“Beliefs, Boundaries, and the Need for Theology” Guest Post by Rabbi Yitzchak Blau

September 9, 2013

PART I:  A Response to Rabbi Kadish

1)     All concepts have boundaries; otherwise, they lose any meaning.   Atheists or Buddhists can also declare themselves Orthodox Jews but I need not agree with their self – assessment.   If everything coheres with the identity of “Orthodox Jew” then there is no such entity.  Feminists would justifiably object to a fellow who thinks that women should just cook dinner and rear children declaring himself a feminist.  Believers in democracy would object to a communist referring to his regime as democratic.   Every group has standards and qualifications.  Otherwise, one does not stand for anything.

See the evaluation of Avi Sagi’s article in my book review in the September 2008 edition of Meorot.

2)     Neutralizing the significance of belief and making Jewish identity purely behavioral does not prevent exclusion.   If someone lacking any commitment to halakha cannot declare his approach to be Orthodox, we still maintain a communal discourse that excludes other positions.  David Berger makes this point in his Tradition Summer 1999 review of Menachem Kellner.

3)     This point becomes even stronger if the opinions come from a rabbi or communal leader of some kind.   If our group stands for certain ideas and ideals and we are concerned about a voice influencing others away from our ideals, it seems that we would have every right to protest.

4)     Religion lacks coherence without a belief structure that explains why we adhere to religious practices; otherwise, mizvot turn into mindless behaviorism.   See my review of Marc Shapiro in The Torah u”Madda Journal Volume 12.

5)     Beliefs matter both intrinsically and because they influence practice.  If a child of mine told me he thought that African Americans were an inferior race, I would be very upset even if it turned out he did not treat them any differently than other people.  I view the mere holding of such a belief as wrong.  In addition, I would be nervous that it will ultimately affect how he treats people.

6)     Furthermore, beliefs affect the value of what I do.  If I keep mizvot because I believe a supremely wise and benevolent deity commanded them, that is quite different from observing Jewish law because a malicious and powerful tyrant will send me to hell if I do not.

7)     Sanhedrin 10:1 makes it difficult to argue that Hazal were indifferent to belief or did not think it criterion of exclusion.   I am curious why R. Kadish thinks citing rishonim who believed in dogma helps his position.  R. Yosef Albo did include a category in which people who honestly arrive at erroneous theological beliefs should not be treated as koferim and I happily endorse that position.  However, his entire discussion assumes that there is a set of erroneous beliefs beyond the pale of normative Judaism.

Now the arguments above do not prove me right in our particular situation.  One can concede that concepts have boundaries worth fighting about and that beliefs matter and still say that I misapplied these principles.  However, these points do change the nature of the conversation.   We should not rush to exclude but, in principle, there is nothing problematic with saying a particular viewpoint is beyond Orthodoxy.

8)     Finally, I am not judging people but arguing about the world of ideas.  I explicitly wrote that those convinced by the DH are not evil and that I am not interested in saying anything derogatory about them.  I fully disagree with the pseudonymous commentator on my post who accused adherents of the DH of using bad arguments to maintain secular liberal values.  There are certainly people genuinely convinced of the DH for authentic reasons but that does not mean I have to agree with them or cannot contest their stand.

I do not know Rabbi Farber and think that he may be a wonderful human being.  However, I also think that concepts have boundaries, that beliefs matter, and that one can strongly disagree with another’s ideas without rejecting them as people.

One final question for those who think beliefs are a free for all.  I recall reading once that a talented mid – twentieth century musmakh from JTS was offered a prominent pulpit but he turned it down since he no longer believed in God (he later became a well – known philosophy professor).    Several people involved urged him to take the position anyway but he refused.  In your view, was this an act of great integrity or should he have simply taken the job and perhaps written a manifesto explaining that belief in God does not matter for Conservative Judaism?

PART II:  A Response to Rabbi David Steinberg

Rabbi David Steinberg’s critique of my approach to Shemini Azeret ignores half of my answer.  He asks why Devarim 16 includes mention of the seventh day of Pesach and not of Shemini Azeret.  In my original post, I noted that Shemini Azeret is a separate holiday; indeed, Vayikra 23 also knows of a seven day holiday called Sukkot.   Likewise, Bemidbar 29 depicts the seventh day of Pesach differently than Shemini Azeret and it describes a seven day holiday called Sukkot.   This dissolves his question.  Since the seventh day of Pesach is an integral part of Pesach, it receives mention.

R. Steinberg’s counter example of Shemot 23 actually supports my approach.   He seems to agree that the short account there is primarily interested in the pilgrimage aspect of the holidays.  Yet the pesukim there mention the commandment to eat matza while leaving out all other ritual requirements.   Apparently, even a more focused presentation adds some other elements.  Devarim 16 adds more Pesach requirements without giving an exhaustive list of all the mizvot of the hagim.

According to R. Steinberg’s methodology, the perspective in Devarim also does not believe in the four species, the omer offering, shtei halehem on Shavuot, Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur.  Furthermore, Vayikra 23 does not think one need rejoice on the festivals.  Along the same lines, Devarim 22:12 does not know about tekhelet strings whereas Bemidbar 15 thinks the commandment of tzitzit applies even to all garments and not just those with four corners.  I suggest that it is more reasonable to say that the Torah includes different details in varying contexts.

R. Steinberg thinks gratitude should mandate Moshe’s mentioning that Yitro came up with the idea of judges.  Everything has its time, place, and context.  In Devarim 1, Moshe is admonishing the people for their quarreling forcing the need for additional judges.  In that context, whose idea it was to institute judges is not of great relevance.

I wrote that the Pesach Sheni passage anticipates their entering the land and therefore it addresses those too distant to bring the offering.   R. Steinberg asks why the Torah does not explicitly say “when you enter the land.”  Once the Torah clearly does anticipate halakhot that would only be practiced later, I think we have a more reasonable explanation for discussing those far away than positing a later interpolation.  This remains true even if I could not answer why the Torah does not add the phrase “when you enter the land.”  However, I have explanations.  The two verses in Bemidbar 15 address commandments that have no bearing at all until they enter the land.  Pesach Sheni, by contrast, is relevant immediately; it is only that one particular detail kicks in later.  Therefore, the Torah does not introduce the Pesach Sheni passage with “when you enter the land.”  Furthermore, in Bemidbar 15, God wanted to reassure Am Yisrael after the punishment for the sin of the spies (Bemidbar 14) that they will ultimately enter the land.  Therefore, He explicitly speaks of their future entry.

I fully agree that Korah was the ringleader of the rebellion.  Not surprisingly, when Zelofhad’s daughters want to say that their father was not part of the rebellious band, they refer to him.  Devarim 11 is about the rest of Am Yisrael learning from punishments they witnessed and in that context, the Torah focuses more on the verbal aggression of Datan and Aviram as exemplars of the degradation and destruction engendered by sinful behavior.

This example also points to a broader methodological issue.  According to the critics, Bemidbar 16 reflects a redactor splicing two stories together while Bemidbar 27 and Devarim 11 reflect the two stories in their distinct format.  For adherents of the DH, the redactor sometimes integrated conflicting traditions (the flood), sometimes left them distinct (wife-sister stories), and sometimes did both (Korah).   Thus, integration plus distinctiveness plus a mixture of the two all cohere with the work of the redactor. This sets up an approach which allows almost any evidence to fit with the work of the redactor.

A similar problem comes when one notes that an E or J passage includes a theme that should not be there according to the critical approach.  The critics often answer that this is a later interpolation.  Again, this allows almost any evidence to fit the critical perspective, an allowance which makes the entire endeavor less scientific.

Let us examine one expression of the critical approach to solving the Korah problem more carefully. As James Kugel explains it: “The Korah element, scholars say, was added later by a priestly writer; it was another salvo in the “Who is a priest” battle that we have already seen….the purported priestly author of this revised version of the episode did not hold that view; he believed that only Aaronids could be priests.  Indeed, this is the great lesson, according to scholars, that the Korah episode in its final form was designed to impart” (How to Read the Bible, p. 334.)  In other words, one political faction made up a story to try to discredit the opposition.  Does such an approach indicate that academic bible study has much to add to our appreciation for the sanctity and divinity of Torah?

Defenders of the traditional position should sometimes address specifics and I have attempted to do a bit of this in my two posts.  At the same time, I think there is something to be said for arguments working off a global perspective.  Treating the Torah as a unified document has worked for centuries and has produced glorious results full of ethical and religious wisdom.  Scholars such as Robert Alter and Meir Sternberg who have treated the Torah as a unified whole (even if they personally accept multiple authorship) have added profound contributions and located meaningful ideas in the text.  To some degree, this in and of itself adds support for the unified theory.  I understand that one could attribute all of this to a redactor (and to the ingenuity of human interpretation) but this redactor seems to have been a remarkably talented fellow.  It is hard to find a parallel achievement of redaction in human history.

Finally, we come to the question of theology.  My original post mentioned several theological problems with Rabbi Farber’s approach.  Rabbi Steinberg does not address any of them.  Instead, Rabbi Steinberg contrasts those with “half baked answers,” “lack of faith,” ideas that are “far from satisfying” and apparently not “serious” with those who have “real emunah,” a “nuanced approach to Torah and mitzvoth,” and “a thoughtful and compelling synthesis of traditional and academic approaches.”  If you will excuse a blunt formulation, rhetoric is no substitute for working out a theology.

Reading the posts on thetorah.com seems to set up the following set of assumptions.  The Torah was written by flawed human beings and is full of human errors.  It contains contradictory approaches that cannot truly be reconciled.  Some of the contradictions are there because warring political factions were trying to score points for their teams.  The exodus and the revelation at Sinai did not occur.  Much of the Torah simply copies laws and myths from the Ancient Near East.  To add one more point fairly common in academic studies, the Torah is full of etiological tales not intended to teach any religious or ethical wisdom.  For example, Bereishit 26 is not meant to teach us anything about proper character or behavior but simply an explanation for how Be’er Sheva received its name. Yet none of this is a problem since we assert that the Torah is divine or that is has been sanctified by the collective wisdom of Am Yisrael.

Divinity and sanctity are words with meaning; they are not magic formulations that solve all problems as long as I include them in a sentence.  What does the “divinity” of the Torah mean for those who accept the assumptions above? Those who think that academic biblical scholarship and traditional Judaism are compatible have a lot more work to do before they talk of a “thoughtful and compelling synthesis.”

Even those who think beliefs insignificant should realize the seriousness of the matter.  We have experience with modern Jewish ideologies that rooted halakhic observance in the decision making of “Catholic Israel” or in vague notions of the divinity of scripture and their track record in inspiring ongoing observance and commitment is quite poor.  If so, Rabbi Steinberg is incorrect when he writes that we have little to lose.  While those fully convinced by the DH will likely find this point irrelevant, those of us unconvinced have every reason to fight.

This will be my last post on this topic in this forum. I realize that my critics may get the last word but someone has to and I hope that I have already made a contribution.  Those interested in a few examples in which the artistry of the unified text is missed by source critics insistent on finding multiple authors may enjoy the first chapter of Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Narrative and the fifth chapter of Adele Berlin’s Poetics and Interpretation.   Finally, my comment about “magic formulations” owes something to Alan Brill’s (second) point number 5 in the following blog post.

Appendix

My original post only commented on examples from the website http://www.thetorah.com.   In order to underscore examples of other methodological flaws prevalent in academic bible study, I now turn to other sources.  These examples do not constitute a refutation of the DH since every approach has weak manifestations and poor practitioners.  However, cases of flawed use of a methodology sometimes help highlight problems in the entire endeavor.

1)     Bias towards finding conflicts.  The well – known bible scholar Claus Westermann writes that Yeshayahu 56:3-5 cancels the regulation of Devarim 23:2 (see his Isaiah 40-66, p. 313).  Many prominent scholars endorse this position (see the list in footnote 5 of Jacob Wright’s article in JBL 2012).  As Prof. Wright ably points out, there is no conflict between the two verses whatsoever.  Devarim speaks of someone with crushed genitals whereas Yeshayahu speaks of a eunuch. They do not address the same group of people. Furthermore, the passage in Yeshayahu says nothing about the eunuch joining the assembly of God (traditionally understood as relating to marriage) but only about God granting him a legacy better than children.  Even if we posit that both verses describe the identical group of people, Devarim instructs us that they cannot marry in to the community while Yeshayahu says that they can still leave a lasting monument as productive individuals in the house of God.

Prof. Wright contributed a blog entry for the Huffington Post which exemplifies particular flaws in academic bible study.  He discerns several historical stages based on analysis of the first two chapters of Shemot.  According to Wright, the second chapter was first an independent story originating as a response to the question of why Moshe, the great Jewish leader, had an Egyptian name.  The account clarifies his Jewish lineage.  In the original story, Moshe was abandoned by his mother not as a life – saving measure but because there was something illicit about his birth. Since many found the idea that the savior of Am Yisrael was the offspring of an illegitimate union disconcerting, chapter one was added to offer a different reason for placing Moshe in the Nile.

2)     Speculative ideas stated as scholarly conclusions: This kind of historical reconstruction is a highly speculative endeavor and should not be said with assurance.  Just based on the biblical account, it seems improbable that Prof. Wright could confidently tell us about different literary stages and the motivation for each one.

3)     Circular reasoning:  Some DH analysis posits what it wants to establish.  In his argument against the sequential reading, Wright says regarding chapter two: “Nothing is said here about Pharaoh’s decree to slay all Hebrew male children.”  That argument already assumes a break between chapter one and chapter two.  If we read the text as a unity, then chapter two assumes we know why Moshe’s mother wants to hide her baby; Pharoah has decreed the death of all male children.

In fact, only the unified reading makes sense of chapter two which does not explain why she would want to hide her baby.  The baby being “beautiful” or “good” (Shemot 2: 2) might give a mother added resolve to try a desperate measure but it is not a reason per se to hide a child.  Prof. Wright’s idea about the hiding and abandonment of an illicit child appears nowhere in the text.  Ultimately, he prefers breaking up the two chapters and adding a reason for hiding not founded in the text to reading the two chapters as a unified whole where the reason for hiding explicitly appears.

4)     Good questions do not support bad answers.  Prof. Wright supports his theory about the illicit union from the Torah not telling us the name of the father.  Why the Torah does not explicitly name Moshe’s parents is a good question but this does nothing to suggest that their relations were problematic. The Torah is not reticent about recounting flawed behavior including that of Jewish heroes and their relatives.  Why should it suddenly go silent on the names of Moshe’s parents?

 

Rabbi Yitzchak Blau teaches at Midreshet Lindenbaum and the Orayta Yeshiva and has previously taught at Yeshivat Hamivtar and at the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School. He has published articles on many areas of Jewish thought as well as a book of aggadic interpretations, “Fresh Fruit and Vintage Wine: The Ethics and Wisdom of the Aggada,” published by Ktav. Rabbi Blau has a BA in English Literature from YU, an MA in Medieval Jewish History from Revel, and semikha from RIETS. Rabbi Blau lives in Alon Shevut with his wife and four children.

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Guest Post by Rabbi Dr. Avi Kadish: Orthodoxy and the Humanities, a Response to R. Yitzchak Blau

August 6, 2013

Orthodoxy and the Humanities: A Response to R. Yitzchak Blau

by Rabbi Dr. Seth Avi Kadish

Rav Yitzchak, without getting into the specifics of how the examples in the first part of your article were chosen, nor the kinds of methodologies needed to deal with them, I think that part of your essay is making a single basic point (with which I agree): Biblical scholarship is ultimately part of the humanities.

In the humanities, the pendulum swings back and forth as the generations go by (in a way unlike the hard sciences): There is always room for an alternative approach, so long as a persuasive argument can be made to justify it, which is then subject to the criticism of peers. Though methodologies are improved, and new evidence may come to light, the currently accepted approach may still have no greater claim on the truth than do its alternatives from the past and in the future. This is the beauty of the humanities, and the source of their value and power, because the ever swinging pendulum is also an essential aspect of humanity.

One need not accept the regnant view in any area of the humanities, neither in biblical scholarship nor for Homer. Furthermore, to enter the humanities with an uncommon outlook or a different set of assumptions, far from being a hindrance, is actually a boon. It can open new doors and uncover new truths, provided that it is honestly acknowledged.

A deep subjective faith, grounded in the national memory of Israel about our core experiences, is as healthy and valid as any other perspective. I stand with you on this, not with Rav Zev. And like you I think those experiences matter for our relationship with God. The essential validity of this subjective approach is, in my opinion, the rich inheritance bequeathed by Rav Hasdai Crescas to thinking Torah Jews in the modern world. (I hope to write about that soon in a different forum, as well as address your point that “sometimes quantity is quality” which is true as far as it goes, but in my opinion fails to take medieval assumptions fully into account). So acknowledge your loyalties openly, and go on with that to participate honestly and respectfully in the humanities and in biblical scholarship.

At the same time, as a Torah Jew, there is no need to debate the “Orthodoxy” of people whose intellectual quests take them where you don’t see a need to go. Despite all the current verbiage to the contrary, there is no mitzvah nor any halakhic need to do so.

To engage in this is the עצת יצר הרע, [counsel of the “evil inclination”], its greatest tool today for creating hatred and stifling thought and discussion in Am Yisrael. The yetzer works to cause evil specifically through Torah scholars and committed Jews, whom it has convinced that doing this is both necessary and right. Of course they sound convincing, and many of them like yourself are not at all malicious, but the very need for this cannot ultimately be justified. It simply isn’t Torah.

The constant effort to define “Orthodoxy” and make decisions about who is “in” and who is “out” has nothing to do with living our covenant with God in today’s reality. The Torah is about loyalty and action out of love and fear of God, not about judging other Jews’ honest intellectual struggles or challenging their self-definitions. So instead please just keep writing what Orthodoxy means to you (and to me), not what you think it needs to mean for others.

Rabbi Dr. Seth (Avi) Kadish earned his Ph.D. at the University of Haifa (2006) in Medieval Jewish Philosophy. He previously studied at Yeshiva University were he received his rabbinic ordination and master’s degrees in Bible and Jewish Education. He currently teaches medieval Jewish philosophy and history at Oranim Teacher’s College, and in the Overseas School at the University of Haifa. He has also taught immigrant soldiers in the Nativ program of the IDF education corps and adult Israeli Jewish education for the Hebrew University’s Melton School. He lives in Karmiel, Israel with his wife and children, where he is involved in building modern Orthodox communities that are meant to be open and welcoming to the entire public. Rabbi Kadish is the author of Kavvana: Directing the Heart in Jewish Prayer and The Book of Abraham: Rabbi Shimon ben Zemah Duran and the School of Rabbenu Nissim Gerondi.


Living by the Word of God – Guest Post by Dr. Ben Elton

July 26, 2013

Introduction

This coming Shabbat morning Jews around the world will listen to the verse (Devarim 8:3): ‘So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.’

An unbroken chain links the Jews who heard those words from Moshe and those who will hear them in the synagogue this week. Orthodox Jews, of whatever stripe, hold fast to the belief that God spoke to Moshe and gave him the Torah. We believe that we were founded as a people by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that we went down to Egypt and were enslaved there, that God took us out and brought us to Mount Sinai. There, a truly mysterious event took place, which we shall never understand and none of our ancestors understood. The Infinite met the finite, Heaven and earth touched and God transmitted His words and His will to the Jewish People.

That is the source and origin of Hamisha Humshei Torah.[1] They are not a product of inspiration or ‘channelling the Divine,’ in a way that later biblical books or even the rabbinic literature might be described. We believe that ‘this is the Torah which Moshe placed before the Children of Israel, by the mouth of the Lord, by the hand of Moshe’.[2]

That is my faith as an Orthodox Jew and it is what took me to the Orthodox beit midrash of  Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School (YCT). It is the belief I will teach as an Orthodox rabbi, just as I have been taught it by my rebbeimin the yeshiva. If some graduates of the yeshiva take a different view, that is a matter for them, though we should respect the integrity of an honest struggle. Like any yeshiva, YCT can only be held responsible for what it teaches and the beliefs and conduct of its current students – just ask Gateshead Kollel about Louis Jacobs.

The Place of Torah Min Hashmayim in Traditional Jewish Thought

This is not the place to rehearse the rabbinic literature on Torah Min Hashamayim. Suffice it to say that Hazal took it as given that there was a Revelation on Sinai. Their main concern was that people might argue that while Moshe went up the mountain he brought down a forgery, and they declared that anyone who claimed that Moshe wrote the Humashof his own account would have no place in the World to Come. This is a very serious statement considering that in general every Jew has a portion of the Afterlife. It certainly never entered the heads of Hazal that Moshe is a fictional character and that the whole text, both its sources and its current form, dates from much later than his supposed lifetime.

Indeed, until relatively recently no-one at all thought that. From Moses Maimonides in the twelfth century to Moses Mendelssohn in the seventeenth, there was unanimity that the Torah’s status as the product of unmediated revelation was the basis of the whole of Jewish life and belief. Even some early proponents of the academic study of Jewish literature, for example Nachman Krochmal and Zacharias Frankel who were otherwise fairly radical, drew the line at Higher Criticism of the Humash itself.[3] In recent times, even David Weiss Halivni, whose view of the composition of the Humash as we have it is novel, would not abandon the commitment to the revelation at Sinai.

Must We Accept the Documentary Hypothesis?

Of course that is not a good argument for Torah Min Hashamayim. An idea is either true or it is not. However, the claims of the Documentary Hypothesis have been thoroughly dealt with by traditionalists like Rabbi David Tsevi Hoffman, moderate traditionalists like Umberto Cassuto and radicals like Benno Jacob. The Documentary Hypothesis proceeds from the premise that the text is human, and then concludes how it could have been assembled as a human text. It is driven by its starting assumptions. Furthermore, it is the product of hyper-modernity, in which everything can be dissected, including literature, using methods that were described as ‘scientific.’ Scholars of literature and of history would be embarrassed to use such a term today. Literary theory and historical practice have both come a long way since then, but simply accepting the Documentary Hypothesis takes none of that development into account. It is odd that sometimes we are more concerned about the Documentary Hypothesis than the academy, many parts of which concentrate on more interesting and fruitful literary questions.

As we well know, the problems that bible critics have identified have been dealt with by traditional scholars for millennia. The explanations of Hazal, the Rishonim and Aharonim have all addressed the same questions of different accounts of events or expressions of laws. There has been no diminution in the brilliance or insight of these explanations in recent years. Two examples of this approach are Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik’s explanation of the two accounts of the creation of man in Lonely Man of Faith and Rabbi Mordecai Breuer’s entire approach. More recently, the work coming from the journal Megadim, Aviva Zornberg, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks or Rabbi Shalom Carmy all assumes the unity and Divine nature of the text of the Humash.

The Breadthand Boundaries of Orthodox Opinion

As these scholars, and their predecessors, have shown, the Humash is a far from simple text. There are also many questions to be asked about which parts of the Humash are to be taken literally, which are allegorical or might be dreams, although we should note that those question go to its meaning not its authorship or its authority. The Talmud discusses how it was communicated to Moshe and compiled by him. Did it come in one revelation or was it given piece by piece and then collated at the end of forty years? Is Devarim different in some respects from the earlier four books? Did Moshe write the account of his own death or did Joshua? Were there some small sections added later, as Rabbi Yehuda HeHassid and the Ibn Ezra thought? It is possible to say that about some other parts, as Rabbi Yuval Cherlow and others have suggested? Has the text been corrupted over time or must we believe that it was transmitted entirely without scribal error, as Rabbi Yehiel Yaakov Weinberg thought? These are all ideas to explore and they have a place in Orthodoxy because they are authentic elements of our Mesorah. We have to resist any attempts to narrow our intellectual vision by expelling them or their advocates.

All of these positions have the support of traditional authorities, or at least traditional roots, and they are a world away from JEPD or any variation on it. To accept the Documentary Hypothesis and still claim to believe in ‘Torah Min Hashamayim’, or ‘Torah MiSinai’, is no more than playing with words. I can claim to believe in any term I like if I change its meaning enough. However, words and phrases have integrity; they communicate meaning based on their usage across space and time. To appropriate them for new positions, simply because of a desire to hold onto traditional language, is untenable. Only in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There does a word means just what the speaker chooses it to mean – neither more nor less. On any non-tendentious reading, I find it hard to see how a rejection of the classic formulation of Torah Min Hashamayim can be consistent with Orthodox theology

Does It Matter?

Acceptance of the Documentary Hypothesis is therefore unnecessary and a radical break with Jewish tradition. But does it matter? Classical Torah Min Hashamayim may have become one of the recognized boundaries between Orthodoxy and non-Orthodoxy, but should it be? Surely if we come to the conclusion that the text is Divine, the mechanics of its writing and editing are immaterial.  I think that is an error. This is a dogma we should care about andhalakhic Jews should not delude themselves that they can abandon Torah Min Hashamayim and maintain the Judaism they cherish. Their attempts to do so fail even on their own terms, both in theory and practice.

The rejection of Torah Min Hashamayim makes a nonsense of both parshanut and the Gemara. The varied explanations of the traditional commentators might be inspiring but they do not give us an insight into what the words were meant to convey.  We can only hope to uncover their meaning through the study of authorship and context, like any other text. Traditional and modern exegesis cannot exist alongside each other. It would make no more sense to devise a devar Torah based on Vayikra than on the Code of Hammurabi. In the realm of Talmud, for one who accepts the Documentary Hypothesis, when Hazal seeks sources in the Humash for halakhot, they are on a wild goose chase, because to a modern critic the words of the Torah never meant what the Rabbis took them to mean. The entire halakhicliterature becomes an elaborate intellectual folly. It might be interesting or valuable in the study of a particular people in order to understand how they constructed their spiritual life, but it cannot be taken as a real explanation of the biblical text.

This has profound implications for halakhah. Judaism stands on its belief in heteronymous law, the idea that we are commanded by Another (God) and His law is unconditionally binding. He communicated His will to Moshe in the form of the Torah shebikhtav (Humash) and the Torah shebal peh (oral explanation) that accompanied it.[4] Once we come to the view that the Humash is, as a matter of history, a human work, it might well be an attempt by a series of writers in the ancient near east to reach out to God, but how do we know He reached back? Some parts are very challenging but we keep faith because we believe it represents the direct Divine will. If we cease to believe that we are mandated by the Divine Will how is Humash any different than  the Koran, the Gospels or the Baghavad Gita, all of which contain parts we like and parts we don’t?

The founders of the Conservative Movement claimed that although critical scholars were correct about the composition of the Humash, the authority of the mitsvot was unaffected. They argued that a human text could receive the Divine imprimatur through its survival and acceptance. history legislates. However, they failed to persuade their followers to lead halakhic lives, because while an individual might feel that, they cannot transmit that belief. Furthermore, that total commitment sooner or later gives way even in its advocates.[5] Louis Jacobs who at first claimed that under ‘halakhic non-fundamentalism’ all mitsvot were Divine and binding, later found he could not justify institutions such as themamzer. All who have rejected Torah Min Hashamayim have come to the view that the Humash contains higher as lower parts, and have therefore broken its binding nature. It is not a chance of history that Reconstructionism came out of the Conservative Movement and lived for a long time within it. It is the logical outcome of the process which begins with rejecting Torah Min Hashamayim.

Finally, supporters of progressive Orthodoxy should also be extremely wary of accepting the Documentary Hypothesis. If God did not speak directly to us, but has rather endorsed whatever we happen to construct for ourselves, then we create a Panglossian world in which ‘whatever is, is right.’ If I have heteronymous, authoritative texts and traditions which I can study, investigate and probe there is room for development on issues as diverse as relations with non-Jews and non-observant Jews, the role of women and family law. If history is the voice of God, if the status quo is always what God wants us to live by, where is the capacity for change, which has always been a feature of the Mesorah? We come to pick and choose based on whatever feels right at any particular time, or the halakhic process is frozen. Neither is the way of traditional Judaism.

In Sum

I am Open Orthodox. I do not want to throw anyone out of Orthodox communities. We have to provide a home for people of varying levels of observance as well as those wrestling with difficult theological questions. Nevertheless, I am clear that accepting the Documentary Hypothesis, or any similar theory, is not only a breach with tradition, it is also unnecessary and harmful. There is a great deal to discuss and debate and the study of Mikra is becoming richer every day. I am lucky to have access to master teachers of Tanakh, whose insights are innovative and compelling, all within the bounds of tradition. We must continue to live in the knowledge that when we pick up a Humash we hold in our hands the word of God. It contains a sacred gift He gave us 3,000 years ago, and because that revelation is pure and direct, it contains infinite wisdom, beauty and goodness. That is the way for modern and open Orthodoxy to flourish, and any alternative would be a tragic error.

Ben Elton is a student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School


[1] I will address later in this essay which parts of the Torah were given, and when. I acknowledge it is not necessary, or even sensible, to believe that the entire Torah was given on Sinai.

[2] I am aware that this verse does not have that expansive meaning in its original context. However, that is the way the verse is used in our liturgy. It expresses our belief in the nature of the entire Torah, as it is lifted up and we look at it.

[3] Leopold Zunz and of course Abraham Geiger did accept the Documentary Hypothesis.

[4] If one holds that the Humash is a single text then it follows that there must have been an oral accompaniment, because otherwise it makes no sense. There is a great deal of debate among the classical authorities about how expansive that original Oral Law was, but that is not a question for now.

[5] Louis Finklestein may be an exception.


Torah and Historical Proof: Guest Post by Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot

July 25, 2013

Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot is on the Judaic studies faculty of the SAR High School in NYC. He is the chair of the Bible and Jewish Thought Departments at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School and the rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Teaneck, NJ. He is the author of hundreds of articles in Jewish studies and most recently published a volume of studies on Tanakh entitled Mikra and Meaning (Maggid/Koren, 2012). He is a member of the RCA and an officer of the IRF as well as on the steering committee of the Orthodox Forum sponsored by Yeshiva University.

 

Disclaimer: This essay is not an exhaustive treatment of the topic but simply some reflections in light of the ongoing discussions that have arisen both here and in Israel in the last number of years in Modern-Orthodox and Dati –Leumi circles, including the most recent discussions on the blogosphere. It examines certain issues and leaves others open for more discussion.

  1. As ma’aminim b’nei ma’aminim in the Divine origin of the Torah, a question that confronts us, especially in the modern period, with the rise of academic Bible studies and the related field of archeology of the ancient near east,  is the challenge to the historicity of various events, both central and peripheral to the Torah’s narrative. This often expresses itself around key questions as to: Did the Flood “really” happen as described in the Bible? Did the Avot “really” exist?  Do we have “evidence” of a mass Exodus from Egypt or the revelation at Sinai?

Many essays and books have been authored about this topic within both academic and religious circles in the last twenty five years. This has also led to deep debates within the world of the academy itself between “minimalists” who basically reject all the accounts of the Torah as lacking in any historical reality unless “proven” by outside sources and the “maximalists” who basically accept the account of the Torah , in broad terms, as long as there is no explicit “evidence” to contradict it.

 

  1. My personal beliefs and approach to these questions are traditional and I believe with a full heart that the avot existed , that yetziat mitzrayim occurred and that the revelation at Sinai was a real event and not simply a metaphor.  I am not convinced by much of the argumentation that has been made for the minimalist point of view, especially as a significant portion of it is predicated on arguments from silence (lack of positive archeological evidence) which should always be approached with skepticism and wariness. The question that confronts us, as ma’aminim is, whether there is room, however, to entertain a less traditional conception of the historicity of the events in the Torah than the one I outlined above, and remain within the parameters of Torah Min Hashamayim. In other words: Can one entertain the radical notion that God would communicate to human beings narratives and details which were not historically accurate or did not even occur in order to convey metaphysical, religious, philosophical, or national “truths” even if they did not reflect the reality as it occurred? This issues needs to be addressed both on the macro level as well as on the level of details.

 

  1. One area of discussion that has explicit precedents in medieval rishonim are questions related to the first chapters of Genesis. A  number of rishonim, including most prominently, Rambam, have taken the position that in light of their understanding of science and reason’s dictates, parts of the Creation narrative and the stories related to Adam and Havvah in Gan Eden do not have to be read literally but should be read allegorically. In the modern period, other Orthodox rabbis have entertained extending this precedent to other narratives found in Ch. 1-11 in Bereishit. In recent years, these issues have been discussed at length by R. Natan Slifkin and others and in the blog posts and essays that emerged during the controversy surrounding the “banning” of his books in the Hareidi community. In a number of public lectures both at YU and in yeshiva high schools in the NY area, YU Rosh Yeshiva, R. Jermey Wieder has addressed these issues as well. R. Wieder’s examines the writings of Rav Saadiah Gaon and the Rambam and other rishonim on this issue. Of course the question that is unclear is what exactly are the limits of interpreting narratives in an allegorical way, how far can one go with this and to what extent?  R. Wieder’s bottom line conclusion regarding the stories of Genesis, Ch. 1-11 is that if one was convinced that these narratives were not entirely historical, one would not be in violation of any yesodei ha-Torah in adopting that position.

 

  1. Moving on to the narratives of the avot up through the sojourn in Egypt, R. Wieder raises the question as to whether a believing Jew can maintain that these stories are foundational narratives communicated by God rather than actual historical events. In his lecture at YU R. Wieder states:

When you move to the stories of the avos, let me state from the outset again here I have no reason to believe the stories of the avos weren’t historical. But suppose someone were to come along and say, ‘I suppose they were not history because of x,y,z evidence- would prove they can’t be historical figures’- In this particular case even though I profess a profound degree of uncomfortableness I don’t think the person has crossed the line because I don’t think the historical existence of the avos is compelling or necessary as one of the ikarei haemunah.  Now I know that the Torah frequently mentions Avraham Yitschok and Yaakov but nonetheless it’s not really fundamental, if you look, even though at the outset I mentioned, I denied that there is a clear definition of what ikarei haemunah are despite the Rambam’s 13 ikarei haemunah, if you were to look at the Rambam’s 13 ikarei haemunah and say the avos never existed historically I don’t think there would be any conflict… 
I can’t tell you exactly what would be enough to persuade me that a certain part of the story of Avraham Yitschak and Yaakov should be read as non historical. Do I think that there could be such evidence? Yes. But do I know of any? Not necessarily… What is the purpose of Breshis then? And I believe that the answer lies, I will say this carefully, the way I might term a divinely dictated creation ‘mashal’  
 Hashem told us metaphysical truths, whether it’s Breishis or parshas Noach, that were meant to teach us fundamental truths.” 

This is a very radical notion and I am not sure whether other contemporary Orthodox rabbinic thinkers who are comfortable with reading parts of Ch 1-11 as allegories would be willing to sign on to R. Wieder’s conclusion. What would be interesting to examine as well is a middle position. What would be the status of a view that suggests that the avot and imahot existed but individual details of the stories did not take place as recorded. To take a small example, what would be the status of a view that maintained that Yaakov and Rachel were real figures but they did not meet at the well, but that the well scene is a typological scene intended to fit the avot into a certain literary model? This question has not been addressed explicitly in these discussions and would need to be addressed.

 

 

  1. When we move to the foundational events of the narrative of the Torah such as yetziat metzrayim and Matan Torah, R. Wieder articulates the clear theological truth that these events are at the core of the notion of the yesodei Hatorah and the underpinnings for our obligation to keep the Torah and mitzvoth. He would read any metaphorization of these events as beyond the pale of acceptable beliefs in any traditional sense. He specifically speaks of a rejection of yetziat mitzrayim as “safek kefirah” and a rejection of the historicity of Matan Torah as heretical. Again the interesting question here from a theoretical point is where would someone who rejected the notion of 600,000 men leaving Egypt at once being “true” but did accept the notion of a smaller Exodus of e.g.  60,000 people- where would that position appear on the spectrum?

 

  1. In the lengthy programmatic essay to my volume of Tanakh entitled Mikra and Meaning (Maggid/Koren, 2012) I addressed the broad issues involved in our discussion. I reproduce that discussion below (pgs. 45-48):

 

The assumption behind the use of such disciplines and data lies in the notion that Tanakh is a tome that reflects the concrete historical and sociological reality into which God chose to reveal His eternal will to mankind. As Rabbi Yuval Cherlow has described the methodology of his mentor, Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun:

 

The Tanakh took place in a concrete reality. The position of “accursed philosophy” that events described in Tanakh did not occur and that it is entirely a symbolic work were entirely rejected by gedolei Yisrael. The Tanakh is not only ensconced in the heav- ens, but is rather a ladder rooted in the ground whose top reaches the firmament. Therefore, understanding the reality in which the events of Tanakh took place enables one to understand the Torah itself. The concrete reality is an indispensable part of the Torah and it is not for naught that the Sages stated that “dibber hakatuv bahoveh” – “the text speaks in the present reality”… This is all done with a clear distinction between the holy and secular, and  a profound understanding that the Torah is not chained to a spe- cific [historical] reality. The purpose of engaging in understanding the concrete reality of the biblical stories is not to transform the Avot into simple merchants or [to see] the divine laws as parallels to human legislation, but rather to serve as comparative soil upon which to uncover the foundation of the word of God and His Torah and understand the divine revelation in its profundity.

If this idyllic picture were the entire story, I imagine that there would be little opposition to the use of these disciplines in the beit midrash. The broader picture is, of course, more complicated. First, there is the matter of conflicts between the academic or scientific evidence and theories and the history laid out in the biblical narrative. This is a sub- set, of course, of the millennia-old tension between “scientific” truth and “revealed” truth that has agitated thinkers and theologians across a variety of faith traditions.

In general, the same strategies with which we deal with conflicts between the physical sciences and the truths of tradition should be utilized here as well. In some instances, we will have to explore whether what we consider a “revealed” truth is really no more than an interpretation that can be reevaluated in light of compelling scientific evidence. In other words, have we truly understood what the word of God is saying, and is the conflict indeed so direct? A good example of this is Nahmanides’ reevaluation of the location of Rachel’s tomb after he reached Eretz Yisrael and saw the geography of the biblical sites themselves.63

In other instances, we will note the distinction between scien- tificfacts and the scientific interpretation of those facts or conjectures/ theories as to the meaning of those facts. While actual facts must always be assimilated and interpreted, we must recognize that interpretation of archaeological finds is often “more art than science…and that new discoveries and new perceptions are constantly forcing reevaluations of currently held positions. It is this state of flux which helps alleviate such tensions to a certain degree by allowing discrepancies and contradictions to stand while awaiting further clarification.64 We will also highlight distinctions between positive evidence and arguments from silence – that is, the absence of historical or archaeological finds to but- tress a particular biblical narrative. Given the fact that so much about the Ancient Near East is not known, many important sites have not been excavated, many important finds have been discovered by chance, and in the estimate of some scholars, less than 10% of the material and documentary culture of the Ancient Near East has been discovered. Thus, arguments from silence (for example, lack of material evidence of Joshua’s conquest of the land of Israel) are rather tenuous in establishing the lack of historicity of this or that biblical episode.

In more extreme situations, we may have to follow in the footsteps of Maimonides, who articulated the position that if an unassailable scientific theory conflicts with the plain sense of the biblical text and there exists no other tenable scientific theory conforming with the biblical text, we are obligated to accept the scientific theory and reinterpret, even metaphorically, the biblical passage under question.65 In the particular issue that he was discussing – Aristotle’s theory of the eternity of the universe – Maimonides notes that the alternate theory of Plato is also logically cogent and it can co-exist with a belief in the Creation of the World and the possibility of miracles, and we are therefore entitled to adopt that theory. Maimonides factors in the theological cost of metaphorizing a significant part of Tanakh; given that two equally possible theories exists, we are entitled to privilege the one that fits in with the plain understanding of the biblical text.

Applying this to our context, Professor Uriel Simon has noted that:

“Metaphorizing large sections of biblical historiography [as would emerge from the conclusions of certain radical Israeli archae- ologists] would demand of us a high theological cost…and one cannot ignore that factual truth has a unique persuasive power… In the dilemma we confront, it is appropriate, in my opinion, that we struggle for the maximum historicity of the Bible, with a careful watch on maintaining our intellectual and scientific honesty, as if indeed the historicity [of a particular episode] is debunked, we have a sort of safety net [in the use] of legitimate metaphorization.”

 

There may be instances in which even this method will not yield a satisfactory resolution. In those cases, we will humbly take our cue from our patriarch Abraham and the message of the Akeida, recognizing the limits of our human comprehension and accepting the divine call and message that emerges from the text, although it flies in the face of the “scientific” data that is before us. We will humbly wiat for resolution, accepting with faith the divine imperative as we continue to living and wrestling with the problem.

  1. On the question of the historicity of specific details of this or that narrative, there is an important perspective that was developed by Rav Mordechai Breuer z”l.  For those who follow in his footsteps the following view raises much food for thought.

In the recent volume Ad Hayom Hazeh on fundamental questions in Bible study, published by R. Amnon Bazak , a RAM at Yeshivat Har Eztion and leading Tanakh educator at Michlelet Herzog he summarizes R. Breuer’s perspective on this issue as follows:

“The fundamental pillar of the Shitat Habehinot, the approach of the perspectives [of Rav Breuer] is that in relation to contradictory descriptions [in the Torah] of events, one cannot know from the plain sense of the text what actually happened, and how one resolves the contradictory descriptions which reflect the various perspectives. The essential point of the text is to convey the events and their meaning, However, in order to express the various distinct philosophical ideas, the text emphasizes varying perspectives, which can create contradictions that have no clear practical resolution in the text itself.”

 

At this point R. Bazak cites the famous comment of the Tosafist, Rabbeinu Peretz of Corveil  that even when it comes to issues of “metziut”- factual events or realities such as the size of the alter in the Temple where we have conflicting Biblical sources as to its height, one can apply the concept of “eilu ve-eilu divrei elokim hayyim” that both these and these are the words of the living God. R. Peretz writes (Eruvin 13b) that:

 

“In reality, it could only have been one size. However, one opinion maintains from a textual source that this is what it should have been (its size) and one cites (a contradictory verse) as to what should have been (its size). And the statement “elei veilu divrei elokim hayyim” means that from the verses there is room to interpret this way or that way, but in truth it only could have been one (size).”

R. Bazak continues:

“This (position of Rabbeinu Peretz) indicates that also in relation to historical/factual issues, the text of the Tanakh, does not present a decisive view on what occurred, and the verses can be interpreted in one direction or the other…even though in truth it is clear that only one version in truth occurred. The Mikra does not, therefore, present, what actually occurred in reality, but rather raises various possibilities as to what could be.”

In R. Breuer’s thinking it is here that the “derash” plays a critical role in expressing what actually happened in reality or what should happen on a legal, juridical level in the legal parts of Humash.:

“The derash describes what happened in reality, in fact [in the narratives portions]. The plain sense of the text- the peshat-describes what should have been. This fact is well accepted and known to all in the realm of the halakhic sections of the Torah. My “Torat Habehinot” simply moved this approach also to the narrative portions.”

TWO SHORT AFTERWORDS

1. The issues raised in these blog posts and in the discussions that have been taking place in the last twenty five years and most recently on the web and blogosphere are highly charged and touch on sensitive areas of emunot ve-deot and core, foundational elements of our perception of ourselves as avdei Hashem, the claims of the mesorah and the integrity of the Torah. We live in an age when the challenges of modern Biblical study are accessible to all, either on the popular level on the internet or volumes written for the lay public or on the scholarly level in the halls of academia. Thinking Jews are struggling with these issues and we can simply not ignore engaging with these ideas head. At the same time, I urge all those who speak and write on these topics in our community to approach these issues with humility and a sense of yirah. Part of that gestalt is ability to live with a tzarikh iyun and the ability to express the tensions between traditional notions and the academic assertions in a manner, tone and language that is respectful of the claims of traditional notions of ikarei ha-emunah, broadly conceived. Struggle and engagement are the reality of our modern existence and we should never be complacent that the regnant academic theory is the last word on any of these critical issues.

In this context, I note with pain that recent formulations that have been put forward in books and in the last few weeks on websites, by some very sincere, thoughtful and serious individuals and talmidei chachamim, by people who have contributed mightily to am yisrael and Torah learning,  did not reflect that struggle. Instead, they expressed ideas in a conclusive fashion that, in my understanding, are beyond the pale of the broadest definitions of what can be considered traditional notions of Torah Min Hashamayim.

I hope that Hazal’s dictum of ke-sheim she-makblim sahar al ha-drisha, kakh mikablim sahar al ha-prisha is part of all of the consciousness of all who write on these sensitive topics. This perspective is critical when we honestly consider whether words we have written may have crossed a line in either tone, style or substance in engaging these devarim ha-omdim be-rumo shel olam.

  1. The words “heretics” and “heretical” have often been invoked on a whole range of issues in the ideological battles within Orthodoxy in the last two centuries.  It is important to note that most of the leading lights of the last two generations have rejected the application of the term  “apikores” to various people who were led to their conclusions based on sincere reading of the sources. The roots of this perspective are in the famous comment of the Raavad that while the Rambam considered anyone who believed in a corporeal God (a rejection of one of the essential pillars of the faith acc. to Rambam) as a heretic, there were many great people who came to that erroneous conclusion from their reading of Tanakh and Hazal. And thus while they were wrong and the idea should be rejected, the person was not to be read out of the community. (This is in contrast to Rav Hayyim’s position that “nebekh an apikorus, is still an apikores”.) This trend was further developed by the perspectives of Rav Kook and the Hazon Ish that saw in the modern zeitgeist a period of hiddeness of God and “intellectual coercion” that neutralized the category of apikores as a live halakhic category. (For an early and full presentation of this perspective see, R. Shlomo Riskin, “Orthodoxy and Her Alleged Heretics” Tradition, 1975). This trend has further been buttressed by the writings of Rav Yehuda Amital zt”l and R. Norman Lamm who have written eloquently that one who harbors real doubts about fundamentals of Judaism does not (even according to Rambam) come under the category of “heretic”, especially if one has not transformed those doubts into functional doubt and rejection of shemirat ha-mitzvot. These sources do not mean that all ideas are therefore considered Orthodox, but it does mitigate the reaction to the individual or individuals ( both ideologically and in halakhic terms) who sincerely maintain positions and perspectives that one evaluates have crossed the boundaries of what can legitimately be part of traditional Judaism.

Torah Min Hashamayim: Some Brief Reflections on Classical and Contemporary Models – Guest Post – Rabbi Nati Helfgot

July 21, 2013

Torah Min Hashamayim: Some Brief Reflections on Classical and Contemporary Models

Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot is on the faculty of the SAR High School and serves as the Chair of the Bible and Jewish Though Departments at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School. He is the rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Teaneck, NJ and is on the steering committee of the Orthodox Forum. He is a member of the RCA and an officer of the IRF. He is most recently the author of Mikra and Meaning: Studies in Bible and Its Interpretation (Maggid/Koren, 2012).

He is also the author of  Community, Covenant and Commitment: Selected Letters and Communications of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Ktav, 2006) and served as the editor of Or Hamizrach and the assistant editor of the Meorot Journal.

 

1. For the last two centuries theories of higher Biblical Criticism have challenged traditional notions of the Divine authorship of the Torah. Classical academic theories claimed multiple human authors composing various portions of the Torah at different points in history, as a purely human creation.

This directly flies in the face of traditional notions of revelation and authorship of the Torah.  The challenges of academic theories of the authorship of the Torah continue to engage the thinking of many believing Jews who struggle in their attempt to reconcile their faith commitments and the serious questions and dilemmas posed by critical study of the Torah.

At the heart of any traditional notion of Judaism lies the principle of Torah Min Hashamayim- the truth claim that the God is the source and origin of the Pentateuch. The Mishnah at the opening of the tenth chapter of Sanhedrin which states “Haomer Ein Torah Min Ha-Shamayim Ein Lo Cheilek Leolam Haba” itself does not spell out what the exact meaning of the phrase “Torah” is. In classical rabbinic literature the phrase Torah has a range of meaning from a narrow reference to the Decalogue, to the Five Books of Moses to the entirety of the Bible to the whole corpus of the written and oral law. From the Talmudic discussion it emerges that Hazal understood this unique dogma to refer specifically to the Torah proper.   In one formulation in the sugya that discusses this concept, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 99a) asserts that one violates this principle if one maintains that the entire Torah comes from God except for “one verse which was not said by God but by Moses on his own”. This phrase is ambiguous as it may be interpreted to be focusing only on the Divine source of the Torah, or that notion plus an insistence on Mosaic authorship. In other words, is the Talmud insisting only on the Divine authorship belief or that this must be coupled with Moses being the vehicle for all of that communication. The practical ramification would be if one maintained that part of the Torah was directly from God but not through Mosaic authorship. (The original and primary valence of this passage has been discussed in the writings of Rav Hayim Hirshcenson z”l and in a seminal essay by the Jewish philosopher Shalom Rosenberg printed in the classic volume “Hamikra Va-anchnu”.  This dispute in interpretation is at the heart of the famous dispute in the Talmud in Bava Batra (15a) as to whether the last eight verses in the Torah were written by Moses in anticipatory prophecy or were written by Joshua subsequent to Moses’ demise.

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