifle. I will do my darnedest to show my utmost respect for the Rabbi and all the other commenters I respond too.

Daganev said...

Also, being a person who studies many kabalistic texts, I have to agree with RJM's description of Kabbalah recognizing a system of loopholes, rather than the idea of things outside of G-d having powers.

Daganev said...

In response to fedup.

The "magic" of the gemorah and of the golem, and of the mekubalim is a "magic" of merit, as well as a loophole to systems of nature that G-d set up.

The magics that are performed, are performed because of intense prayer to G-d, and a feeling of need which is felt to be necesarry for the sake of G-d in the eyes of the people.

It is not a system of meritless science. (i.e. a system where anybody who knows the right knowlege, can bend nature to his will. T.V, Computers, Airplanes, weather prediction etc.)

One could say that certain prayers are considered to be meritless magics. i.e. G-d instructed such and such angel or demon to respond to specific prayers in specific ways. But the majority of the prayers and "incantations" are requests for mercy in light of the current circumstances and the merits of the people praying.

I read an intersting essay once that suggested that as people decreased in merit, so they increased in knoweldge of the natural order to achieve the same results.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Daganev,

Please feel free to comment more on the Eastern stuff, I am not familiar with it so I cannot really weigh in on the differences between the philosophy of Zen, etc., and Judaism.

In the final analysis, though, while there may be philosophical elegance in Eastern religions, I have never heard of any analogue to the halakhic system outside of Judaism.

Daganev said...

Confucianism is really what you would want to look at to compare to the halachik system.

It was the only source for laws in China between 104 bce and the Song Dynassty which ended around 1240 c.e.

The most notable aspect of it, was that every person who wished to to have a place of worth as a scholar or as a government official, had to take the Confusician exams, which tested your mastery of Confucicous teachings.

Zen and Daosim are more similar to Kabalah and Chasidus respectively.

If you do a quick search on the internet for basic Confuciuan works, I think you will find them to be very similiar to perkei avot and most agadic works of the talmud.

The basic books are :

The traditional canon varies, according to a set of accepted classics. The list of generally accepted books are as follows:

The Five (5) Classics:
1 - I Ching (Yì Jing) - I Ching
2 - Shih Ching - Book of Odes
3 - Shu Ching - Book of History
4 - Li Chi (Li Ching) - Records of Ritual (or Book of Rites)
NOTE: This work includes both Ta Hsüeh, The Great Learning, and Chung Yung, The Doctrine of the Mean.
5 - Ch'un Ch'iu - Spring and Autumn Annals


The Nine (9) Classics: (all of the preceding works, plus
6 - Chou Li - Rites of Chou (part of the Li Ching)
7 - I Li - Ceremonial and Ritual (part of the Li Ching)
8 - Hsiao Ching - Filial Piety Classic
9 - Lun Yü - Analects


The Thirteen (13) Classics: (all of the preceding works, plus
10 - Meng Tzu - The Mencius
11 - Er Ya - Dictionary of Terms
12 - Kung-yang Chuan - commentary on Ch'un Ch'iu
13 - Ku-liang Chuan - commentary on Ch'un Ch'iu

Like halacha, Confucian thoughts and writings covered every aspect of living life.

Daganev said...

I found this very interesting transcript from ABC radio, it might help you find a good comparative look at Confuscianism and Halacha.

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/ark/stories/2006/1749103.htm

Rabban Gamliel said...

"There is no difference between uttering a prayer and God performing a miracle and uttering an incantation and supernatural forces called by a different name performing magic, as is evidenced in the story of the first several of the ten plagues."

FedUp there is a difference between magic and miracles. Miracles include unexplained phenomena that are not claimed to overide the laws of the universe by the power of the person involved. There are contrary to XGH's pontificating unexplained phenomena and they have not been included in science because they remain unexplained despite leaving scientific evidence behind. As for the six days of creation what about the sources that have said that there was time and events before that?

Elisha said...

RJM,

I hope you got my email. I sent it to your asktheRabbi email box. 5/2 I have a new email so, please make a note. I look forward to hearing from you.

Elisha

avrum68 said...

Posted on XGH by FedUp:
RJM comes over here but every comment he makes gets torn apart minutes after he makes it by gads of skeptics.

FedUp,

The fact that RJM wades into the XGH cesspool highlights his incredible patience, and/or masochism. Why oh why would any rabbi waste time with a room full of sceptics, assured of their positions. Wouldn't it be more apropos to work with folks who are at least open to the possibility that God exists?

OJ Rabbis are losing believers because of XGH and others

Do you have any hard stats to back that up? Last I checked, XGH receives 100's of posts, mainly from the same 7-8 haters/fans.

avrum68 said...

I appreciate your support for RJM but there is no reason to lash out at me. If RJM finds my comments offensive then he can let me know, as he has, or simply delete them.

You offended me FedUp. Since I hold rabbis in high regard (a thankless job), I feel the least I can do is defend them when appropriate.

From poking fun at RJM on XGH's blog to your rude comments on this one, your nothing if not consistent.

avrum68 said...

RJM,

A reply from Dr. Elliott Malamet (vis-a-vis speaking in Toronto):

"I am intrigued by your suggestion about R. Maroof and will think about it further. Things are a bit hectic now but in a few weeks i would be happy to be in touch."

FedUp said...

Avrum68,

Please do not take this in an offensive way but I do not care to address your comments 1) because they are not on the topic 2) as I said before, if RJM is offended by me then he can edit or delete my comments on his blog, address me (which he has), or completely ignore me on other blogs. I make no apologies here for what I do on other blogs. That is between me and the respective blog owner. RJM has been gracious enough to engage me in discussion despite my rudeness and crudeness on other blogs. I fully appreciate that and I have made a real effort to remain respectable on this blog. I'm sorry that your sensitivities are offended but I cannot stop you from reading my comments. Please ignore my comments especially when they are not addressed to you or about you. I repeat that I mean this in the most sincere and respectful way.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Avrum68,

Thanks for the info. Apparently the skeptics at XGH work so stealthily that even I did not realize my comments were torn apart! And neither did XGH, since he can't seem to stop talking about our discussions and debates despite the passage of time and his constant dismissal of my arguments as "bogus" or "biased". Obviously he thinks that, at least on some level, there is still some discussion to be had here.

(Although to his credit XGH did concede that our First Cause debate was either a draw, or that I won but it was irrelevant to questions of religion anyway.)

Truth be told, the self-congratulatory comments and triumphalism on the skeptic blogs don't bother me. And their poking fun at me is more of a compliment than anything else - I am on their minds!

In reality the banter and chatter, and all the bashing of serious intellectuals who believe in Torah and mitsvot, is an infinitely self-perpetuating substitute for real content.

As I mentioned the other day, while Torah and Judaism blogs churn out new and hopefully interesting posts day after day, the skeptics recycle the same three ideas in different language multiple times a day!

I suspect that you are correct in your diagnosis of the reality of the situation - I too believe that the actual number of skeptics is small but outspoken, although it might increase over time as a result of their efforts.

I am sure that they have brought their message to many readers who would otherwise not have been exposed to their arguments, but any reasonably well read person has seen Thomas Paine and David Hume, among the countless authors past and present who have put forth the same arguments as our contemporaries. One thing the skeptics are not is original.

I look forward to hearing more about the Torah-in-Motion possibility. Sounds like it would be fun.

Rabban Gamliel said...

FedUp if you insult someone outside of their blog it is of relevance still further you complain that supposedly others have been insulting others. You are nothing if not selfserving. You talk about morlity. Well morality doesn't end on blogs or does it in humanistic philosophy? Stop being rude and crude period.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Fedup,

Like I said, I won't hold disparaging things that you say against you, but it is admittedly difficult to mentally filter out what you say elsewhere when I engage you here. Your thought, speech and writing reflect your true character and influence how others perceive you.

I am pretty much the same person everywhere, whether on my home turf or on other blogs. Or at least I try to be; correct me if I'm wrong.

In terms of proceeding with our dialogue - I don't think I can do any heaving blogging tonight, but I want to clarify our approach.

Taking up each and every one of the sources you cited would be an enormous project that I think is unsuitable for a comment thread not to mention my schedule.

I would prefer if you narrowed your focus down to a specific topic or a set of sources, and we devoted our first exchange to the exploration of that area.

Then, if we feel our discussion has been fruitful and productive, we can move on to the next subject and deal with it in a similarly source-grounded and comprehensive manner.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Elisha,

I received your email but haven't had sufficient time at my desk today to respond...I will do so ASAP.

avrum68 said...

I suspect that you are correct in your diagnosis of the reality of the situation

Thanks. Though my main concern isn't the content/ideas, but rather the anonymity of blog creators/owners. From Dovbear to Orthoprax, from Lubabnomore to Jewishatheist...all these skeptics defend their choice to remain anonymous. Oddly enough, the folks they belittle are always non-anonymous i.e. yourself, Gil Student, etc.

Their anonymity allows them to create blogs, sully reputations, and generally say/do things they would never do in public. And they get off scot-free.

It's this issue that's more troubling than the content.

"It seems as though virtually all of the problems of the Net stem from this one flaw... If we can eliminate anonymity online, we create a far more civil place"
- Seth Godin
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2004/02/the_problem_wit.html

FedUp said...

RJM,

It certainly must be difficult to filter out my radicalness and extremeness. I'd explain myself but I don't think that this is the time and place for that. I appreciate your honesty, yet again. I do find you to be consistent on all the blogs and I commend you for "braving the wolves" by actually addressing "the skeptics". It is only unfortunate that there are not more Rabbis out there like yourself in this respect.

In terms of proceeding with our dialogue - I don't think I can do any heaving blogging tonight, but I want to clarify our approach.

Taking up each and every one of the sources you cited would be an enormous project that I think is unsuitable for a comment thread not to mention my schedule.

I would prefer if you narrowed your focus down to a specific topic or a set of sources, and we devoted our first exchange to the exploration of that area.

Then, if we feel our discussion has been fruitful and productive, we can move on to the next subject and deal with it in a similarly source-grounded and comprehensive manner


Fair enough. I've been trying to keep tabs on this discussion and I'm attempting to organize it in a seperate document.

By way of introduction to this new segment of our discussion, I will paraphrase a paragraph of Thomas Paine that he said in the opening paragraph of "Common Sense." It is partially applicable for both of us. "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following discussion are not yet sufficiently thought out to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason."

The initial points I mentioned were in short: 1) Please provide sources for your assumption 2)Why rule out chance, evolution (meaning this was the next logical step in the evolution of religions from many gods to one god etc.), or aliens? 3)Secondly the idea of TMS is commonly misunderstood. 4) My list of sources that appear to go against your assumption.

Points 1 and 4 are closely connected and we've been discussing 4 for the most part, but lets put them aside for now and address point 3 first and foremost, then move on to 2. Finally 1 followed by 4.

I hope you find this agreeable. If you've dealt with a point previously please feel free to bring it again with sources and we can continue in an orderly fashion. Thanks for your patience! All the best.

evanstonjew said...

I just got back to this post...so many comments my head is spinning.

The context of my remark is that I would like to see side by side analysis pasuk by pasuk, preferably in nach which is less controversial. What does Rashi umefarshim say on pasuk i in perek j and what do the moderns say. I think at the level of meanings of words there is no contest, the rishonim are trounced.

On anthropomorphism you know the heichalot literature written by tanaaim is totally anthropomorphic and is the correct meaning of maaseh merkava in chagiga. As for onkelos maybe look at Boyarim Borders or his article on Memra in HTR. I am tired and this is the best I can do tonight.

PS. I applaud your latest post on Harris/Wolpe which is the sort of analysis I believe needs to be attempted.

avrum68 said...

PS. I applaud your latest post on Harris/Wolpe which is the sort of analysis I believe needs to be attempted.

I agree.

Anonymous said...

RJM:
To start: I completely agree with your statement that general statements such as "Christianity claims the same", should be ignored. I have tried to point this out several times to XGH and others. You can only argue on particulars, not on generalities.
I am just now reading Benno Jacobs explanation on Genesis. Here you have an erudite respectable scholar, knowledgeable in ANE. BJ is also extremely sympathetic to Judaism, his enthusiasm and respect for the AT speaks from every page. On nearly every page he shows how the Hebrew genius is different from other ANE cultures. YET HE DOESN'T BELIEVE IN TORAH MIN HASHAMAYIM. He clearly believes the author of Torah was human.

TDK

Rabban Gamliel said...

XGH fails to realize that you can't have secular disproof of G-d's hand behind a book. Still showing more or less single authorship is a step towards recapturing Jewish claims on its own history. Certainly no people have less to say on their history than themselves. Revisionism denied to others should not be placed on us. The PostHolocaust generation should need no reminder. Being only one generation away from the Holocaust's evils make me more aware of the need to remember but cetainly all Jews should. What's the Seder for if not to instill that in us.

Rabban gamliel said...

By the way TDK did we always get along? I can't remember.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Anonymous,

Your point is well taken.

I didn't say that knowledge of ANE history or the uniqueness of Judaism was sufficient to lead one to the conclusion of Torah Misinai. (Of course, I would hazard a guess that BJ believed that the Torah was in some sense of the term Divinely inspired.)

What I argued was that knowledge of these matters provides one of several significant pieces of convergent evidence that strongly point to TMS as their most reasonable explanation.

Anonymous said...

Rabban Gamliel:
I don't know if we agree or not, I am usually content to just read and not to comment, because I only check the posts sporadically and don't think it's fair to post something without actively partaking in a discussion.
I have my own huge doubts, had them since I was a child of ten, but I am not willing to bundle Islam and Christianity together with Judaism. If you believe in the Sinai event, Judaism is the logical conclusion and not the other two. As pointed out by the Rambam, if God would want to change his revealed religion, we would require him to give us another Sinai event. As I said already in one of the posts on XGH site, let's discuss particulars, speak to Christians and Moslems, bring their proofs on the discussion board and we will evaluate them. Generalities are useless.

RJM:
I fail to understand how this points to TMS. True, having a culture that is different than the surrounding cultures is remarkably and perhaps needs some good explanations. But using TMS, an incredible event to explain just a remarkable event, is a bit far fetched.

TDK

Anonymous said...

RJM. In my eyes, Orthodoxy as we know it is on the verge of bankruptcy. As you can see yourself from the discussion boards, people from all walks of life have huge problems with faith and ideology. Many of OJ's leaders are busy with banning concerts and what do I know. Nobody seems to address the problems of our generation. Even when these problems are noticed, they are being blamed on hedonism, broken families, western culture, etc. Please forgive my audacity here, but if you think that you can contribute to solving this problem, it's your sacred duty to it above all other things. If you can answer FedUp's questions, you have to take the time for it, it's more important than many other things, because nobody addresses them!

TDK

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

TDK,

It is difficult with a schedule that only tangentially involves a computer to fit in extensive blogging and commenting. Add to that the fact that I am a very perfectionistic person when it comes to writing and thus I often take too long composing my posts/comments as it is.

The reason TMS is supported by the uniqueness of Judaism is because Divine revelation is the basis given by the practitioners and teachers of the religion for their possession of such a unique tradition.

If a person claims that their religion has a divine origin, but that religion is essentially the same as all other primitive, man made religions, then it is difficult to see why his claim should be believed.

By contrast, if a group of people have a religious tradition that runs counter to the surrounding culture's primitive religions in many fundamental respects, even to the point of contradicting them intentionally and replacing their ideas with sophisticated and abstract notions about God, the Universe and mankind's place in it, and for this reason is not popular even among its own "adherents", one must wonder how it came into existence to begin with.

If they tell you the reason is because they have actual knowledge of the truth of this religion - that not based on feeling, emotion intuition or the assurances of a prophet, but because of unbelievable events of a national proportion that their ancestors witnessed, this unusual system of thought and practice was born and perpetuated - it is more than reasonable to believe them.

Human leaders who want to start religious movements construct them in a way that caters to and appeals to the popular religious sentiment, not that undermines, conflicts with or or suppresses it.

In terms of the allocation of time, I believe that building up and clarifying our understanding of Judaism from within is far more constructive and meaningful than spending time defending attackers from without.

Perhaps I am one of only a few of the traditional thinkers in the blogosphere who don't find the skeptics' questions to be especially deep or penetrating. I see them as the result of poor education and indoctrination.

For example, every Jew should immediately comprehend the difference between 'magic' and 'miracles'. The fact that Fedup doesn't grasp this distinction is not his fault - it is a tragedy, the tragic result of poor Jewish education across the board.

The same goes for the majority of the "talking points" of the skeptics - they are intermingled with too much misinformation, misunderstanding, amateurish philosophizing and superficiality. Those who are drawn after the arguments of the skeptics should, first and foremost, question the depth of their own knowledge of Torah.

For this reason, I agree with Evanston Jew and others who have argued that the preferred option is to develop a paradigm of understanding Judaism that is compelling. I don't think this requires invention on our part, merely rediscovery of and reflection upon the legacy left to us by the Rishonim. It is the neglect of this legacy that has led to a learning, teaching and practice of Judaism that is so vulnerable to the skeptical onslaught.

It is for this work - the proper study and transmission of our traditions - that Rabbis are most sorely needed. And it is to this goal that I have attempted to dedicate most of my blogging.

Battling skeptics takes precious time and energy away from this crucial endeavor.

Rabban Gamliel said...

Also learning disabities cause people to go off the derech and that in the biggest of the numbers of those who go OTD today. It's a compliment to Frumkeit that the outside world does not present the same level of threat it once did. But the challenge is to present an educational system that is geared to the individual's needs and of course with a better Jewish education altogether as you pointed out the outside world's allures will not prove as alluring.

FedUp said...

I see them as the result of poor education and indoctrination.

For example, every Jew should immediately comprehend the difference between 'magic' and 'miracles'. The fact that Fedup doesn't grasp this distinction is not his fault - it is a tragedy, the tragic result of poor Jewish education across the board.


The feeling is mutual.

avrum68 said...

If a person claims that their religion has a divine origin...it is difficult to see why his claim should be believed.

RJM,

At the age of 24, before I could locate Israel on a map (grew up secular, with piss poor Jewish education till grade 6), I had what Heschel would call an "ineffable experience" in Banff, Alberta. I didn't attribute this experience to God, nor did I know of Heschel or any such thing. However this brief experience - not influenced by drugs, altitude sickness, etc - has left a permanent imprint on my, dare I say, soul.

Could have Jesus, Moses, Mohamed experiences something similar? Could their followers have created rituals around said experience? Perhaps there's a degree of "truth" in each tradition.

Now, I'm not confusing my experience with revelation. Not even close. I heard no voices and saw nothing special (other than breathtaking Rocky Mountains).

I'm still not sure what to make of this experience... at least from a Jewish perspective.

For more on similar events, here's a lovely interview from the CBC:
http://www.cbc.ca/tapestry/archives/2007/111807.html

Rabban Gamliel said...

FedUp Pantheism is defined in my Webster's dictionary as "the doctrine that God is not a personality, but that all laws, forces, manifestations etc. of the self-existing universe are God"

I posted on your site a pantheistic website but you banned me as it defines pantheism as a belief in G-d and calls pantheism religious and even quotes dictionaries. All comments you deleted on your site but this one really cornered you. Look Spinoza was a pantheist and he was called G-d intoxicated. You can't despite your claims that you posted on your site as the central ideas on your profess both to be an atheist and against religion and also to be a pantheist. You can be against organized religion as a pantheist or even as an ordinary theist but religion itself includes pantheism. A pantheist is a theist not an Atheist.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

The feeling is mutual.


Well, since we both agree that poor Jewish education is the issue, we should see what we can do together to rectify that.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Avrum,

I am sure the founders of many religions have had real experiences the nature of which were mysterious.

But this is precisely where the national character of the miracles and revelation described by the Torah becomes so salient and significant - this is what differentiates our claim from the claims of other religions.

No other nation even thinks to suggest that their God put them through a series of experiences purposely designed to demonstrate His existence, providence and plan for humanity.

FedUp said...

Well, since we both agree that poor Jewish education is the issue, we should see what we can do together to rectify that.

I meant the feeling is mutual in the opposite direction. We both feel our opponent's (for lack of a better word) view is because of a lack of education. I feel that it is a tragedy that people don't see the sameness of miracles and magic. The only distinction being a subjective one of "What my God did is a miracle and what other gods do is magic." After developing the ability to reason, I do not place the blame on anyone, except perhaps the person himself who doesn't see. But it is certainly a result, of poor education and indoctrination.

I do not mean any disrespect but while we were making analyses, I thought I would make my own.

Are we still continuing our discussion? You wrote that you are more committed to building with what you have then answering the skeptics. If we are continuing, whose court is the ball in?

I am trying to remain as respectful as possible and to take leeway where I see you are. Please don't take this condescendingly. I want to continue the discussion and though we may not now or ever agree, I would like to ask my questions to a real Rabbi and one that won't simply write me off as an apikorus.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"The only distinction being a subjective one of "What my God did is a miracle and what other gods do is magic."

That's not being argued by most people. FedUp you are not advancing serious conversation by stilting others arguments to suit you. Also FedUp why did you ban me? Also why are you not believing the website that is Pantheistic and yet quoting dictionaries that pantheism believes in G-d? Do you think Dawkins calls himself Pantheist despite his efforts to take away from Pantheism's belief in G-d.

"there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional "opium of the people"—cannot bear the music of the spheres. The Wonder of nature does not become smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims.

Albert Einstein

avrum68 said...

I feel that it is a tragedy that people don't see the sameness of miracles and magic

A tragedy? Really? This is a tragedy:
http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/05/06/myanmar.cyclone/index.html

Why are skeptics so melodramatic?

But it is certainly a result, of poor education and indoctrination

You know it's funny FedUp, I empathize. Though in my case, it's a case of being raised in a materialist, non-spiritual environment. Where meaning is attributed to how much people earn, and what fancy toy you own. And this "indoctrination" is hard to shake. But that's my struggle, and I'm glad to say I'm victorious most of the time.

FedUp said...

Avrum68,

I'm not sure if you noticed but I used the exact same language as RJM so your "why are skeptics so melodramatic" comment is equally applicable to RJM. I was merely restating RJM's statement from my POV.

You misunderstand me if you think I am promoting gross consumerism and materialistic lifestyles. O' Contrare. The saying from Avot that says eyzeh hu ashir? hasameach b'chelqo would better describe my outlook. I'm happy to know that you've shaken your materialistic worldview.


RJM,
Just an observation. Avrum68 and Rabban Gamliel are attacking me here on your blog when they are unable to do it elsewhere. There comments are not on topic. So I repeat a comment you gave earlier that encouraged me to converse with you here on your blog.

"But I am not going to turn my blog into a forum that encourages the kind of lazy, inept, armchair-speculation style thinking that passes for 'rational, objective' argumentation on other blogs. It wastes my time and, frankly, it is very frustrating.

I am interested in real intellectual exploration of the real texts and real issues..."

avrum68 said...

I was merely restating RJM's statement from my POV

But your POV is, well, misguided. Having worked in the Jewish community - in all sectors - I can attest to the "tragedy" of which RJM speaks.

I truly don't see your POV, at least not in my shul. Since we're situated near a few urban hospitals and one university, we attract the OJ cerebral crowd. Not my cup of tea per se, but that's who shows up. Many of these folks have a solid education in the sciences as well as Torah.

You misunderstand me if you think I am promoting gross consumerism and materialistic lifestyles

No, I don't believe your promoting those values.

Avrum68 and Rabban Gamliel are attacking me here on your blog

Attacking?

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Just an observation. Avrum68 and Rabban Gamliel are attacking me here on your blog when they are unable to do it elsewhere. There comments are not on topic. So I repeat a comment you gave earlier that encouraged me to converse with you here on your blog."

Oh come on what you call attack you yourself claimed we have done it elsewhere. A serious disagreement you call attack. And what was serious about banning me after I posted on your site the fact that a pantheistic site said that Pantheism believes in G-d and it yet quoted dictionaries to that affect. The only reason you now claim to be pantheistic is because orthoprax beat you on the topic of pantheism and you misunderstood what pantheism is so you said it's fine with you. You are condensding and really underestimated RJM. You are like a fish out of water.

SYL said...

Rabbi Maroof,

Could you please remove the irrelevant posts. It seems unnecessary and is weakening the value that your blog is supposed to hold over others.

The thread began quite positively, and has evolved into something quite different.

Rabban Gamliel,

Please take your pantheistic discussion elsewhere. But most importantly, what difference does it make? The guy considers himself a pantheist, to him pantheist means x. Literally pantheist means y, so the guy according to you isn't a pantheist but is rather a z. Who cares? It makes no substantive difference to any conversation on the issues we're dealing with.

FedUp,

I appreciate your patience in dealing with the Rabbi and hope that you will hang in there until he is available. Again, it's not like there are any real time constraints, and it doesn't seem like this conversation will actually lead to any particular change in your life or beliefs. At best, I thin kit will allow you to understand a believer's perspective with respect. And even that is likely unlikely.

avrum68 said...

And even that is likely unlikely.

SYL, I gotta give you credit, you're honest.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Rabban Gamliel,

Please take your pantheistic discussion elsewhere. But most importantly, what difference does it make? The guy considers himself a pantheist, to him pantheist means x. Literally pantheist means y, so the guy according to you isn't a pantheist but is rather a z. Who cares? It makes no substantive difference to any conversation on the issues we're dealing with."

SYL he is beating up on people in the name of Atheism. He is an atheist not a pantheist. But he is confusing what pantheism with it. To him pantheism is just basically appreciating the beauty of nature.

SYL said...

"SYL he is beating up on people in the name of Atheism. He is an atheist not a pantheist. But he is confusing what pantheism with it. To him pantheism is just basically appreciating the beauty of nature."

But whether he calls himself an athiest or a pantheist, it simply doesn't make a difference to the discussion/debate . . . you're just choosing to address a tangeant. It doesn't make a substantial difference to his arguments whether he wants to call himself an athiest/panthiest or a Jew . . .

Rabban Gamliel said...

It does if it is the very focus of his attacks on religion depend on his atheism.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

I am glad you guys have been keeping up the conversation in my absence...Unfortunately, the computer has been down at the synagogue for the past two days - internet service was just restored - and between that obstacle and multiple communal responsibilities I haven't been able to gain access to a computer this week for more than a few minutes at a time.

I do receive all comments via my Blackberry, so I know what you are all saying but I can't necessarily respond as quickly as I would normally like.

I beg your patience and indulgence as I navigate the current schedule issues and I promise to take a closer look at your contributions and comment myself over the next day or so.

avrum68 said...

and between that obstacle and multiple communal responsibilities

RJM,

Having worked in a shul, I don't envy your schedule or work-load. I believe the saying goes: "A rabbi is not a job for a nice Jewish boy".

david a. said...

Rabbi Maroof,

I am fairly new to the blogging world and don’t really know all that is “out there” with regards to jewish theological postings, but am extremely pleased that I have recently come across your blog, more precisely your willingness to discuss what to many OJs are heretical matters.

I am an older, fairly-educated former ‘yeshiva leit’ who decades ago concluded that not only is TMS unlikely, but if we accept Judaism’s basic premise that G-d is perfect, truthful, just and beneficial then the Torah could not possibly have been authored by such an entity as His book would then be perfect, truthful, just and beneficial and to me, it just is not so.

I have spent over 3 decades talking to “frum” people in my environment and can empirically report that:
a) most rabbonim I tried to discuss these problems with just dismiss the arguments, some outright in a fashion that smacks of their ignorance of science and history/archaeology.
b) the more “secularly” educated (likely what you would call MOs), agree that at least there are indeed “some” problems, but it doesn’t bother them.
c) many, and this group is definitely growing, are of my ilk, in that outwardly they maintain a relatively complete traditional practicing lifestyle, but do not believe in the strict meaning of TMS.

It would be most informative, if you would be willing to give your view and suggested explanations of the many arguments and difficulties that have led many fellow practitioners to discard TMS as a belief. I am certain, by now, you know the bulk if not all of them. I would gladly review what has bothered me and await, at your convenience, some response.

BTW, IMHO, DH is just a theory, albeit a compelling one, but as far as I’m concerned, can be left out of the discussion entirely.

Most respectfully yours,

David a.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

David A.,

Welcome to the blog.

Of course, you are invited to share any questions or thoughts that you have.

Please be advised that, because of the complexities of my schedule that tend to limit my opportunities to blog and comment, it can sometimes be frustrating to engage in dialogue with me - as several participants in this comment thread will confirm.

avrum68 said...

, DH is just a theory, albeit a compelling one, but as far as I’m concerned, can be left out of the discussion entirely.

I remember studying DH at McGill and concluding that I needed faith to buy into what my profs where selling. I figured, if I need faith to buy into DH, I probably should invest more time in TMS.

Ironically, if the bible critics presented a ONE, albeit human, author, I would've found that theory more compelling.

david a. said...

>>>> Please be advised that, because of the complexities of my schedule that tend to limit my opportunities to blog and comment,

I too have little time to get involved in the type of back and forth blogging I have noticed, but I believe its an extremely important topic and certainly needs to be addressed. To me this may become (or has already to some) the defining issue for traditional Judaism.

So, I have no problem waiting for anything that may help me understand better. In a sense you can say I’ve waited over 30 years so what’s a few more weeks/months.

Rabban Gamliel said...

Well maybe we can all help. What do you find so compelling about DH? When I look at the Biblical record basically one authorship seems the most plausible with at best additions to the text from at least a secular nonprophetic point of view. Names of G-d of course vary. Names of gods in other ancient writings vary too. Repetitions are also found elsewhere in ancient writings. I find DH circular. First it is posited and then if something doesn't fit in it is separated to the place it does and then an editor is said to have lumped it all together. No ordinary person can make these decisions but suddenly if one becomes a DH practitioner he can and then they argue on the basis of reasoning in a field that rests on authority. And yet all this DH is supposedly being rediscovered with no clue having been noticed by past generations for DH. DH is never dug up in DH form only in the supposedly edited form. And further archaeological finds even have dated some scraps found of Biblical text putting things in arrangements that defy DH's order in history. DH is a religious studies concept and in historical circles it doesn't enjoy the authority it holds in religious studies circles.

SYL said...

Dude, I'm pretty sure he was quite explicit that the DH need not be discussed.

If he is over that, and interested in understanding the traditional Jewish response and approach to its sources, then why would you go all out and gripe about the DH?

The guy wants to know what Judaism says about Judaism. Kind of like what Rabbi Maroof has been saying he wants to teach us.

Rabban Gamliel said...

He said that he finds DH so compelling.

david a. said...

To be properly undertaken, a (hopefully) comprehensive discussion on TMS certainly does not lend itself to short sound bytes, and needs to done in many parts. Over time we can review these arguments and as each tranche is countered with the Rabbi’s comments. Also, please note that I am not a scholar and this is not a scholarly undertaking. To be meaningful to me and my fellow travelers, it is most important to be as simplistic and clear as possible.

I suppose before I get underway, I should state the fundamental traditional Jewish beliefs that are part and parcel of the TMS premise in the classical way they are understood or as I understand them.

1. That there exists a G-d who is perfect, just, truthful, and beneficial to His creatures.
2. That G-d authored the Torah (the 5 books of Moses) and communicated it to mankind via the revelation at Sinai.
3. That the Torah, being a product of this G-d, is also perfect, just, truthful, and beneficial (or at least not detrimental) to His creatures.
4. The Torah and its tenets are timeless, i.e. they were not intended for any specific period in mankind’s history.

So, given the above hypotheses/assumptions, my goal is to present a case as would a prosecutor in a trial, by putting forth dozens of arguments, some strong, some weak, but taken as a whole would compel a reasonable jury to decide that the “evidence” shows hypothesis 3 is not true and therefore 2 must be false.

Another important preliminary point is to note that it is impossible to evaluate or present as “evidence” any text or commandment using only a literal translation of the text since such a translation might be meaningless without some interpretation. Thus, since this is a discussion directed at the mesorah’s belief in the divinity of the Book, whenever text or a commandment is discussed it is fair that the interpretation follow what is the traditional, generally accepted interpretation (or what i think is the interpretation).

Then the objective is to show that the contents of Torah has many flaws and by flawed, I mean they violate one of the above basics i.e. perfect, truth, justice (fairness), and benefit.

While many of the points made here are well known, I would like this to be as comprehensive as possible and include all. At they end of the day, there may be nothing new in what I/we present, but the objective is that the responses will be collected in one place and who knows we may actually generate something very meaningful.

The arguments (at least in my simplistic mind) against TMS can be grouped in three categories.

1. Historical Difficulties. Although the Torah is not meant as history book, still, any events recorded are expected to have actually occurred and in the manner as presented.
2. Commandments for the B’nei Yisroel that apparently are flawed, in the sense that they are unjust, unfair, or immoral. While these measures are certainly subjective, and mankind in the 20-21st century definitely views these measures differently than a 10th century B.C.E. individual, the Torah being timeless, the omniscient author would have understood that man would evolve., and should have accounted for this evolution.
3. Omissions. The Torah is meant to be a blueprint for mankind, his lifestyle and his society. There is an incredible amount of important aspects of life that are missing from the Torah, if such a blueprint is to be considered to be approaching perfection.

Any comments so far? Am I on the right track for this discussion to proceed?

ben amittai said...

FedUp -
Something to consider is that even in ANET there is a difference between magical texts and prayer texts. It seems that the pagans also differentiated between manipulating spiritual forces (even against the will of the gods) and appealing to higher powers. The question for the monotheist is a) are there other spiritual forces in the world other than G-d and b) if so to what degree are these controled by G-d, and c) if they are not controlled by G-d to what extent may a monotheist manipulate these spiritual laws (if at all). An interesting semi-modern kabbalistic discussion of these issues can be found in Sh'urei Daas, part one.

Also, it has been pointed out that the sacrificial service in Judaism was a silent service (no magical incantations) as opposed to all other sacrificial cults which included magical incantation.

Bivracha...

FedUp said...

Ben Amitai... Point well taken. I am no expert in magic however, granted that you are correct, please see Rashi on Shemot 8:14,15. Here he says that finally Aaron was able to one up the Egyptian magicians with the plague of lice because a demon has no control over objects smaller then a barley seed. Also see Sanhedrin 67b which is apparently where Rashi got it from. Obviously demons do have control over other things and people are able to manipulate things through them, according to Rashi and the Gemara. Also, it is plain from the surrounding text that Moshe and Aaron were attepting to prove to Pharoah that God was the greatest source of magic. They go wonder for wonder on most of the plagues and the turning of the staff to a snake.

I would also like to make a distinction based on what BenAmitai said. I would assume that the prayer texts are supplications and praises and pleas for God's intervention in a natural way. Magical texts and incantations would be for a more direct cause and effect to bring about the supernatural. When one "prays" and their is an immediate supernatural occurence what is the difference between that and a magical incantation? There is the siddur and there is Sefer Yetzirah and Sefer HaRazim which are traditionally believed to be authored by Avraham Avinu. I'm rambling but I hope you can see my point.

Finally, for your and RJM's reading see http://dracontius.net/ragwad/ejmmm/
He may not be Orthodox but he brings many more sources for magic in traditional Jewish texts then I ever could.

ben amittai said...

david a. -
I am happy to see that you stated your assumptions before we delve into a discussion of the details. One's framework, worldview,context intuitions,assumptions - one's "I" - all contribute greatly to balancing the evidence (as a juror would).

1) The discussion of how historical the Torah is/must be is a long and complicated one.

A) We do not really know how a divine author would write (another fallacy of the DH - they assume that the "Holy Spirit" would not contradict itself, but that it theology not Biblical scholarship). So too we do not know exactly how G-d wanted to incorporate historical facts or stories in the Torah. This is especially true in the case of the Torah which, as you point out, is not essentially a history book.

B) You also assume that history must have occured exactly as the Torah presented it. This is simply not the case. In "A Biblical History of Israel" ( a must-read for those interested in maximalism vs. minimalism) this point is discussed at length. They argue that historiography is more like art than science. "Not only does much depend on the angle of approach, the chosen emphases, and the light under which the subject is viewed, but the personal style of the artist/narrator also plays its part in the finished product." As such, "History is one, but hisoriography may be many." So, clearly the Tanakh is partial and selective - it shapes the material in some way for its own purposes.

2) Biblical ethics - you seem to hold that ethics are subjective and "evolving." This is clearly not the Biblical view and I'm not sure how you would want absolute law to coincide with society's evovling intuitions of right and wrong. It is a logical impossiblity. However, see the Dor Revi"i's introduction to Chullin for his understanding of Torah sh'ba'al peh. That, he says, is what (theoretically) allows the Torah to have eternal relevance.

3) You want more law?! :)

Bivracha...

FedUp said...

Hey, David A.! No fair... I had RJM's attention first! Now I'll need more patience.

ok... ok fine... I'll try and live with it. You bring up some very important points. I don't mean to call you a skeptic if you wouldn't classify yourself as such but it's good to have variety. RJM said earlier in the thread "One thing the skeptics are not is original." I'm trying to use a not-so-used argument with RJM and you are using yet another. Though it is unlikely there will be converts, as SYL said, at least there will be more clarity as to the other side's view.

FedUp said...

We do not really know how a divine author would write...So, clearly the Tanakh is partial and selective - it shapes the material in some way for its own purposes...

Agreed 100%! Yet I see this as a good reason to accept human and even multiple authorship because of the contradicting purposes of the book. Do you believe that the Torah was divinely authored? If you do, I'll be highly intrigued.

you seem to hold that ethics are subjective and "evolving." This is clearly not the Biblical view and I'm not sure how you would want absolute law to coincide with society's evolving intuitions of right and wrong.

Why couldn't we be evolving towards objective absolutes in morality? Thus far I don't see any major problems with society's overall evolving ethics. Obviously there have been some major problems with Stalinism, Naziism, the sixties in America and a large part of the rap culture. But these are exceptions and not the rule. I have a link on my blog in which someone proves that violence is down steeply from the ancient days and is continuing to drop. There are highly successful societies such as the Netherlands and Switzerland that have incredibly low crime rates. Sam Harris has a list in "A letter to a Christian Nation."

Now I've been beaten before arguing morality so please don't ask me to back up any claims I make other then what I have. Most of what I know about morality now is intuition based. I'm just now starting a personal research project in morality. I'm interested in moral realism, virtue ethics, and the evolution of morality and ethics.

By the way, thanks for joining in!

Rabban Gamliel said...

"2. Commandments for the B’nei Yisroel that apparently are flawed, in the sense that they are unjust, unfair, or immoral. "While these measures are certainly subjective, and mankind in the 20-21st century definitely views these measures differently than a 10th century B.C.E. individual, the Torah being timeless, the omniscient author would have understood that man would evolve., and should have accounted for this evolution."

Certainly with respectful searching as you propose it will make for constructive dialog. The Torah is timeless but not in the sense that everything was made because of all time periods. Sacrifices for instance the Rambam says were made because the people were used to it. There are general principles but the applications vary to an extent according to time and place. Also the Torah is felt to have been given at Sinai but the Five Books in the most literal sense is felt at least by many (maybe Rabbi Maroof can clarify) to have been written by Moshe over time, dictated by G-d but written by man. As far as historical content for the most part any people's history is contained in their own historical record as passed down and written by them, not others. Time and again what was laughed at as not true as recorded in the Bible has proven to be even in regard to other peoples. The Hittites were first only known from the Bible and their existence was laughed at. This is not the case anymore. Egyptian names are recorded for early Israelites exactly as would be expected. Hebrew varies in the books of the Bible with the Hebrew of the Torah different from the Hebrew of Jeremiah. Even the Philistines are said to have come in waves by William Chomsky. He says this matter of factly and secularly. Contents of the First Temple have been uncovered as a result of Arab destruction on the Temple Mount. The price of Joseph as a slave reflects that of the time of the story and not later. When contents of a book have been shown to be true it should increase its reliability. By contrast There is no parallel presently known to the stirring story of Nathan the Prophet denouncing his King to his face in the name of a god or altogether. Egyptian records hide defeats and failings only bringing it up in the context of later victory. As for morality mercy was characteristic of even wicked Kings in Israel as a holdover from Jewish practice. The death penalty in Halacha was either impossible as elaborated by the Rabbis ie. Hillel and Shammai's followers or else virtually impossible. Ultimately though there is no basis in the secular world for saying something is inherently good or bad except by postulating what Judaism postulates, namely an objective morality existing independent of us though we cannot detect it by scientific means and its dictates have to be sought beyond the realm of the scientific. Values cannot be detected by telescope or microscope. Moral Relativism is the approach traditional amongst anthropologists. Looking forward to your replies.

david a. said...

>>>> The discussion of how historical the Torah is/must be is a long and complicated one. Etc. etc.


Nice statements and great theory. Sure, modern scholars can turn these stories and their reasons for their inclusion into all kinds of complicated discussions. but it’s a total obfuscation of my argument.

Do you not agree that the overwhelming majority of our sages and the “ha-moyn am” for the last 2000 years believed the biblical accounts literally, of creation, the flood, tower of babel, the world is 6000 years old etc.etc.? And now you tell me that they are interpreting this wrongly. Why bother, isn’t it easier just to say that it the author really was being literal and that he got it wrong or at best, skewed details of some legends.

You can’t have it both ways, either the mesorah is right, in which case the mesorah asks us to believe in a book full of fake or false history or the mesorah is wrong, and with that goes the mesorah’s belief in the divinity of the book.

What I would like very much is for a believer in TMS to explain what his belief is with regards to the first dozen or so chapters of ‘bereishis’ and how he reconciles it with the established mesorah.

>>>>> Biblical ethics - you seem to hold that ethics are subjective and "evolving." This is clearly not the Biblical view and I'm not sure how you would want absolute law to coincide with society's evovling intuitions of right and wrong.

That’s just the point. If the Torah holds that morals are absolute, as you say, then slavery, genocide, misogynism, etc. are then to be considered timeless and acceptable moralities and yet nobody in their wildest dreams (not even the most ardent fundamentalist) believes this to be. So the morality of the Torah is therefore not timeless as we supposed. It seems to more attuned to a person living sometime in the ANE and that the author did not perceive of a time that would come when his sense of what was moral would become evil. i.e an non-divine author

>>>> However, see the Dor Revi"i's introduction to Chullin for his understanding of Torah sh'ba'al peh. That, he says, is what (theoretically) allows the Torah to have eternal relevance.

So the Torah’s stated morality is basically irrelevant to us now. We depend on man to adjust them. So why did the author bother? or at least why did he not imply that these immoral commands are not necessarily to be kept forever. and don'y even imply that 'torah shel ba'al peh' is misinai also because then youn would have sinai contradicting sinai.

david a. said...

RG,

>>>>> As far as historical content for the most part any people's history is contained in their own historical record as passed down and written by them, not others.

I want to thank you for supporting by human authorship thesis.

If you examine your rambling dissertation of events taken from the Bible, you notice that events closer to us (or closer to the theoretical human author, sometime between 4-8th cent. BCE) in time are more reliable and most likely true.

While, far distant events, like the stories of the flood, creation, tower of babel can reasonable be shown to be fabrications or misrepresentations at best.

Now why would G-d do that?

As for the rest of your comments, I think you confuse evolving Judaism with the Torah (i.e. 5BofM).

Rabban Gamliel said...

"If you examine your rambling dissertation of events taken from the Bible, you notice that events closer to us (or closer to the theoretical human author, sometime between 4-8th cent. BCE) in time are more reliable and most likely true."

Not so. The events I spoke of except for Jeremiah do not lie nearer to the 4-8th centuries. You are presupposing DH's biases not the facts of history.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Do you not agree that the overwhelming majority of our sages and the “ha-moyn am” for the last 2000 years believed the biblical accounts literally, of creation, the flood, tower of babel, the world is 6000 years old etc.etc.? And now you tell me that they are interpreting this wrongly. Why bother, isn’t it easier just to say that it the author really was being literal and that he got it wrong or at best, skewed details of some legends."

There were many books only a minority of which made it to the Bible. It cannot be claimed that a fidelity to the literal meaning of the Bible in all cases was believed in by the common people. people have had many beliefs and interpretations.

david a. said...

Rabbi, to continue my "case":

Although I’m certain anyone that gives the issue of TMS any thought is aware of the details of the historical difficulties, particularly the first eleven chapters of ‘Breishis’, but I allow me to delineate the most prominent of these and invite the your comments and thoughts about these issues.

Creation and the Age of the universe.

The most controversial issue between the Religion of the Judeo-Christians and Science is, of course, on how the world came about and how long ago this occurred. Since most scientists have adopted the Big Bang theory and also since the creation story as outlined in ‘Breishis’ vaguely follows the Theory of Evolution, we can overlook this complex discussion about the “truth of the actual event” and instead, to simplify matters, just focus on the fact that Genesis says the world was created in six days and that this happened about 6000 years ago. While on the other hand, science holds of an instantaneous start (the “Big Bang”) to the universe followed by a “creation” of the rest of the universe’s contents that came about through a process transpiring over billions of years. Mankind appears on the scene millions of years ago. The evidence from cosmology, radiology, astro-physics, paleontology, archaeology, etc. is so overwhelming that most scientists view this ancient age of the universe to be fact, not theory.
As an aside, as far as the age of the world is concerned, an explanation or theory that attempts to reconcile the contradiction between science and religious was put forth by Philip Gosse in 1857. Gosse wrote a book that he called Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot. The “omphalos” was a sacred Delphic icon—thought to be a conical stone—which symbolized the navel or center of the Earth. But to the author of Omphalos the issue had to do with the navel of Adam. Did Adam have one? After all, Adam was “created”, not born. But, Adam appears to have been created with all the attributes of a full-grown man including, presumably, a navel. If this miracle had happened, then why was it so difficult to imagine that G-d had created the Earth with all the fossils and other signs of age in place? So, basically his idea was very simple. G-d decided to create the world/universe as a “finished product”, something that if events had been allowed to proceed through natural laws would have taken billions of years. This process would have generated the final form of the universe as we know it and would have given it an “age” of billions of years, but in actual “real-time”, the world is only some 6000 years old.
However, to most reasonable people this theory is not acceptable because:

1. It implies that G-d is a con artist out to fool his creatures.
2. And if it works that people are fooled into believing the universe is billions of years old, then a just G-d as a judge of these people cannot possibly hold anybody responsible for rejecting the truth of the Torah and it tenets.
3. This theory has no real basis in the Mesorah.

Biblical Flood and its dating

Again to keep the discussion simple, let’s set aside whether there ever was a worldwide flood as described in the Torah and just focus on the issue of “if it happened, when did it happen?” and what are the consequences of this dating. According to the Torah’s timeline the flood occurred about 2100 BCE.

And therein lays the difficulty. For if a catastrophic worldwide flood did occur at that time then and again to keep it simple, here are several things, from among many others, that must unavoidably have happened:

1. Prior to the Flood. The total destruction of all traces of mankind prior to this date or at least extensive damage to such traces must have occurred. Yet this is an overwhelming number of artifacts and other archaeological evidence that have been reliably dated to a date before 2100 BCE. and yet show absolutely no signs of any flood damage.

2. After the Flood. It should have taken mankind hundreds of years to regenerate itself, after Noah left the ark. There should be very little trace of the existence of any people anywhere in the world in the centuries following the Flood. Yet entire civilizations have been unearthed, identified, and studied that have been dated to have existed in the 21st, 20th, 19th and 18th century B.C.E.

3. Geology. Geologist strongly insist that it is impossible that such a cataclysmic event should not have left some geological traces, somewhere. Extensive excavations and searches throughout the world have yet to find any such traces. Especially upon inspection of archaeological strata that date to the 21st and 20th century B.C. E.

4. Genetics. Is it scientifically possible that in 4 thousand years since Noah, all of the genetically diverse mankind could’ve developed?.

The Tower of Babel

In Breishis the Torah briefly describe a series of events about early mankind intended to explain the source of language diversity in the world. The clear implication of this story is that prior to these events mankind spoke one language and one language only. (Jewish tradition claims this language to have been Hebrew.) After the set of events described therein, G-d states that the people have sinned (although its not clear from the text what exactly was their sin), Then as a punishment from G-d’s, mankind is broken up into various groups, speaking different languages and no longer sharing one common tongue.
The Torah’s timeline sets this event in the year 1996 on the Jewish calendar, corresponding to 1764 B.C.E. on the Julian calendar. So that prior to 1764 B.C.E. any artifacts or writings generated by man could only be in one language (say Hebrew). A fact contradicted overwhelmingly and without any doubts whatsoever by archaeology and the multitude of ancient records unearthed and dated to be prior to 1764 B.C.E. in all parts of the world.

david a. said...

RG
>>>>> There were many books only a minority of which made it to the Bible. It cannot be claimed that a fidelity to the literal meaning of the Bible in all cases was believed in by the common people. people have had many beliefs and interpretations.

simply questions to you.

what do you believe/think about the first
11 chapters of breishis.
same question for your father and your rebbeim?
and please - simple answer.

avrum68 said...

what do you believe/think about the first 11 chapters of breishis.

Directed at RG, I know, but I gotta take a shot at this.

When I experience the world, I have yet to witness anything evolution or Torah describes as "and this is what happened". However... I intuit a meaning... a non-accidental purpose to the whole endeavour. For some, scientific explanations suffice, for me, I turn to the poets.

I've been accused of being a sentimental sap (on XGH's site). Guilty as charged. Though even Francis Collins, at the end of the day, waxes poetic after all the "proofs" for his belief have been exhausted.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Dear All,

I really appreciate all of you carrying on this discussion in a respectful manner in my absence.

As it turns out, I fell sick a couple of days ago and I have been 'out of commission' in the evenings when I would normally respond to comments; antibiotics and other medications are just starting to get me back on my feet.

My suggestion is as follows:

Let's select a single specific issue or question to be explored, and I will dedicate a new post to the subject. Then we can center our comments around that post rather than keeping this older and rather generic post active.

FedUp, since you have waited longest and most patiently, I think you should have the opportunity to select the first topic of our collective research and analysis.

David A., I really appreciate your thoughtful comments. You have added a new voice to the blog that is respectful in tone yet penetrating in content. In terms of questions related to Genesis, science, literalism, etc. in particular, I think I have already addressed these questions ad naseum both here, on my own blog, and elsewhere in comments. I would be hesitant to rehash them for fear of reinventing the wheel, beating a dead horse or some tragic combination of the two.

SYL, I am glad you have joined the fray as well. Welcome!

avrum68 said...

Let's select a single specific issue or question to be explored...

Very cool stuff. The combination of skeptic and OJ rabbi makes for good reading/learning.

Let's go FedUp, you're the first up at bat!

Rabban gamliel said...

One interesting thing that I have noticed is that in the past the issue of Judaism's veracity was discussed and when reconciliations were told it was realized that room for such reconciliation lay in Judaism to begin with because it always has had differences of opinion. The quality of argument has gone down. It makes no difference what my Rebbeim had said. It makes a difference what is capable of being said and what was said through the ages. If the Rambam said something that's fine. The Rambam can be overruled in Halacha and even retroactively for issues of what is considered from the Torah or from the Rabbis the halacha, but when it comes to NonHalachic issues there is no way to overrule him. It doesn't matter if it is popular or not amongst rebbeim to say this or that. The Rambam said that the story of Creation in the Torah through the sixth day day is a Moshol in those first chapters that are about them. So that really opens things up. As for other things further you can have reconciliations. In rabbinic literature in addition to allowing for years before Adam previous generations of people are allowed for as well. It is no proof even to say that Adam was referred to as the first man or that the world is described as being created in six days as the very same rabbis could have been meaning the world as we know it and with people defined as from Adam. You have to find out about each Rabbi.Evidence of a flood certainly is worldwide. But whether this is the Biblical flood it doesn't matter. The Biblical flood can a miracle and so can leave or not leave traces but in any event it need only have wiped out the descendants of Adam. If you feel Judaism is true just like with anything else you will reconcile it with other things you feel is true. Another thing that has gone down is the quality of debate concerning science. Does Evolution point out what is descended from what. No. You have various ideas linking up according to different methods. There should be no such thing as authority in science.

"same question for your father"

My parents passed away last year but they were more preoccupied with what Judaism tries to instill than these debates that dwell on the truth of Judaism on issues peripheral and trivial to its concerns . It doesn't make a difference for me religiously if the universe is billions of years old or a minute old. It makes a difference to me to have learn from my parents about the sensitivities they learned for their fellow men and the universe.

SYL said...

Hey David A.,

Just as a means of expressing my own thought process, and as a way to be a good Jew and answer a question with a question, I would like to throw out a hypothetical.

Let's assume the Torah is written by G-d.
Let's assume G-d writes in the Torah: "At the beginning of time there was nothing, then I created the Big Bang, then over millions of years life evolved from one-celled organisms and then into and then they evolved into, and now there is man, etc."

What does Israel do with those chapters of the Torah for the next thousands of years?

And then what happens in the year 2008 when it is scientifically proven that the Torah recorded everything exactly the way it is? Does the entire world believe in G-d's Unity & Divinity? If so, is that the way G-d would "want" things to happen?

david a. said...

>>>>> What does Israel do with those chapters of the Torah for the next thousands of years?

Nothing different than now. after all don't we claim that the torah gives us access to special knowledge that the world didn't/doesn't have. wouldn't you want that knowledge to be the truth.

>>> And then what happens in the year 2008 when it is scientifically proven that the Torah recorded everything exactly the way it is? Does the entire world believe in G-d's Unity & Divinity? If so, is that the way G-d would "want" things to happen?

we can't possible fathom want G-d would want. but i can certainly tell you that a book with fabricated stories doesn't lead one to believe in G-d.

basically you're arguing that G-d purposefully hides the truth from people. why? you might say to give more credit to those that find Him. then I insist, as I said earlier, a just G-d cannot possible punish those that don't.

but all this is words? my question still stands does the mesorah (i.e the majority of previous jewish sages) believe in six literal days of creation and age of universe 6000 years? can someone not dance around this and answer straight out.

david a. said...

RJM
can you kindly link me to your previous postings on the issues you have already addressed?

when i have time later tonight, i'll provide another instalment of my review, who knows there might be some novel ideas. and there too, I ask that you point me to responses that you may have already posted.

FedUp said...

RJM,

I'm sorry to hear of your sickness and I wish you a refuah sh'laymah quickly. I'm highly honored that you are giving me the decision on how to start the discussion. I'd like to leave it up for approval from the rest of the group but could we perhaps define exactly what TMS is and includes and all it's parameters?

Thanks and all the best.

SYL said...

>>>>>>>but all this is words? my question still stands does the mesorah (i.e the majority of previous jewish sages) believe in six literal days of creation and age of universe 6000 years? can someone not dance around this and answer straight out.

Just the ones I'm familiar with:

The gemara in Chagigah says 974 (give or take a dozen, I don't remember teh exact number) generations existed before Adam & Eve.

Just before Pesach I was reading the Maharal's sefer on the Haggada. It was really interesting that he spends his first introduction (out of 3) discussing the guidelines of prophecy. He posits that one can only have lucid visions of something that they have experienced before, or knowledge of first-hand. He says, as an aside b/c it wasn't the point of his intro. (if I remember correctly), that this is why Genesis is so unclear.
He lived in the 1500's. Not sure what the theories of Creation were at that time, anybody?

Also recently I had come across R' Aryeh Kaplan's "Age of the Universe" I don't remember the exact name.
He brings down a scholar from a few centuries ago who uses the talmud passage mentioned earlier (974 generations existed before Adam) and combines it with a verse that connects 100 years to the phrase generation, and suggests that the world is x billion of years old.

Sorry for not being so articulate, hope I made sense though.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Nothing different than now. after all don't we claim that the torah gives us access to special knowledge that the world didn't/doesn't have. wouldn't you want that knowledge to be the truth."

The knowledge the Torah gives is values.

"but all this is words? my question still stands does the mesorah (i.e the majority of previous jewish sages) believe in six literal days of creation and age of universe 6000 years? can someone not dance around this and answer straight out"

Why do you ignore the minority?

Rabban Gamliel said...

"He says, as an aside b/c it wasn't the point of his intro. (if I remember correctly), that this is why Genesis is so unclear.
He lived in the 1500's. Not sure what the theories of Creation were at that time, anybody?"

Amongst the scientists it was that there was no creation. Creation was scorned until Hubble's telescope forced Einstein to reallow his Theory of Relativity to predict what it did before he altered it to allow a static universe.

david a. said...

SYL,
thank you but all you said was that a few 'y'chidim' had views different than the taking the six days as literally the beginning.

let me re-state the question and be as clear as possible.

did the majority of the tana-im, amorai-im, rabban-savrei, gaonim, rishonim, achronim, believe that the world was created in 6 days and is only 6000 years old?
these great talmidei chachimim represent our mesorah, so telling me a few y'chiddim disagreed doesnot answer the question.

there are only three answers possible

yes
no
its is not known.

SYL said...

>>>>>>there are only three answers possible

>>>>>>yes
no
its is not known.

Do you have any evidence that this is what they did believe in?
Why assume they believed in a literal 6 days when the tanna in the gemara says otherwise?
Somebody decided to include that teaching in the Talumd.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"did the majority of the tana-im, amorai-im, rabban-savrei, gaonim, rishonim, achronim, believe that the world was created in 6 days and is only 6000 years old?
these great talmidei chachimim represent our mesorah, so telling me a few y'chiddim disagreed doesnot answer the question."

Hold it. How does the majority determine the Mesorah? Mesorah means passed down. We follow the majority in Halacha despite the truth of what the Mesorah would have otherwise dictated. As for hashkafa there is no parralel with Halacha here. The Rambam believed that the universe was only thousands of years old and there was no reason for him to feel otherwise from the scientific world which denied creation but still he felt that the Chapter of Creation was a Moshol. Personal belief as to the age of the world doesn't preclude allowing others to have different views. So even if the majority felt one way that didn't preclude a different view even for what was considered allowed.

avrum68 said...

perhaps define exactly what TMS is and includes and all it's parameters?

FedUp, the instructions were quite clear:

"...select the first topic of our collective research and analysis."

So your topic is TMS, yes? Perhaps YOU should define it as part of your question.

avrum68 said...

perhaps define exactly what TMS is and includes and all it's parameters?

FedUp, the instructions were quite clear:

"...select the first topic of our collective research and analysis."

So your topic is TMS, yes? Perhaps YOU should define it as part of your question.

david a. said...

syl,
i am not asserting or assuming any one of the 3 answers, i don't know so i am asking for someone to tell me what is the general OJ concensus about this question.

again did the majority of our sages over the lsat 2K yrs. believe in a literal the 6 days?

can i be any simpler or clearer.

choose one:
yes, they did believe
no, they did not
it is not known.

Rabban Gamliel said...

If you were unimpressed with views allowing room for interpretation because you asked what was said in the past how can you not allow yourself to take seriously views from the past even if they were not the majority. They stemmed from somewhere.

Rabban Gamliel said...

FedUp TMS means the commandments were given at Sinai. It's that simple. Torah MiSinai. Couldn't be clearer.

david a. said...

RG,

don't you see my simple question goes right to the heart of the TMS matter. since if the majority of our sages believed wrongly that the world was created in six days or that the universe is only 6000 yrs old, then they obviously are not infallible as far as history goes, so maybe they are also mistaken about what happened at sinai, if anything did.

david a. said...

As i always understood it the classical definition of TMS is that G-d authored the "5 books of Moses" and communicated them to moses, so say all at sinai, others, some part at sinai, and the rest over the 40 years.

SYL said...

>>>>can i be any simpler or clearer.

>>>>choose one:
>>>>yes, they did believe
>>>>no, they did not
>>>>it is not known.


I would have say that many tanaiim/amoraim/early sages did not believe that creation happened exactly the way that it was explained in the Torah.

As evidenced by the fact that the Talmud brings down an opinion that 974 generations existed before Adam.

So this leads me to two questions:

Did the Tanna who believed that nearly 1,000 generations before Adam believe that G-d lied to him?

If the Tanna didn't believe taht Creation happened in a literal 6 days, how did he believe creation happened?

B. Spinoza said...

david a.

here's one blog post by RJM that addresses some of your points

http://vesomsechel.blogspot.com/2006/10/ten-generations-and-problem-of.html

B. Spinoza said...

here is the post

Rabban Gamliel said...

"david a. said...
RG,

don't you see my simple question goes right to the heart of the TMS matter. since if the majority of our sages believed wrongly that the world was created in six days or that the universe is only 6000 yrs old, then they obviously are not infallible as far as history goes, so maybe they are also mistaken about what happened at sinai, if anything did."

We don't believe in Sinai because of feeling anyone is infallible.
If they disagreed with one another how was anyone infallibele? We believe in Siani and so we believe in the Sages. We don't believe in the Sages and so believe in Sinai. Further Sinai was before the Sages and is mentoned in the Tanach time and again so how does it depend on them? Further I fail to see what the difference is between the majority and minority. Does the minority not represent the Mesorah because of the accident of being the minority? Further the Sages did not claim infallibility nor claim everything they believed has to be believed. Where is the evidence they considered heretical the contrary views on creation? Your question does not cut to the heart of TMS. The fact that you have the question phrased as you do rather raises questions about the state of Jewish and secular education.

FedUp said...

Avrum68,

I honestly don't know. I've heard a lot of talk about it but I don't know exactly what people mean when the say TMS and why they believe it's true. I used to think it meant that the whole Torah (written and oral) was given to Moshe on Sinai. Then I thought that just the halachot were given to Moshe on Sinai. The I thought that part of the Torah was given to Moshe and the rest was given at the Ohel Moed throughout the 40 years. Then I've heard it mixed in with the "Mesorah" and the Revalation at Sinai. Then I heard the the Revalation at Sinai was only to Moshe and the people just watched. then I heard that the Revalation at Sinai to all the people was just on the first two of the aseret hadibrot... So I've heard a lot of things and I honestly don't know what I'm arguing against. I'd like to know exactly what we are discussing before we go on. I will accept whatever definition that RJM gives and then we can discuss that definition of TMS and move on.

Rabban Gamliel said...

Well Spinoza I looked at RJM's post interesting. It is true that the Tanach describes sometimes ancestors as fathers even. For example Zerubavel's grandfather is commonly referred to as his father in the Tanach.

david a. said...

Thank you Reb Boruch for the link. I read the post and liked it very much

RJM

I know you said that you have hashed this topic over and over, so i went comment on an ancient post, but I am curious.
Did you get a lot of flak for daring to imply that maybe chazel in areas of “knowledge” outside of halachah were not that perfect.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

All,

Sorry, I am still languishing a bit under the side effects of the medications I am taking. I am making a concerted effort to, at the very least, keep abreast of the comments and discussion here.

David A.,

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I would say that in the circles that I travel in, the notion that Hazal were subject to error with regard to non-Torah and scientific matters is accepted as a commonplace, so I haven't received any flak on it.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

I had started a lengthy comment on the Hazal/History issue but I've been interrupted. I will post it at my next available opportunity!

david a. said...

Avrum68

You said somewhere earlier that you find The "one author" view of Torah authorship more compelling than multiple authors.

now, most agree that the whole DH is very subjective and extremely interpretative, so, if you have some time, try the following exercise, if you haven’t already.

I did it a while back (it takes time and patience) but it might give a better understanding of what drives objective views of the Torah.

Take Shemos, Vayikra, and Bamidmar as a unit and Devor-im as another.

Delineate the religious practices, view of G-d, view of society that can be establish from the text.

Do the same for Devor-im

Then lay our what is known about the history, political systems, culture and religion of the Jews in latter parts of beis rishom (independent of what the Talmud claims), and do the same for the earlier part of beis sheini.

Maybe if your results are intriguing enough, (I believe they will be) you might want to report them and ask that RJM give his views.

BTW, I realize that this might be very “chutzpadik” for an amateur like me to make a suggestion of this sort on the blog of an ANE expert.

Rabban Gamliel said...

David A the language of the Torah is different from that of the days of the latter Prophets. If the Torah is really so late why should that be?

avrum68 said...

BTW, I realize that this might be very “chutzpadik” for an amateur like me...

Not really, I'm just not interested.

I've stated this before, my belief in God is a hodge podge of a personal transcendent experience, Kuzari argument, intuition and near miraculous survival of Jewish people.

Ultimately a leap of faith must take place. I took this leap before I got married, and it's worked out quite well so far.

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